Elizabeth Simion (@elizabear_rose) and her incredible transformation are proof that you don’t need a lot to start your weight loss journey, as long as you are willing to put in the work and have the drive to do it.
Elizabeth used a free calorie counter app to get stared and didn’t set foot in the gym until she had already lost 50 pounds and felt comfortable and safe enough to start training.
She opened up to WomensHealthMag about her entire weight loss story, how she gained the weight, why she felt she needed to change and how she went about it! Enjoy!
“My name is Elizabeth Simion (@elizabear_rose), and I’m 25 years old. I live in Austin, Texas, and I’m a business intelligence manager. I used a free calorie counter app and workout classes to lose over 100 pounds.”
“I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life. I was always bigger (even due to my 5′ 11″ height!) and weight issues ran in my family. I also had bad asthma as a kid and was never really into sports.”
Initially, during her college time in the Air Force ROTC, Elizabeth actually found it hard to keep weight on, as the intensive training and routine kept her weight at bay. Though after leaving this environment, she kept the calories high while the exercise stopped and her bodyweight soared.
“During my freshman year of college I was in Air Force ROTC, and I actually struggled to keep my weight high enough to meet minimum requirements for the program. But when I left the program, I wasn’t exercising like crazy anymore but I still had an athlete’s appetite. I lost control. I gained 80 pounds in a year, and another 50 pounds the next, almost doubling my body weight. My heaviest weight was 270 pounds.”
“I knew something needed to change when my husband and I went to Europe for our honeymoon in August 2017.”
On her honeymoon, Elizabeth and her husband felt like that couldn’t get the most out of their trip because of their size. Cutting tours short and not being able to see all the sights that they wanted to. Something had to change.
“We walked so much that I actually lost 10 pounds in the two weeks we were there. I remember that we had paid for a private tour of the Louvre museum in Paris, and we were only able to see about a third of it because we got too worn out because of our weight. We were also unable to complete a group tour of the Colosseum in Rome. At the time, I remember thinking, it’s just a lot of walking anyway, not a big deal to miss out—but now I can’t believe we gave up on seeing parts of the world because our weight held us back.”
“I was also inspired to lose weight due to my professional ambitions. Research shows that overweight individuals tend to have a harder time getting hired in general compared to lower-weight peers, and there’s a bias against them being capable as leaders. I chose this topic of weight bias to examine for a term research paper in my MBA program.”
Wanting to get slimmer for her life and health, Elizabeth also realised there would be other benefits in her career. Noting that heavier people can be unfairly treated when it comes to being selected for management roles.
“It’s not fair and it’s wrong that people hold these biases against overweight people—but this was also something that I could overcome, and I wanted to. I was treated differently and had different opportunities when I was bigger. I knew I wanted a new job and I wanted to position myself as best I could. (Hopefully negative attitudes towards people in bigger bodies change in the future.)”
“With that, I committed to my weight-loss journey. My goal was to lose two pounds per week.”
Showing that it doesn’t take much to start on your weight loss journey, Elizabeth started using free tracking app MyFitnessPal to help her count calories and start on the path to healthy eating.
“When I first started (it was September 25, 2017!), I used the free version MyFitnessPal to track my calorie intake. When I inputted all of my info and stats, the app told me to aim to eat 1,500 calories per day. I ate the food I wanted to, as long as I stayed within my calories. However, I quickly learned that 1,500 calories wasn’t a lot if I was still eating junk. And I was hungry.”
“So, I learned to eat what my body needed. I decreased the calories I was eating weekly by about 30 cals per day—until my calorie limit was 1,300 calories. I couldn’t eat less than that and feel happy, so I didn’t cut more calories than what felt healthy for my mind and body. I really only used the app to keep careful track of what I ate, and how I was feeling week to week. If I focused on how I felt, and not the numbers, I felt happier and more confident.”
Knowing that she couldn’t keep dropping her calories, Elizabeth wisely set a limit and found this was a good way to keep happy and healthy and not feel too restricted.
“Here’s what I typically eat for meals and snacks now:”
Breakfast: Coffee! I take mine with some frothed unsweetened vanilla cashew milk from Silk, or a flavored International Delight creamer. You can make a pumpkin spice latte for 55 calories using a flavored low-calorie creamer, and it’s *good.* I also have low-fat/nonfat Greek yogurt with flavored flax seed blend and some fruit for breakfast.
