How a single busy mom lost 100 pounds with Nerd Fitness

Meet Leslie:

A single mom who works long nights and has a long daily commute, found Nerd Fitness, and also happens to be one of my favorite people and one of our best success stories.

Leslie was playing the Game of Life on Nightmare Difficulty with multiple time-sucking jobs, a brutal commute, and a love of fast food, all while being a single parent.

Since joining the Nerd Fitness community, she has become a powerlifting, handstand-practicing, gymnastic ring-wielding, extroverted, cross-country-moving, happily-in-a-relationship supermom.

While Leslie’s transformation started in her fitness, you’ll see below how quickly it spread to almost every area of her life. No matter what situation you’re in, we can all learn something from her powerful story.

I’m extra proud today to be sharing Leslie’s story, because she’s one of the longest running members of our 1-on-1 NF Coaching Program. As a member for well over a year, she’s not shy in sharing about how her personal coach helped her on the journey.

At the end of the day though, it’s Leslie that deserves 100% of the credit for her success, her transformation, and her new life. And we couldn’t be more proud of her.

Let’s see what we can learn from Leslie’s story!

How Leslie lost 100+ pounds and saved her own life

STEVE: Hey Leslie! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview with us – for those that didn’t get a chance to meet you at Camp NF 2016 and don’t know your story, fill us in!

LESLIE: I’m a single, working mom who wears A LOT of hats for a living! I’m a Graphic & Web Designer with a freelance design business, and in 2001 I accidentally started a Limousine manufacturing company, which I still operate as my “day job.” Most recently, I’ve added a little online retail side business into the mix that I can run from anywhere, which I’m looking to get off the ground in 2018, so I can spend less time chained to my desk and more time out in the world exploring.

STEVE: Jeez, no wonder you’re so busy and struggled with getting healthy! It sounds like you’re always on the move, always working, and always grinding. Can you talk me through what a typical day was like before you stumbled across Nerd Fitness?

LESLIE: As a total night owl with a long, early morning commute, I would stay up late watching TV, go to bed around 1am, wake up exhausted at 5:30am, sit in traffic for an hour or longer, suck down a pot of coffee to stay awake, grab fast food for lunch, sit at my desk all day, sit in traffic again for an hour or longer, grab fast food for dinner, then sit and watch TV or play video games while munching on cheese puffs, until 1am.

Rinse and repeat.

Weekends would be spent hermit-ing at home, with pretty much the same routine of fast food for meals, and TV/video games or reading until the wee hours of the morning. That’s a whole lot of sitting and mindless eating!

STEVE: I hear ya. When you have long exhausting days, the only thing you can think about when you get home is escape: be it with fast food, TV, video games, or all of the above. I’m interested to know how many times prior to Nerd Fitness had you tried to lose weight?

LESLIE: I’ve been overweight my whole life. I’ve attempted every diet out there, starved, binged, starved again, the whole nine yards. I hated exercise because I couldn’t do anything without launching into a full-blown asthma attack, so I avoided it.

By the time I turned 13, I was severely overweight and heavier than most adults! In my 20s, I joined a name brand program that actually helped me reach my goal weight. I had done it! I had ZERO energy and I was hungry ALLLLL the time but who cared – I was “cured,” right!?

I was now normal and told myself I could stop dieting and just eat like everyone else. I joined a gym and became a treadmill hamster – I hated it, and still had no energy, and was hungry all the time.

Because I was so unhappy I eventually stopped going, stopped eating right, and slowly the bad habits came back and my weight went up. Before I knew it I was even heavier than when I started. From that point on I became a career yo-yo dieter, chasing whatever new fad or gimmick came on the market, with no real lasting success.

STEVE: Do you remember how you found Nerd FItness?

LESLIE: My brother and I were Steam chatting and playing an online game together called “Don’t Starve” (ironic, no?), when the conversation turned to how I was so tired, and I was going to bed hungry so I wasn’t sure how much lower I could drop my caloric intake, when he asked me if I had considered lifting weights.

I laughed and told him he was crazy, because I didn’t want to be all scary buff, just toned.

He then sent me a link to “Meet Staci: Your New Powerlifting Superhero.” I connected with her story instantly, but I was hesitant to do yet “another diet and fail,” so I blew it off for a few months and just kept doing what I was doing.

In December 2015, my 24-year-old son was diagnosed as prediabetic, and I was crushed by the guilt of having taught him all my crappy eating habits. He knew he needed to lose weight, but he didn’t know how to go about it and didn’t want to spend a bunch of time weighing and measuring food or counting points. He didn’t even actually care what he weighed; he just wanted to feel better in his own skin (and not die).

On January 1st, 2016, as had been my habit for sooooo many New Year’s Days in the past, I decided to start dieting again, and brought my son along for the ride. We gave up the daily fast food runs, switched to homemade meals, and the weight started coming off.

