It was a simple family photo that Cortland West's mom posted to Facebook that threw her weight struggles into focus for her. "When I finally looked at the picture, I was shocked. I honestly didn't recognise myself," Cortland said. And at 5'6" and 16 and a half stone, she decided that was it: it was time to change. She turned to the Lose It app to buckle down and really take a closer look at how much she was eating. Between the simplicity of the app and adding in workouts, Cortland has taken off 81 pounds over the past couple years. Keep reading to find out just how well Lose It worked for her and how she sticks with her new healthy lifestyle.
POPSUGAR: What was the moment or motive that made you decide to start your journey?
Cortland West: I always had a problem with my weight gain. I was always the bigger one in my group of friends and I absolutely hated going shopping because nothing cute would ever fit. Overall I just didn't feel good. I was out of breath just simply walking up and down the stairs. I would even receive little comments from my family and other people about needing to possibly start doing something about my weight. They were never hurtful about what they said, but I knew they were right. I would try to lose weight by doing different things, but nothing ever worked for me and I would get discouraged and quit.
The moment that really hit me was at the beginning of December of 2014. I had gone to a tea room with my mother and grandmother one day and we decided to get someone to take a picture of us while we were there. Well, my mother ended up posting the picture on Facebook. When I finally looked at the picture, I was shocked. I honestly didn't recognise myself. I was also a little disgusted in myself on how much I had let myself go. After that, I said that I would for sure work on my weight after the holidays. But then I got to thinking about all of the years prior that I would always say that I was going to do something about my weight at the start of the new year but would never stick with it. So I decided on that day that I would start before the holidays. It was hardest thing I've ever done, but I knew it was what I had to do.
PS: What made you choose Lose It?
CW: Someone recommended the Lose It app to me as a great way to easily count calories, so I downloaded it and began to plug in everything I would eat in a day. I didn't realise just how much I was eating in a day until I began using Lose It — I was shocked. I started paying attention to portion sizes and cut out regular soft drinks and sweet tea. I saw that drinking calories can add up very fast!
PS: What's your favourite way to work out?
CW: I love going on long walks. I'd say an hour to two hours long, like two times a week usually. Going on a long walk with a good friend is better for me too because we end up talking throughout the duration of the walk and we end up losing track of the time. Because of my weight loss, I can go on long walks easier now and it doesn't bother me like it used to. Before my weight loss, I would get tired and winded very quickly and my legs would start to really bother me, but I don't have those problems anymore. Playing tennis is also a lot easier for me again because I can last a lot longer than before. I used to get really tired and winded after just a few games in the first set of a match — now three sets of tennis is nothing!
PS: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
CW: I like to go on hikes and enjoy fun physical activities outside — basically anything to keep me away from sitting on the couch all day and watching TV like I used to. But I'll be honest, going to the gym was never something I did, and it's still not a regular part of my lifestyle. It just shows that simply watching what you eat and staying active can help you lose weight.
PS: How do you keep workouts exciting?
CW: I go on long walks with friends and do fun dance exercises in my room. I've also started to really get back into tennis, which has really helped. To keep myself on track, I remind myself that if I exercise, I'll burn off extra calories which makes it easier to truly enjoy a good meal.
PS: How much weight have you lost?
CW: I weighed 16 stones 8 pounds in 2014, and now weigh 11 stones — so I've lost 5 and a half stones!
PS: What was the first big difference, other than the number on the scale, that really made you feel proud and excited?
CW: Oh wow, I have many rewards from losing weight. Finally getting to wear cute outfits has been a big one for me. Also, I was always the one to hide behind the camera. I never wanted my picture taken. But now I love when a camera comes out, because as soon as I see myself in the picture, I can't help but smile. I'm so proud of myself and I love having it documented. Looking at pictures of me now also help with keeping the weight off. I never want to go back to what I was before. People have also told me that I'm an inspiration to them to start losing weight. I still find that weird because I've always been one to say if I can do it, everyone can do it. But I do have to admit, hearing someone tell you that you're an inspiration is such an amazing feeling and the biggest award you can receive, I think.
