My name is Erin McMichael (@erin_shrinking), and I am 36 years old. After struggling with food addiction all my life and hitting my heaviest of 402 pounds, I started focusing on eating a balanced diet that incorporates low glycemic foods, the 80/20 rule, and intermittent fasting.


I know it sounds cliché, but I tried everything to lose weight. I just couldn’t seem to stick with anything, and I couldn’t understand why. I would make some progress, then give up when it got too hard or I didn’t see the results I wanted. I would shame and punish myself when I “messed up” on my diet. This began a couple of decades of a horrible relationship with food.

I had food addiction, and I ate because it was the one thing in my life I could control through a very difficult season. I also struggled with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and had a few hormonal issues to figure out. It’s no fun when it feels like your body is working against you. At 33, I hit my highest weight of 402 pounds.

Being 402 pounds came with health disadvantages. My body hurt all the time, I never felt comfortable, I had no sex drive or motivation, and I couldn’t move well.

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My kids (who were 2 and 4 at the time) were starting to notice that mommy couldn’t do the fun things they wanted. My mental health took the biggest hit, though. I had very little love for myself, and I wasn’t taking care of myself like I needed to. I abused myself with food, and lost myself in the process.

My turning point came on May 15, 2018.

I was with my children, and we were in my favorite clothing store looking for an outfit for me to wear to our upcoming family photos. I struggled to find clothing that fit me, and I cried for a while in that dressing room, right in front of my kids.

On the way home, I made a commitment to myself to never feel this way again. I asked myself, What if this time you didn’t give up? I decided I was going to start and keep going no matter what! And I did.

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I started by identifying anything in my daily eating habits that wasn’t supporting my health goals.

I worked consistently at making better choices for myself. When I started my journey, I knew very little about nutrition. But I knew I could learn. I knew I could slowly figure things out if I was intentional about it.

Small changes over time led to big results. I struggled with food addiction, so something restrictive wouldn’t work for me. I made sure I always had my staples in the fridge, and prepped as much as possible. Meal planning and prep are a must for success.

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Repairing my relationship with food has always been one of my main goals, so my meal plans always focus on balance, and I follow the 80-20 rule (eating healthy 80 percent of time and indulging 20 percent of the time). I like to aim for a balance of low glycemic foods, moderate carb intake, whole foods, and intermittent fasting. I have an eating window between 12 pm and 8 pm, and I try to drink 90 ounces of water a day. Healthy portions are a must.

This works for me because I don’t feel restricted or like I’m on a diet. It’s my lifestyle, and I love it!

Here’s what I eat in a day now.

  • Morning: Coffee and water
  • Break-my-fast (12 to 1 pm): Chicken salad on a low-carb wrap with veggie soup
  • Second meal (3 to 4 pm): Chocolate PB protein shake, berries, and almonds
  • Third meal (5 pm): Turkey and cheese pinwheels with mustard and Everything but The Bagel Sesame Seasoning
  • Fourth meal: Turkey meatloaf made with sugar-free ketchup, loaded mashed cauliflower, and a side salad
  • Snack: Ranch sunflower seeds and cherry Coke Zero (balance!)

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    I started by slowly focusing on moving my body more than I had been previously.

    I cannot stress enough the importance of starting from where you are and working your way up! When I first started, I tried to do way too much too fast, and I remember feeling so burned out all the time. Everything hurt so bad! I remember feeling ashamed when I’d go to the gym, and I was really embarrassed. This was a wonderful process for me because I was able to grow in the gym, meet friends in classes, and learn a ton.

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    Now, I’ve found a great balance of strictly at-home workouts that include strength training, cardio, resistance training, and moving my body for less than 30 minutes a day in ways I love every day. They include hiking, dancing, and body weight movements (squats, handstands, push-ups, sit-ups). I remind myself that it’s a privilege to be able to move your body, and we only get one – so I need to take care of it.

    These three changes have led to my weight loss success.

    1. I found the 80-20 nutrition plan. I make sure 80 percent of what I eat every day supports my goals, period. It leaves room for balance and makes the process less painful as I navigate the journey. Restriction doesn’t work long-term, but I know that balance does. I make sure to plan my day daily. I call them my “day sheets,” and I do what I put on them, no matter what. Taking an active role in planning my life has made such a huge difference!
    2. I ditched the “on the journey / off the journey” mindset. There is no “on the journey” or “off the journey.” We all have one life to live, and we make choices every day that build into what kind of life that it’s gonna be. When we’re on a health journey, it’s important to remember that our choices (whether good or bad) are still building into our life. I thoroughly enjoyed breaking up with the mindset that there is such a thing as being off my journey. It has put more accountability on myself. I always need to be taking care of myself, regardless!
    3. I developed the mantra, “What if this time you didn’t give up?” This has been my mantra every step of the way. I literally had this conversation with myself when I started my journey. What if this time I didn’t give up? What if this time was the time that I actually did it? What if this was the time that I kept going when I wanted to quit? What if this time I finished? I challenged myself with this and anytime I wanted to quit (and there were many, y’all!) I would remind myself of this commitment and ask myself this question, What if this time you didn’t give up?
      1. I have lost 240 pounds in three years and nine months.

        After losing this amount of weight, I am left with a ton of excess skin, so I will be having a 360-degree lower body lift in November 2022. I’m excited to see how much this will add to my weight loss total, but more excited to finally be free of the excess skin. I feel like I’m getting a new home to live in, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

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        The weight loss is the * last * thing I celebrate in my journey.

        The person that I have become along the way is by far the greatest reward. I’m happy, not because of the weight loss, but because of the woman I gained. My entire life is different now.

        I am a healthy, balanced woman. I am the mom that has more patience, fun, and love to give to her kids, and can show them up on roller blades. I am the friend that can go hiking, jump off cliffs, and be raw and vulnerable, and really show up for the people in my life. I am the wife that can be fun, silly, sexy, playful, and can let her husband fully love her because she finally loves herself.

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