The app that helped this 26-year-old lose 80 pounds

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

Riley Gordon is 26, 5’3,” and currently weighs 147 pounds. In 2017, after moving to a new city, she decided to embrace the “new city, new you” attitude. This is her weight-loss story.

The Turning Point

My weight became an issue starting in fifth grade, when I first remember feeling out of place compared to my peers. I wasn’t exceptionally overweight, but I remember feeling huge compared to my thinner classmates. From that point on, I realized that my relationship with food was not a normal relationship, and I struggled with trying and failing to lose weight throughout my preteen years and into adulthood.

This current weight-loss journey is actually my second round of weight loss. Five years ago, I lost 80 pounds in eight months. However, I did not lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way. I thought I had to cut all of the food out of my diet that I enjoyed. I drastically cut my carbs as well as my calorie intake. I was obsessed with weight loss and quickly developed disordered eating. I never developed an “exit plan” for when I reached my goal weight.

Once I lost the weight, I reincorporated foods into my diet that had been “forbidden,” and in doing so, I steadily gained back all 80 pounds (and then some). For a while I thought I was meant to be overweight forever.

My turning point occurred when I moved to a new city for work. I had the “new city, new me” attitude. I was scared to attempt weight loss again, for fear of developing obsessive and unhealthy habits. It wasn’t until I began doing research on weight loss that I stumbled upon the Calories In/Calories Out (CICO) theory via calorie tracking on MyFitnessPal.

I first discovered CICO through reading articles from Physiqonomics and reading the FAQ on the r/loseit subreddit. On r/loseit, I read success story after success story about how people were losing weight while eating foods that they loved.

Despite my fears about attempting weight loss again, I took a leap of faith after reading all of those stories. I decided to give weight loss one last shot. I thought, “If they can do it, I can do it,” and I did!

“I thought, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.'” (Photos: Courtesy of Riley Gordon)

The Changes

The first step I took with losing weight was calculating my Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). To put it simply, your TDEE is a combination of all of the things your body does that burn calories. This includes simply sitting and existing as well as your activity level. From there, I determined my calorie deficit. There are multiple TDEE calculators online.

Many people who utilize CICO and track calories will eat a steady, daily deficit. However, I practice calorie cycling. I determine my weekly TDEE and I subtract 3500 calories (which equals about one pound of fat) from that total. Then I consume about 1,300 to 1,400 calories per day from Monday through Thursday, which leaves me with more calories to consume from Friday through Sunday (2,000-2,500 calories per day). I developed this plan for myself after a few weeks of eating at a steady deficit per day. Calorie cycling works better for me, and it allows me the freedom to enjoy eating out and have some beers or drinks with friends on the weekends.

Regarding the types of food I eat, I focus on meeting my protein goals with the food I eat. I strength train and do HIIT (high-intensity interval training) 3 to 5 times a week, and I want to ensure that I maintain as much muscle mass as possible while maintaining a calorie deficit. As for fats and carbs, I don’t specifically track percentages for either.

I plan my meals from week to week. I don’t do mass meal prepping because I find myself getting tired of eating the same thing day in and day out (I know this from past failed attempts). I basically eat the same food I’d eat if I wasn’t in a caloric deficit. The difference is, I make meals with lower-calorie alternatives and eat smaller portions. Over time, you learn what meats have the highest amount of protein per calorie. You also learn the best types of carbs and fats to include in order to maintain your deficit for the day or week.

On the weekends, I enjoy all of the food that you are told not to consume on typical diets. I enjoy pizza, pasta, Tex-Mex, and so on. The difference is, I eat in moderation, and I eat until I’m full and then stop and enjoy leftovers later on or the next day. I guesstimate the calories for this food by utilizing MyFitnessPal. I tend to overestimate my calories when I eat out because it’s better to overestimate than underestimate.

In the beginning, the change was very hard, and I found myself questioning my ability to continue. I had to fight the urge to eat emotionally when I was stressed out. I had to fight the urge to eat out of boredom. The first three weeks of making the changes were uncomfortable. However, you do not grow as a person by staying comfortable. I fought those urges to quit and go back to my comfort zone. I’m so happy and proud of myself for sticking through those tough few weeks, because it gets so much easier over time.

