I lost 160 pounds, dropped 7 dress sizes, and reversed my type 2 diabetes — all through diet and exercise alone

I lost 160 pounds, dropped 7 dress sizes, and reversed my type 2 diabetes — all through diet and exercise alone
  • Lisa Dove lost 160 pounds when she finally recognized the need to prioritize her health.

  • The mom of three had struggled with emotional eating and type 2 diabetes before her weight loss.

  • She reversed her diagnosis through diet, exercise, and shedding her self-defeating habits.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Lisa Dove. It has been edited for length and clarity.

My job in technology involved a lot of business lunches. We'd show up at the restaurant, and the greeter would ask where we wanted to sit. "We'd like a table, please," I'd say, jumping in before anyone suggested a booth. I couldn't face the embarrassment of trying to slide into the booth and my belly not fitting in.

I hated asking for a seat belt extender when I was flying. I couldn't watch a play because theaters don't make seats for bigger people. I couldn't paint my toenails or tie my own shoes. When I was sitting on the floor with one of my children, it took a few minutes to get in the right position to pull myself up.

I'd come up with reasons I was overweight — but not address them

There was always self-talk, and I'd make excuses in my head for being so overweight. "You're super-stressed because you've got a demanding career and are rushing around after three kids," I'd think. "It's understandable that you eat fast food and don't have time to exercise."

Lisa Dove is sitting at a dining table before her dramatic weight loss.
Dove was horrified when she stepped on the scale and it registered nearly 300 pounds.Courtesy of Lisa Dove

In truth, I was putting the needs of my family and job above my health. After losing 160 pounds through a combination of diet and fitness, I realized how dangerous that type of thinking was.

I'd always been an emotional eater. But I really lost control after the birth of my youngest, Ashley, now 11. Going to a drive-thru or ordering a pizza was much easier because I had so little time to cook.

I'd eat a grilled cheese and french fries at my desk every day. I'd order a McDonald's cheeseburger and fries as a snack between meals. I'd eat pizza with all the meat and all the vegetables on top. I would literally eat until I couldn't eat anymore.

I began by going for short walks for stress relief

My exercise regimen was nonexistent. I'd sit on my butt all day at work. I'd take my 2-year-old to gymnastics but never get any movement myself.

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 14 years ago. I saw the endocrinologist every three months. She advised me to lose weight, and I tried every diet under the sun. They'd last only a few days — sometimes a few weeks. Then, something stressful would trigger me; I'd overeat and mess up.

Then, during the pandemic, I couldn't take trying to do my job while making sure the kids were on Zoom doing their school work. "Oh my God, I need to get out of the house," I thought. I'd go for short walks in my neighborhood. It wasn't a planned exercise. It was a stress relief.

Lisa Dove poses at her gym with a stack of weights behind her.
Dove told Insider that she finally carved out time to exercise at the gym.Courtesy of Lisa Dove

It got me thinking about my body. I weighed myself on January 5, 2021. The scale said 297 pounds. I was 5ft 4in tall and obese. It was a rude awakening. "That's enough," I thought. "I'm not going to allow myself to go over 300 pounds."

I joined Weight Watchers. I found the point system relatively easy to follow. Everything had a point value. The aim is not to exceed the number of points you've been allocated. They are calculated for weight loss according to height, current weight, age, and gender.

When I was hungry, I opted for foods that represented zero points, such as eggs. It's not as if you couldn't have a piece of apple pie. But you needed to know that it was going to take up a lot of points.

Exercise is not sustainable if you hate the type you try

It worked for me because nothing was off-limits. They had a weekly allowance that you could use that went above your daily points. I allowed myself to have a treat every week, like going out to dinner with some co-workers or celebrating a special occasion. It was all about accountability.

I started to see the weight loss. It gave me the confidence to join a nearby Life Time gym in June 2021. I started off doing Zumba-style dance. It was such fun; it didn't really feel that I was doing cardio. If you go to the gym and hate everything you do, it's not sustainable.

I hired a personal trainer who introduced me to weights. It's important for women my age — I'm 49 — to build and maintain muscle. I'm not looking to be a weight-lifter. I'm just doing enough to be healthy. But I have developed a line in my abs. And I'm starting to get what I call "baby biceps."

Lisa Dove, wearing a sleeveless top, pictured in a backyard following her weight loss.
Dove shrank from a size 26 to a size four.Courtesy of Lisa Dove

Meanwhile, in 2022, I learned that I was no longer diabetic. I was officially off all four of my medications.

My girls are into competitive sports like soccer and volleyball. I can actually play with them in practice. Before, I didn't want to do any of those things. It used to take me five minutes to recover after walking up three or four flights of stairs. These days, I'm not out of breath.

You need to stop making excuses like I once did

My weight has dropped to 140 pounds. I've gone from a size 26 to a size four. My tops were a triple extra large, and now I'm a small in a shirt.

The biggest lesson for me is to strive for progress, not perfection. Forgive yourself when you don't stay on a plan. You can start again the next day. Stop making excuses and establish your habits with a sensible diet and exercise regimen. There is a way to transform your health.

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