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17 Things That Actually Helped Me Lose 85 Pounds

You don't have to eat salads every day to lose weight.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

Hi! I'm Arielle. Between May 2015 and now, I've lost 85 pounds, dropped five sizes, ran a 10K, and learned a ton about healthy lifestyle changes.

Arielle Calderon

Here's an honest (and extremely vulnerable) account of the steps I took and the things that surprised me along the way.

1. First I signed up for Weight Watchers and started off slow.

Arielle Calderon

I've been yo-yo dieting all my life, and the two biggest mistakes I have made again and again are this:

1. Telling myself, "The diet starts tomorrow" and bingeing on all my favorite foods.

2. Giving things up cold turkey and depriving myself of foods I love.

The main reason I signed up for Weight Watchers is because it's about an overall change beyond the scale, not just losing weight. The program is based on a points system that focuses on more than solely calories. Foods like fruits and vegetables are zero points, lean meats are very low points, and anything with added sugar is very high. Basically Weight Watchers encourages fresh, real food rather than processed crap — but you can still eat your pizza and drink your alcohol — the key is to do it all in moderation and find healthy substitutes.

2. I stopped the dangerous habit of restrictive calorie-counting (a road I have been down before) and focused on a healthy lifestyle.

3. I followed the three most common pieces of advice when it comes to weight loss: tracking food, activity, and water intake.

Arielle Calderon
Arielle Calderon

Tracking food: As I do follow Weight Watchers, the point is to track all your food — even the splurges you don't want to admit to (everyone is assigned a weekly allowance for this purpose). It's good to honestly track what's actually going in your body so you can manage portion control and stay accountable. For a week, I also wrote down my level of hungriness every time I ate, which helped me control "boredom cravings." If you are not with a program or using an app, you can also track your food with a journal or spreadsheet.

Tracking activity: Getting an Apple Watch is actually what kick-started my journey because I was finally taking note of how much I moved. Obviously devices like this and FitBit are expensive, but you can always use free apps to help you track your steps and other exercises.

Tracking water intake: Hydrating is so, so important! Often when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually just thirsty. I downloaded the Plant Nanny app, which prompts you to enter your body info and lets you plant cute flowers as you drink more water. It also has push notifications so you can always see how many glasses you have left to drink in the day.

4. I finally started eating legit breakfast, not just a piece of fruit.

5. I skipped the gym at first and opted for walking instead.

Arielle Calderon

I was not a gym person, and I knew that trying to eat healthy AND exercise heavily every day would be too much for me at once. Instead, I decided to move more by walking everywhere, which isn't hard in NYC. I brought my sneakers to work in a backpack and changed into them — while wearing a dress — and walked 60-plus blocks home. The first time felt like an eternity, but the more I did it, and the easier the routes I discovered, I came to enjoy this (mostly) peaceful hour to myself.

And walking a lot is what helped me get into running later down the road. The baby steps count!

6. I didn't give up on myself when times got rough.

7. I stopped ordering Seamless and forced myself to learn how to cook my favorite foods with healthy substitutes.

Arielle Calderon

This was a huge change for me; I used to order delivery three to five times per week, I always ate lunch out, and my extent of "cooking" was heating up soup on the stove top. I did not even know how to chop vegetables.

I started off simple and watched a ton of videos on how to cook very basic things like Brussels sprouts and shrimp. I even YouTubed how to properly cut apples. Now I cook every day, bring my own lunch to work, and experiment with healthy swaps. I was surprised to see how easy and satisfying it was to replace pasta with zoodles and spaghetti squash, burgers with turkey burgers, and rice and potatoes with cauliflower. And once I discovered PB2, I was pretty much ruined for life (in the best way possible). Also, just to be clear, I definitely still eat rice, pasta, and potatoes. I just look at the swaps as a different meal option.

For some amazing Weight Watchers-friendly recipes, check out SkinnyTaste and Emily Bites. I have also been inspired by Tasty videos, but I change the ingredients around a bit to make it healthier.