We were using a points-based system for calculating our meals at the time, and I was doing all kinds of fuzzy math to figure out how to squeeze our “less-healthy” favorite convenience foods into our meal plan so he wouldn’t get discouraged that he “couldn’t have something.” He then made a comment to me that he would rather have real food than waste the points on the less-healthy option “just because he had points available.”

In that very moment, I realized I wasn’t really changing my eating habits, I was just sacrificing real food to eat processed junk, which offered temporary pleasure but left me hungry at night.

That was the biggest turning point in our switch to eating actual healthy food.

(Speaking of which, I know learning about nutrition can be daunting, which is why we made a free 10-Level Nutritional Blueprint to help you start to make sense of all of this. You can grab your printable guide free when you sign up in the yellow box below!)

Back to Leslie!

LESLIE: In April of 2016, as my progress began stalling, I got a text message from a guy I had a crush on, that said he was going to be in town in the next month, and did I want to meet up for dinner?

I said yes, freaked out, went online to find the fastest way to lose another 10 lbs in a month, and then remembered the story about Staci. I figured I needed to do something different if I wanted different results, and I joined the NF Academy that day!

In the NF Academy I started the “Walk to Mordor” quest, and once my week of walking was up, I found I really enjoyed the daily walks so I kept going, and my son decided to join me.

10 minute daily walks turned into 1 mile walks every other day, which led to 2 mile walks plus a 3 mile walk on the weekends, and so on.

After the Academy, I joined the NF coaching program, then attended Camp NF 2016, and by the end of 2016, we had each lost over 90 lbs.

We spent all of 2017 in maintenance mode to help our bodies adjust to the losses and find new set points (Thank you Coach Jim!). Flash forward to 2018, I’ve been in maintenance at my goal weight for over a year!

STEVE: You have officially melted my heart, Leslie – I am so happy for you and how you’ve managed to turn things around for you, your son, and your relationship! Tell me more about coaching with Jim – what made you decide to try out NF Coaching and why did you stay for a full year?

LESLIE: After joining the Nerd Fitness Academy and reading through all of the content, I had a pretty good idea of how to get started, and I knew what end results I wanted.

The problem was I wasn’t really sure what to do “in the middle” to get there and had collected too much information without action – in other words, I had a big collection of underpants!

I was motivated and focused, but clueless.

I wanted to set and tackle goals that were specific to my situation and lifestyle: I needed to lose weight AND get stronger, all without wasting a lot of time and effort in trial-and-error mode.

I realized that the more I read, the more I worked out, the more I tweaked my diet, the more questions I had. Most of all, I wanted to lose the weight and KEEP it off, and I knew that I was going to have to come at this with a completely different approach than anything I had ever done previously.

Then NF introduced the 1-on-1 private NF Coaching program, which sounded like the exact right thing I needed to help me wade through all of the information, develop the exact right plan for my situation, and meet my long-term goals, so I signed up and got paired with Jim (who you might recognize from all of our Academy videos with Staci!)

I loved the idea of training with Jim because he can do cool stuff like this:

It was amazing!

I spent the next several months working with NF Coach Jim to develop the correct eating plans, exercise routines, and habits, while also receiving feedback through form checks, and countless tips on how to stretch properly, increase my endurance, lift heavier, and work smarter (not harder) to reach my goals. I finally had somewhere I could confidently turn to with all of my questions, which was so incredibly reassuring!

But, as I was nearing that “magical goal weight” on the scale I started to panic. I had been at my goal before – that was the easy part. What I didn’t know and needed to learn was “what to do once I hit my goal” to make the changes permanent. I decided to stay a full year so that Jim could teach me how to maintain that loss while fine-tuning my body.

I can say with 100% certainty that had I not joined the NF Coaching Program, I would not have found this success on my own, especially not in such a short amount of time!

STEVE: I hear you, and that’s tough for many to admit! As somebody who has ALSO had an online coach (for 4 years now), I can say it’s the best investment I’ve ever made too.

So I gotta ask, what surprised you about the NF Coaching program?

LESLIE: Simple, it was way more than I expected!

I thought it would be weekly, generic workout/nutrition assignments sent by my coach in an impersonal, drill-sergeant-like, bootcamp fashion, with some check-ins along the way to keep me accountable.

I expected to receive a strict list of what I could/couldn’t eat – when I had to do my workouts – when I had to check in, etc.

What I found instead was a very friendly, intelligent, enthusiastic coach who made an amazing effort to tailor personalized programs for nutrition, exercise, mindset around ME. Jim gave me the freedom of not only planning my workouts around my busy schedule, but he never seemed “judgey” or condescending about what I ate or what I could/couldn’t physically do.

