'Smaller goals' help woman lose half her weight and maintain it

·4 min read

After years of yo-yo dieting, Kayla Mehan was frustrated. She was overweight and even accomplishing daily tasks felt difficult at times. While she didn’t have any health problems, she avoided visiting the doctor and worried that she might develop Type 2 diabetes.

“I was struggling to maintain a healthy lifestyle and I was struggling with everyday activity,” the 33-year-old accountant in Oakley, California, told TODAY. “I needed to lose weight and I needed something that would be sustainable for a long time.”

Her father had passed away when he was 55 of heart disease and she worried that her weight would cause her to have health problems, too.

“With heart disease, I know obesity definitely does not help with that,” she said. “I did not want to — and I still don’t want to — pass away at an early age. So I knew my health was very important to get under control.”

Before she started her weight loss, Kayla Mehan struggled to carry out daily tasks with ease. (Courtesy Kayla Mehan)
Before she started her weight loss, Kayla Mehan struggled to carry out daily tasks with ease. (Courtesy Kayla Mehan)

Friends and family had tried WW (formerly Weight Watchers) in the past and had been successful with it. So Mehan signed up for it.

“I figured, let’s try,” she said. “It can’t hurt.”

She appreciated how easy it was to follow WW. No food was off-limits and a less restrictive way of eating appealed to her.

“They didn’t tell me I could not eat anything. They said everything was on the plan, which sounded great to me,” Mehan said. “It was not an extreme mind shift. It was a slow mind shift over time and it helps me be successful.”

When Kayla Mehan first learned she needed to lose 150 pounds she was stunned. Then she started approaching it by losing 10 pounds at a time. (Courtesy Kayla Mehan)
When Kayla Mehan first learned she needed to lose 150 pounds she was stunned. Then she started approaching it by losing 10 pounds at a time. (Courtesy Kayla Mehan)

When Mehan started she was 321 pounds in 2018. She set a goal weight of losing 150 pounds.

“When I first started WW I had no idea what I weighed and when I saw my number, I was like, ‘Oh my God, how am I ever going to get to a healthy weight,’” she recalled. “I didn’t even know how to lose 100 pounds, let alone 150 pounds.”

She started by eating more lean protein and adding loads of fruits and vegetables into her meals.

“I love fruits and vegetables now, which is very new to me,” she said. “I love eggs and chicken and ground turkey and I am still able to eat bacon, sausage.”

Kayla Mehan's father died at 55 of heart disease. She worried that if she didn't change some of her habits that she, too, could die young. (Courtesy Kayla Mehan)
Kayla Mehan's father died at 55 of heart disease. She worried that if she didn't change some of her habits that she, too, could die young. (Courtesy Kayla Mehan)

Having weekly meetings and being able to talk to other people on WW’s social media platform, Connect, kept Mehan motivated.

“Seeing other people that lost a large amount of weight, seeing that they can do it, I was like, ‘If they can do it, I can do it,’” she said.

When she first started she didn’t exercise. She started moving her body more, first by walking 10 minutes at a time, then adding kickboxing classes. Falling back on her healthy habits helped her maintain her loss even when she worried that the COVID-19 pandemic might derail her.

“I just kept doing the same things,” she said. “I am actually really proud that through the whole pandemic I was able to maintain my weight.”

After losing half her weight, Kayla Mehan feels confident that she can do difficult things. (Courtesy Kayla Mehan)
After losing half her weight, Kayla Mehan feels confident that she can do difficult things. (Courtesy Kayla Mehan)

Losing weight has taught Mehan to be patient with herself, but also that she can do tough things.

“I can do anything if I put my mind to something,” she said. “It might not happen tomorrow. It might not happen next week. But it’s going to happen.”

Mehan shares advice to others hoping to make healthy changes.

1. Find support.

When Mehan started WW she went to weekly meetings. When the pandemic shut down in-person meetings, she continued using the app for encouragement.

When Kayla Mehan started exercising, she simply started by taking 10-minute walks at a time and pushing herself to go a few minutes longer. (Courtesy Kayla Mehan)
When Kayla Mehan started exercising, she simply started by taking 10-minute walks at a time and pushing herself to go a few minutes longer. (Courtesy Kayla Mehan)

“They’re there to support you and just knowing that you’re not alone was extremely helpful,” she said. “It’s difficult to (lose weight) by yourself. When you know other people are doing it, having the same struggle you are and then they saw success, it helps motivate you.”

2. Set small goals.

When Mehan thought of losing 150 pounds she was overwhelmed. But then she thought about losing 10 pounds at a time and that seemed achievable. She used the same approach to exercise.

“I started by telling myself, ‘Just walk 10 minutes.’ It seems much more doable than telling yourself, ‘OK I have to walk two miles today,’” she said. “Just start small and don’t feel overwhelmed. Smaller goals are what made me motivated to keep going.”

3. Developing 'good habits' helps.

When COVID-19 shut down the gym or made some of her go-to foods difficult to find, she pivoted. She joined online groups and made healthy swaps with the products she could find.

When COVID-19 caused the gym and WW to shut down for in-person meetings, Kayla Mehan knew that relying on her good habits could help her maintain her weight loss. (Courtesy Kayla Mehan)
When COVID-19 caused the gym and WW to shut down for in-person meetings, Kayla Mehan knew that relying on her good habits could help her maintain her weight loss. (Courtesy Kayla Mehan)

“I just knew my habits would keep me going and it’s OK if you’re not doing exactly the same thing if you have good habits,” Mehan said. “If one day isn’t perfect, it’s OK, there’s another day.”

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