by Ashleigh Eisbrener
Elgin Resident Gretchen Coken, 32, believed she was practicing a healthy lifestyle that would result in weight loss. But she was disappointed to find the same number each time she stepped on the scale. So many of us face similar dieting challenges, which many health professionals attribute to overestimating how much we’re actually dieting and exercising and over-rewarding ourselves as a result. Looking back, Gretchen can now pinpoint a combination of dieting mistakes she repeatedly made, such as not scheduling regular work outs, sometimes eating just one meal per day, drinking soda routinely and subconsciously snacking on junk food.
Her first wake-up call came in early 2011, when her mother passed away. In an effort to take action to lower her breast cancer risk, Gretchen knew she needed to make some critical lifestyle changes, which included cutting back on some of her bad habits. This time, she felt like she was on the road to weight loss success, but she received more bad news when she visited her doctor. She had actually gained seven pounds over the last three months, putting her at her highest weight of 215 pounds. She couldn’t believe when her doctor’s mouth uttered the word “obese.” She was devastated. At his suggestion, she removed soda from her diet, stopped snacking and incorporated more exercise. “I felt like I had been doing that and was still struggling to find a solution that worked for me,” she says.
That’s when the ultimate motivation came. Her now-husband proposed to her. She was immediately inspired to kick it in high gear and get in shape for the wedding. She started counting calories and going to the gym several times a week. What she didn’t realize at the time was all of the mistakes she was making counting calories. “It’s not about how much you put in your body; it’s about the quality of food,” she says. Although Gretchen was calculating her calories correctly and staying under the recommended level, her food choices consisted of mainly processed foods and the occasional 100-calorie chocolate bar. This wouldn’t help her reach her weight loss goal anytime fast. That’s when her second wake-up call came.
While visiting her father, she started trying on some of her mom’s old clothes. She was always a bit smaller than her mother, who wore a size 12 or 14, but when she put on a pair of shorts, they wouldn’t button. She was crushed. “I thought I had put in months of work, and my body wasn’t responding or changing,” she says. Her dad recommended she try Medifast, a weight loss plan he previously had success with, which includes eating five specially-formulated meals daily, as well as one lean meal of your choice and a variety of greens. She dove right into the diet and never looked back. By her wedding day, she lost 30 pounds and felt beautiful walking down the aisle.
Today, she’s lost a total of 60 pounds, over the course of one-and-a-half years, and maintains a clean eating lifestyle. She eats six small meals daily, which are all gluten-, dairy- and grain-free and allows herself one cheat day weekly or bi-weekly. She also prepares all of her meals beforehand, so she isn’t tempted to eat unhealthily in a crunch, and works out four to six times per week. Two times a week, she lifts weights with her trainer, and, on the other days, she focuses on cardio, which may include either high-intensity interval training or steady-state. Even more beneficial is she feels healthy. Since she started losing weight, she hasn’t had a sinus infection or a cold, and she finds she’s happier overall.
Gretchen encourages everyone to find the weight loss plan that works for them. “I firmly believe I was meant to eat six times a day, as funny as it sounds,” she says. “This is the only type of diet my body has responded to; however, now I think of it as a lifestyle change, not a diet.” She encourages those trying to lose weight to be strong and stay motivated. If you’re consistent, you will see results. She also recommends taking your measurements in addition to tracking your weight because there are days when the scale stays the same, but you’ve lost inch-wise. Most importantly, don’t compare yourself to your friends. “Remember that every body is different,” she says. “You won’t lose the same as your best friend and vice versa.” Gretchen’s proud of how far she has come and wishes her mom could be here to see her amazing transformation.