My coach felt more like a “workout partner” than a drill sergeant, always asking how I was doing, where I needed help, what my new goals were, and even helping me figure out ways to stretch better, heal faster, and work harder, the smart way.

He never made me feel bad for where I was in my journey, or what I couldn’t accomplish, which is invaluable in a coach, because it helped keep me motivated and always looking forward!

STEVE: This is the EXACT reason we launched our coaching program: non-judgmental accountability and professional guidance in the way you need to be coached! Talk to me about your workout routine: were most of your workouts done at home – body weight? Or did you do free weights?

LESLIE: The very first routine I did was the free NF Beginner Bodyweight Workout.

You made it look easy, and I loved that I had everything I needed right there in the comfort of my own home – no hunting for parking spots, or psyching myself out to walk through the door of the gym, and even better, no membership required.

I was all excited to get started – I did my warm-up, about 8 squats, and then I thought I was going to die. I knew I was out of shape but hadn’t realized how bad it was.

Then a funny thing happened: the next day I could barely stand up to get out of my car (delayed soreness), and rather than become discouraged, I kept giggling!

Every time I felt the “ouch,” I was so proud of myself, and I actually looked forward to the next workout.

As the bodyweight workout got easier, I began adding in free weights, and then fancy stuff like deadlifts happened!

Now I do a combo of free weights, bodyweight training, gymnastic rings and handstand work, walking, sprinting, and swimming, which I vary with my mood and the weather to keep things interesting.

STEVE: I love how varied your training has become – it sounds like you’re actually doing things you love too! So we both know nutrition is 90% of the battle. What’s been your diet strategy?

LESLIE: In the past I was all over the place on this one, from counting food points, to calories, to macros, and through the Academy and the Coaching Program I discovered that I eat the healthiest, stress the least, and feel my best when I stick to being about 95% Paleo.

It is so much less complicated for me, is more convenient for cooking meals in bulk, and is easier to stick to when I am eating on the run or away from home. I mostly pick simple, whole foods like fruits, veggies, and meats, with the occasional dairy, and add in brown rice/sweet potato on workout days.

I’ve found that I need to stay away from processed foods and quick snacks like cereal, granola bars and almonds/nut butters, because they become triggers for me and I don’t want to slip back into those mindless snacking habits.

To stay accountable, I weighed myself weekly. I was so focused on the numbers on the scale that it didn’t occur to me to take measurements until it was on my NF Academy quest list – but as a gamer I did the quest to get the points and found it helped!

I now take measurements every few months and eventually even bit the bullet and had 2 DEXA body scans. I only weigh myself on the first of the month to make sure I am staying within my target range, and then adjust my routine if needed.

STEVE: You’ve changed so much over the past few years. Looking back, what has been the toughest change you made?

LESLIE: I made little changes as I went along, rather than giant drastic ones, so I was able to adjust to the healthier eating habits and workouts pretty easily.

Where I struggled the most was in seeing myself in photos and coming to terms with what I looked like.

I would feel so freaking amazing and then take a photo and think “OMG, do I really still look that yucky and frumpy?” and it would deflate me.

Inside I felt like gold bikini Princess Leia, but all I could see in the snapshots was Jabba the Hutt. I hated seeing myself in photos so much that I almost quit the NF Academy when I found out I had to take “before pictures.”

I literally cried after seeing my starting photos, cursed you in my head for making me take them, but made a folder called “UGH” and stuck them in there so I could earn my NFA quest points and move forward.

STEVE: I’m glad you read the part of that “take photos!” quest that said “you don’t have to look at the photos, just take them and put them in a folder somewhere, you’ll thank me later”! Anyways, please continue!

LESLIE: People were complimenting me on how great I looked but I wasn’t seeing any progress in my pictures; all I could see were the flaws and how much work I still had ahead of me.

In this journey, the toughest change I’ve had to make has been mentally; I’ve had to work really hard to stop being so critical of what I look like, and start celebrating my victories instead of obsessing over my flaws.

STEVE: That is often the biggest hurdle we have to overcome: what’s going on in our heads! Thanks for your honesty around that Leslie. Let’s bring things back to the positive: what was the most important change you think you made?

LESLIE: Working on my mindset and learning how to cope with different situations and emotions, instead of just focusing on food and exercise, has been the most important change for me.

I knew I had to eat better, and I knew I had to exercise; they’ve been drilling that into our heads since we were kids.

What I didn’t realize was how much of the undertaking involved dealing with issues from my past and learning how to handle them differently so I didn’t slip back into old unhealthy habits. Some of that process meant I had to figure out which situations and people I needed to eliminate from my life in order to begin healing.

I also had to learn to say “no” to people without feeling guilty, which was really hard to do at first, but as people saw my progress, they began to understand WHY I chose to rearrange my priorities and focus on me and my son instead, and they became supportive which helped a lot.

