One woman's advice after losing over 60 pounds: 'My best advice is for people to start now'

Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.

Marilyn Chavez is 22, 5’3,” and currently weighs 129 pounds. In 2015, after gaining weight in college and needing plus-size clothes, she finally decided to lose weight using a simple calories-in, calories-out method. This is her weight-loss story.

The Turning Point

I come from a big Mexican family and an area where being overweight is the norm. I didn’t realize I was bigger than the other girls in my classes until 5th grade. I kept gaining more weight until I went off to college, but I was happy. I had friends, I was always busy with school activities, and I had male attention, so my weight was a complete afterthought.

I went to school in Santa Barbara, a beach town where very few people are overweight. I left for college weighing 191 pounds. My first week at UCSB I realized I was the biggest one in most rooms. Still, I was happy. My sophomore year of college, the closest dining hall only provided carbs and that’s all I would eat. I realized I was eating more than usual and my clothes were getting tight. Everything was starting to cut into me and I felt so uncomfortable. I was jealous of all the women wearing crop tops and their two-piece swimsuits at the beach and their cute Instagram posts. My true turning point was around spring of 2015, when I desperately wanted high-waisted shorts. The only ones that were comfortable were in a size 18W. I had officially crossed into the plus-size territory, and that’s when I told myself something had to change. I discovered the weight loss subreddit LoseIt around January of 2015. I did hours of research about CICO, calories in, calories out, and how to make meals lower cal. I bought a food scale on July 1, 2015, and I started eating 1,200 calories a day — the weight started coming off.

(Photo: Courtesy of Marilyn Chavez)

The Changes

The first step was buying a food scale, sticking to 1,200 calories a day and downloading the MyFitnessPal app to track my intake. All of my meals were consistently heavy in protein and veggies. I really learned how to cook because making bland ingredients into great meals was quite a challenge. I never really exercised. Besides hiking once in a while, I mostly walked everywhere and that definitely helped for the days when I went over 1,200 calories.

I felt great! I was looking so much better and I was full of energy. My grades actually went up. It felt like I was proving everyone wrong. My family is of the belief that some people are just meant to be fat, and my entire life I’d seen weight-loss portrayed in the media as some complex mystery. Counting calories made losing weight simple, but it could still be so hard. Seeing my friends drink and eat these massive meals made me upset because I had to watch them, but I couldn’t eat like that. I lost 50 pounds my first nine months. I decided to take a maintenance break for a while because I was happy with the way I looked.

But then I had my heart broken and that break ended up lasting an entire year, where I gained back 15 of those 50. I thought that if I lost all the weight he would want to date. And that has been my motivation for the past year where I went from 173 to 129. Of course, I realized that my weight wasn’t the issue there. So instead, what has kept me motivated is seeing how good I look the more weight I lose, and to see how much potential my body has, to see how much potential I have as a person.

(Photo: Courtesy of Marilyn Chavez)

The After

Physically I felt great and I looked good. It’s amazing how much easier yoga and cardio are now. I don’t sweat as much. Emotionally, I feel better. I am so comfortable with my body, I don’t worry if clothes make me look fat. I don’t worry if I am being judged eating in public. My anxiety lessened quite a bit. I used to think I was depressed because I was fat. It was one of the factors of my depression but not a big one. Losing the weight has helped clear a path to trying to get my depression under control. I can’t hide behind it anymore. One of the biggest changes was how much nicer strangers are to me and how nice I am now too. I get told I am very approachable. I am a lot less angry at the world. Another big change has been male attention. Dating has become so much easier.

It was so surprising how simple it was: Eat 1,200 calories and you lose about a pound a week. It taught me that veggies could be really good if prepared properly. I also used to think you could never eat out while losing weight. But it is totally doable by having the main bunch of your calories for the day during that meal or simply not eating the entire serving. I now love diet soda and various sweeteners; I used to think they were disgusting. My eating habits have definitely changed for the better. I have also realized that the diet industry is incredibly toxic. You don’t need extreme workouts or extreme diets to lose weight.

I have always felt invisible, especially when I was with a thinner, prettier friend. Most of the time, conversation would mostly be directed toward them. It felt like no one would pay attention to me. But now it is different. I feel like people look and talk to me more, and my opinions in a work setting seem to be taken more seriously.

(Photo: Courtesy of Marilyn Chavez)

The Maintenance

I hit my goal weight of 145 pounds, but I wasn’t happy with the way I looked, so I am taking it month by month and trying to stick to 1,200 calories. I do not do much exercising these days since my first post-college job is 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in an office.

I love all junk food, bread, and everything high in sugar. But I always look at the nutritional value and ask myself if it’s worth it, if the craving is going to be worth being hungry again soon and craving more sugar. Most of the time, it’s not worth it and I wander off to find something that will fill me up and satisfy me.

(Photo: Courtesy of Marilyn Chavez)

The Struggles

I moved back home and there are a ton of parties with a lot of food and cake. Refusing food in a Mexican family is a sign of disrespect, so most of the time I go over my calorie goal. I end up eating half my plate and ending the day at maintenance, which is still better than going over maintenance.


I think if people want to lose weight, they should research everything they can about the methods to lose weight. CICO (calories in, calories out) was manageable and simple for me, but it is not for everyone. It is so important to pick a weight-loss plan that you think will be manageable because weight loss is so incredibly hard and frustrating. It will take time. It has taken me three years, but time passes anyway. And in the end, any progress you make will be worth it and you will be happier. I wish I had started earlier, so my best advice is for people to start now.

Need more inspiration? Read about our other weight-loss winners!

Weight-Loss Win is authored by Andie Mitchell, who underwent a transformative, 135-pound weight loss of her own.

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