PS: How do you track your weight loss?
I track my weight loss with Lose It! I only use the free version of the app, which works great for my needs. I know that they also have a Premium version for £29.99/year that lets you set more specific goals (like body fat, steps, measurements, blood pressure, etc.) and gives you more access to challenges and groups, but I haven't tried that yet.
When you first start using Lose It, it will ask for your basic information (age, weight, height, etc.) and then it will calculate for you the amount of calories you will need to eat in a day to either maintain your weight or lose half a pound a week, one pound a week, one and a half pounds a week, two pounds a week, etc., depending on what your goals are.
When I first started, I was determined to lose two pounds a week, but man was that hard! I felt like I wasn't eating at all in a day. So I changed it to one pound a week and that really worked best for me at the beginning.
Each day, all you need to do is open up the Lose It app, tap the meal you're logging, and type your food into the search bar (or take a photo of it using their new Snap It feature). Lose It gives you the calories and nutritional information for whatever food you are logging and that goes toward your daily total. The app suggests how many calories you should allocate for each meal based on your weight-loss goals and current weight, and that even includes snacking.
PS: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
CW: The main things I cut out of my diet were regular soft drinks and sweet tea. Drinking calories adds up very fast and I didn't like wasting my calories on beverages. I also cut back on a lot of junk food, especially chips — I still eat them, but not as often. Unfortunately I am not a big fan of fruits and vegetables, but I drink V8 and things like that to help with that. I do eat plenty of protein, though! Grilled chicken is probably my favourite. I eat more grilled foods now than I did before. I was all about everything being fried before I started losing weight.
PS: Do you count anything other than calories? Why or why not?
CW: No, calories are the only thing I count. I feel as though if I started trying to count other things, it would make things harder and I would not stick with it.
PS: What's the range of calories you eat per day?
CW: According to the Lose It app, I can have 1,675 calories per day to lose one pound a week. But I sometimes go over that a little bit.
PS: What are the healthy staples that are always in your fridge?
CW: I'm not a fan of fruits or anything, so I would say my go to staple would be string cheese. Very low in calories and it's a nice grab-and-go snack that I love.
PS: How do you strategise for meals out?
CW: For meals out, I generally try to know ahead of time what the plans are and where I am going. If that's the case, I can look up the menu online so I can go ahead a plan out what I'm going to eat. Restaurants are getting better about adding the nutritional information available, so that makes planning out meals so much easier. If that information is not available, I tend to compare different foods with other places that I know the calories of. Sometimes I even overestimate a little bit just to be safe.
PS: Do you use a fitness tracker? Which one? Has it helped you?
CW: In the beginning of my journey I had a Fitbit tracker that I would use. It even linked with my Lose It app. So it would calculate the calories I would burn after a long walk or some other kind of physical activity and then add those calories back to my remaining budget on the app. I loved it. But I unfortunately lost the tracker one day at the lake so now I use my Apple Watch, and whenever I do an activity, I start the watch under the fitness app and it will calculate the calories burned. I then go to the Lose It app and it lets me manually add the calories burned back to my remaining budget.
PS: What role did Lose It play in your journey? Would you recommend it?
CW: Lose It was a HUGE part of my journey and I would absolutely recommend. Probably the most helpful thing it did for my diet was help me pay attention to portion control. Simply cutting back on the amount of food I was taking in has helped me the most. Another helpful thing I did was plug in everything I was going to eat for that day into Lose It at the beginning of the day, which left me reassured that I could enjoy snacks with the calories that were left. I would ask my family what we were doing for dinner so I could go ahead and plug it in and eat around that meal for the day. In the beginning, I did a lot of planning ahead, but now that I am just maintaining my weight, I'm a little more lenient with myself.
PS: What advice do you have for anyone starting out on a weight-loss journey?
CW: My number one tip would be to just find what works for you and stick with it. For me, Lose It was the only thing that would work for me. Trust me, I know it's hard; everyone is so different and we all lose weight in different ways. You just have to learn to listen to your body and believe in yourself! You CAN do it.