STEVE: I love that, and I’m so glad you and Jim worked together on your mindset too – it’s a big part of our coaching program and a big part of Nerd Fitness! So I have to know, what’s a typical day like for you NOW, after the changes?

LESLIE: I’m still a night owl with a long daily commute, but these days I eat real meals instead of fast food, which saves a crap ton of money and calories, do my walk/run or workout right when I get home from work instead of grabbing a bag of chips and plopping down on the couch.

I limit the TV/gaming time to just a few hours per week, making sure I don’t snack while doing so, and make an effort to head to bed no later than 10pm so I can get a decent night’s sleep, even if I can’t doze off right away.

I rarely watch TV on the weekends anymore, and instead head out to the mountains or desert to go camping or wheeling and get in some hiking and climbing, and go actual grocery shopping to get what I need for the upcoming week instead of zipping through drive-thrus, which really helps me stay on track.

STEVE: Your physical appearance has changed…what else has changed about you?

LESLIE: The change to my physical appearance has been amazing, but the biggest changes have actually been in my confidence levels and mindset, which I believe have made the most substantial difference for me.

I’m very shy and super socially awkward, especially around new people. The old version of me would get invited to something, and the first thought I would have before deciding to accept or not was “can I lose enough weight first.”

I would go into starvation mode to “lose a few pounds” before the event, then fail, then berate myself, then cancel at the last minute. On the occasions where I couldn’t back out, I would hang out on the sidelines hoping to blend in with the wall to avoid having to talk to people unless they came up to me first.

I had a hard time carrying on conversations because I was so uncomfortable I couldn’t look people in the eyes for very long.

These days, when I get an invite to something, my weight never even crosses my mind! I have met some amazing people and enjoyed so many new experiences that I would have missed out on had I not lost the weight!

I no longer have trouble approaching new situations or interacting with new people, and I can keep and maintain eye contact (in a totally non-creepy way, I swear). I am so much more confident in every aspect of my life that I find it much easier to seize new opportunities as they materialize without going into a panic attack, which makes me feel so much more engaged with my life!

And that crush I mentioned that helped kickstart this whole journey? He’s now my boyfriend and we celebrated our one-year anniversary last fall!

And yes, I really do talk in exclamation point these days because I am just so friggin’ happy!!

STEVE: I’m not crying, you’re crying. You’re the best Leslie. Is there anything about the new you that the old you would be surprised to learn?

LESLIE: I am most surprised to find out that I am actually NOT an introvert!

For most of my life I was so caught up in my weight and how I thought others perceived me that I convinced myself my shyness and lack of ability to talk to people was because I was an introvert.

Labeling myself an introvert was like giving myself acceptable permission to not participate in life, like it was something I couldn’t control so why bother.

Now I have no problem talking to people, and I actually look forward to social events! That is a HUGE change for me!

STEVE That is amazing, Leslie! We all give ourselves labels or self-identify as a certain thing that can often keep us prisoner! I’m glad your physical transformation helped you transform on the inside too.

So now let’s talk about what’s next! What are your goals moving forward? What kind of awesomeness do you want to do in your new body?

LESLIE: I want to do ALLLLL the things!

When I started all I wanted to do was lose weight. I had a random target number that I thought needed to be on the scale for me to be happy, and figured once I got there, that was it, the end, roll credits.

What I discovered, instead, was that I actually love running (WTF?), and lifting weights (the Wolverine Workout is my FAVORITE), and exploring the great outdoors, and archery… OMG I love archery! My goals are to add in as much of that stuff into my life as possible, and figure out what else is out there that I haven’t even considered yet!

Speaking of doing new things, for as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to play the drums.

I would pick up pencils or chopsticks and play along to the beats in my favorite songs. I would play Guitar Hero, and do pretty good for a while, but would eventually get off beat because all I could feel were the notes from the drums.

So, when the “Embrace Your Inner Noob” quest from the Academy appeared on my to-do list, I sucked it up, stepped outside my comfort zone, found a drum teacher, and started lessons… and actually didn’t suck.

4 months later, I bought my very own 5-piece drum kit as an Epic Loot Drop!

STEVE: I know there are TONS of Nerd Fitness readers right now who are at your “Day 1.” Do you have any words of advice for those folks?

LESLIE: First and foremost, FORGIVE YOURSELF.

You are where you are for whatever reason, but it is only temporary and does not define who you are or who you can become! Next, make a few tiny tweaks you can live with instead of drastic changes you can’t sustain.

And most importantly, remember Leonard Snart’s “4 Rules of Acting”: 1) Make the plan. 2) Execute the plan. 3) Expect the plan to go off the rails. 4) Throw away the plan.