After those first three weeks, tracking calories and working out became second nature to me. I don’t really think about it much anymore; it’s just something that I do every day. After those first few weeks, I began to enjoy my weight loss because it did feel so effortless.

My motto throughout my journey has been: “Take it one day at a time.” That’s all you can do. If you start overthinking the process and getting ahead of yourself, it’s easy to talk yourself into quitting. I remind myself to aim for consistency instead of perfection. I have had plenty of “bad” days, but those days are minuscule compared to the number of days I’ve stayed on track and met my goals.

Motivation will fade. You will have days when you don’t want to work out. You will have days when you want to drown yourself in a tub of ice cream. At this point, you hand motivation over to determination. You have to stay stubborn during your weight loss and fitness endeavors because you will crave the comfort of your former habits at some point, probably sooner rather than later. You have to dig your heels in and know that you are doing what’s best for yourself.

“You do not grow as a person by staying comfortable.” (Photo: Courtesy of Riley Gordon)

The After

Since I’ve lost 80 pounds, I feel so much better physically and feel so much more energetic. Even small things have changed — for instance, I used to suffer from acid reflux, and now I don’t.

Adding exercise into my weekly routine has drastically improved my mental state. I am an extremely anxious person, and I’m prone to get stressed out by minor things in my life. I still suffer from this on a daily basis, but exercise has allowed me to channel my anxiety and frustration into fuel for my workout. I feel my best during and after a workout. I may not look or perform like Wonder Woman, but in that moment I feel like I’m a superhero.

I had confidence when I was heavier, but I was more self-conscious at a higher weight. I do find myself to be more confident at my current weight, and I feel less self-conscious.

I believe one of the most surprising things about losing weight is realizing that losing weight is such a private yet public endeavor. You are going through so many changes and working toward all of these goals, and everyone gets a front seat to see the changes in your body and how different your lifestyle is because of those changes. It leaves all of your choices open to criticism and inquisition.

I wish that people who were on the outside of another person’s weight-loss journey would realize that there are certain things you shouldn’t say. For the most part, people have good intentions, but there are some things better left unsaid.

Gordon, before and after her 80-pound weight loss. (Photo: Courtesy of Riley Gordon)

The Maintenance

My eating is the same now as what I mentioned above. I am still working toward my ultimate goal weight. Once I get there, I will eat the same as I do now. The only difference will be that my calories will be the same as my TDEE, and I will not be in a caloric deficit.

I currently work out 3 to 5 times a week. I practice strength training and HIIT, and I also do some dance fitness (especially on days where I feel no desire to work out).

I’m currently on the road to maintenance. However, I will say that the best way to maintain your weight loss is to have a plan in place. Also, keep changing your goals! If you’ve lost weight without exercising, maybe incorporate a new fitness plan. If you’ve worked out throughout your weight loss, continue working out and set new fitness goals for yourself. If you’re always striving to reach some goal, it’ll be easier to prevent yourself from slipping into old habits.

I follow a lot of female powerlifters and female athletes on Instagram, as well as women who have lost a considerable amount of weight and are maintaining their weight loss. These women inspire me to reach and crush my goals.

My biggest motivation is to be a fit person. I’ve never been very athletic, and I’m very clumsy. However, I want to look and train like an athlete. I want to prove to myself that I can meet and exceed the fitness and weight-loss goals I’ve set for myself. So far, I’m killing the goals I’ve set, and the pride from success is the greatest motivation to keep going.

The Struggles

My biggest struggle is reminding myself that “bad” days are not the end of the world. It’s easy to give people this advice, but I often have to remind myself of my own words of wisdom. I work this by taking refuge in the r/loseit community. They have helped me push through so many days when I felt like I was a failure. I also remind myself to look at the bigger picture: I look at the times in the past where I’ve had “bad” days and I’ve still progressed with weight loss, and I talk myself off the ledge of worrying too much about failing.


My best advice to those who want to lose weight is to research weight loss and keep your blinders on for fad diets.

It’s easy to get lost in the whirlwind of diets that are pushed onto people every few years or so. Whenever a “miracle” diet appears, question it.

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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