8. I did my research and learned that added sugar is the goddamn devil.

9. And I learned that protein is the sweet, sweet angel.

10. I learned to celebrate non-scale victories.

Arielle Calderon

While it's definitely a motivator to see the scale move down, it's really about the other victories that make the lifestyle change so much more worth it. Things like being able to run a 10K, reaching ONEderland, finally shopping at places other than Lane Bryant; those little things are incredible measures of success.

11. About four months into my lifestyle change, I quit drinking — but not intentionally.

Arielle Calderon

This is actually one of the hardest parts of my weight loss journey, but not because I miss alcohol; it's because people will NOT LEAVE ME ALONE ABOUT IT.

I never set out to quit because of calories or points, I just slowed down and noticed how much better my body felt without booze. It's a real bummer to see how much my social life revolves around drinking, but I have just as much fun when I'm not taking shots at the bar. People are absolutely convinced that I am not having fun or that I'm being too restrictive because I won't have a beer. This is a personal choice, and I promise that I am enjoying myself. (Especially because it's cheaper and there are no hangovers!)

So if you are thinking about quitting drinking, just remember that you are doing this for you and not other people! And if you do want to continue drinking, that is OK too! You are allowed to enjoy life the way you want to — just be smart about it.

12. When I finally felt comfortable enough to work out, I joined a gym and tried a bunch of classes.

Arielle Calderon

I joined Crunch Gym about five months after I started Weight Watchers. I stuck to the elliptical at first since that was my comfort zone, but I eventually got the C25K app and began running on the treadmill. After I got into a groove, I took some classes at the gym (Zumba, spinning, cardio dance, strength training, etc.). And after months of always making fun of SoulCycle, I finally did a class and actually loved it. They turn the lights off and you can just jam without feeling self-conscious. I also did a Hamilton-themed ride and I'm pretty sure it changed my life.

13. I don't sacrifice my social life — I just plan healthier meals and snacks around it.

Arielle Calderon

Part of a balanced lifestyle also includes mental health. You can't spend all your time worrying about what you will eat or when you will work out (which I am still partly guilty of). But I will often make dinner before going out and pack a snack in my purse so I can eat when I'm hungry and not feel terrible about it.

When going to restaurants, I look at the menu ahead of time and stick to veggies and lean meats. I'd rather not always do salads, so a turkey burger is usually my go-to.

14. On days when I feel like the same girl from eight months ago, I look at before and after pictures.

15. I relied on support from the Weight Watchers Connect feature.

Arielle Calderon
Arielle Calderon

In November/December of 2015, Weight Watchers changed its plan from Points Plus to Smart Points, as well as added this new Connect feature. It has been a total game changer.

Members can post success stories, relatable struggles, ask for advice, share recipes, and more. I do the online program, so this is a great way for me to get the support of IRL meetings without dishing out the extra cash.

16. I took the hard but important step of donating all my old clothes.

17. I'm finally learning to love myself.

Arielle Calderon

This is the hardest challenge of all. I have never been happy with my body, and it has limited me from having so many amazing life experiences. I still have a good amount of weight I would like to lose, but I'm finally starting to feel comfortable in my skin. I feel I am working toward the person I deserve to be. I will continue to aim for my goal weight, and possibly start some personal training to get me to the next level, but I will not cut calories or starve myself for a meal if I'm not losing as much as I want to. It's all about balance.

So if you are looking to make a lifestyle change, or perhaps you've already begun, just remember to do this for yourself because you want to — not because you feel pressured to. If you are truly happy with your mind, body, and soul, OWN IT. If you are putting on a facade to hide your unhappiness, then maybe it's time to take control. Don't let anyone or anything bring you down — just take it slow and enjoy the ride. It's not a race!

If you want to keep up with my weight loss journey, you can follow me on Instagram.

And if you want to share your own success story with BuzzFeed Health, email us at You can also follow BuzzFeed Community on Facebook for a chance to be included in weight loss story roundups!