Lunch: I’m a big fan of entrée salads and have made a lot of themed ones. I meal prepped these salads on the weekends. Entrée salads are huge, balanced, and well-seasoned. My favorite ingredients to mix together:
Base: Baby spinach, baby arugula, baby kale, shredded carrot, shredded purple cabbage
Dressing: Light Olive Garden dressing tossed over just the lettuce (because I end up using less fatty dressing, and it’s the only part of the salad that needs flavor help)
Protein: I slow cook and shred boneless skinless chicken breast (about 6 oz. per salad) in chicken stock and spices
Starch: I loved roasted sweet potatoes
Fruit: mango and jicama
Fat: Goat cheese and sometimes half an avocado
I also love Sound sparkling teas. The chamomile one tastes like cream soda—but with zero calories or artificial sweetener. It’s amazing.
Snacks: I like ThinkThin150 cal brownie protein bars, Quest nacho protein chips, light Babybel cheese with two clementines, or part of a peanut butter chocolate chip Perfect bar.
Dinner: 6 to 10 oz. of lean protein (chicken breast, ground turkey breast, or a filet), a fun starch (a roll, sweet potato, pasta, rice), and 10 to 16 oz. of steamed leafy greens with some good spices and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray. I also add some fat, like cheese or an oil.
Dessert: I love the Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Undercover quinoa, Yasso Greek yogurt chocolate chip cookie bars, or fruit.
Not wanting to take on too much at once, Elizabeth started with her diet and then after losing a significant amount of weight, then decided to start training as well. Spacing the two aspects out can help people not feel overwhelmed when they first get started!
“I didn’t step foot in a gym until I had lost over 50 pounds because it was painful to move at such a high weight.”
“My husband and I would walk laps around our apartment complex and talk about our days. I went to the gym casually a few times a week for several months and mainly did the elliptical and a few machines that seemed like fun, but with no real plan.”
Like many who lose a life changing amount of weight, fitness starts off slowly and quickly becomes a new obsession!
“Once I lost 100 pounds, I started to get really into fitness because I knew I wouldn’t be losing weight for much longer—and I needed to have some goals to chase. At my max, I was doing Orangetheory twice a week, SoulCycle three times a week, and a wildcard like barre or kickboxing once a week.”
“Now I’ve settled at four to five classes a week, of the Pilates/barre/cycling variety. I do what I like and what makes me feel good. I don’t need to be an athlete with a dedicated leg day; I just need to have a good time and treat myself well.”
Elizabeth listed out 3 changes that she feels helped give her the best results in the quickest time frame and something that others could learn from.
“These three changes helped me see the most noticeable weight-loss results.”
Change one: I stayed in a calorie deficit. You have to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight. There are some things that make that more attainable (intermittent fasting, for instance, because you’re not eating as often). But at the end of the day, at the most basic level, the root cause of weight loss is a calorie deficit. This really helped put weight loss in perspective for me—it’s just math! That made it feel so much more straightforward.
Change two: I focused on doing *one* thing well, one day at a time. For me, I started with a focus of being in a calorie deficit. Then it became about staying in a deficit, but by eating healthy food. Then, I added in walks at night, which turned into going to the gym a few nights a week. I love setting small goals!
Change three: I didn’t eliminate anything from my diet. To be honest, empty cals like sweet tea naturally eliminated themselves because they made me feel like trash. I think it’s incredibly helpful to make small adjustments that work in your favor, without fully eliminating anything. For instance, a lot of dressing recipes call for a quarter-cup of olive oil (480 cal!), and I think it’s fine with 1.5 tablespoons (180 cal!). Can you enjoy your coffee with less cream? Pasta with less cheese? Start there.
“I lost about 110 pounds in about 15 months.”
Although the number of pounds lost is often the main talking point of someone’s weight loss journey, it’s important to appreciate all the extra benefits that people get when they achieve their fitness goals.
“A goal weight wasn’t really my goal, though. My goal was feeling happy and healthy, no matter the number.”
“My weight loss has been an amazing motivator. I have had some very fast-paced jobs with rapidly growing companies these last few years. I applied for, started, and completed my MBA while working full time and sticking with a 1,300-calories-per-day diet and going to the gym about five days a week.”
“Through all of this, the biggest change for me was that I really started to see food as tasty fuel. Calories are energy, and even though I started eating fewer calories, I had the energy to do all of that because of the types of food I was eating. I am so grateful for the tracking because now I can eat for performance, not just at the gym, but in the corporate world.”
“We have so much power to change our lives in so many ways based on how we eat. I hope other women can see the power that they have with their diets to lose weight or otherwise.”