How Amy Gave Up Perfection and Lost 116 lbs

Amy Before and After

Amy lost 116 lbs in 13 months.

That might sound like a big, daunting number. Amy certainly felt that way once. She had no idea how to go about losing weight, had tried and failed before, going in half heartedly:

I would cut my portions or eat salads for a week but I really did’t have the information to lose weight in a healthy way. I also thought I had to be perfect. If I ate a cookie, or if I missed a workout – I just gave up.

In the quest to get healthy, sometimes it’s simply about finding a way to go workout when the situation isn’t perfect (it’s too hot, it’s too cold, you’re tired, you’re busy…) or eat right when we really don’t want to.

Amy’s path forward embraced the realistic, sometimes reluctant heroism of heroes like Deadpool or Wolverine.

“It isn’t ever going to be perfect – no one is perfect. The way I eat today isn’t perfect but it’s a helluva lot better than the way I used to eat. I tried things, and some of them worked and some didn’t so I kept what worked and changed what didn’t until I got to something that worked and I could live with for the rest of my life. Don’t be afraid to try, you can always make changes as you go. In fact, if you never have to make any changes, you are probably doing something wrong.”

Let’s learn a little bit more about how Amy lost the weight, got in shape, and transformed her life in the process.

Amy’s Beginnings, Your Beginnings


Two years ago in the summer of 2014 Amy was experiencing some hip and knee pain. Her doctor told her that it was bursitis in her hip, either caused by overuse or from being overweight.

“He was kind enough to let me figure out which one of those reasons might apply to me,” Amy recalls.

Like most of us, it wasn’t that Amy was oblivious. She actually had problems with a herniated disc when she was 18 and had surgery at 25. In her late 30s talking to the doctor, she knew that carrying that extra weight was doing her no good.

“But it was a moment of awakening,” she remembers, “to be told I was damaging other parts of my body, too.”

No matter what change we have been thinking about making, there’s usually a difference between knowing it intellectually, and feeling it deeply enough in your bones to get started and stick with it. This was Amy’s: “I started wondering what I would be like in another 10 years and how much damage was I doing to myself.”

Amy’s Unsure Start

Amy Before Photo with dog

When we decide to get started on the quest to get healthy, there seem to be a lot of pitfalls. One of the big ones, as we call it, is collecting underpants. That’s what we call reading and reading and reading, and using the information-collecting-phase of your process as an excuse never to get started.

This was one area where Amy never had any problems. In the fall of 2014 when she decided to get started, she just started with what she thought she needed to do: eat less. But, she didn’t exactly approach it in the most skillful way. Here’s Amy:

“You can imagine that if I was starving all the time eating my regular portions, I was really starving cutting down my portion size. This did not work. My husband has a friend named Mike and he said if I ever wanted to know how to get in shape I should talk to him, so I did. He is into strength training and he knew how to get in shape, lose fat and build muscle. So I picked his brain and he told me that when it came to losing fat, nutrition was the key. He also suggested strength training to help maintain muscle.”

Amy’s new fitness adviser explained the importance of protein, how macronutrients worked, and introduced her to strength training.

But this didn’t happen right away. Amy did what she had always done, and she struggled for over a month until she tried something different. That’s when things really seemed to pick up:

“From there I started doing a ton of internet searches looking for information on protein and nutrition and strength training…. that is how I found Nerd Fitness. The first thing I read were the Rules of the Rebellion and I remember thinking, “Ok, these people are cool!” I just started reading all of Steve’s blogs and absorbing as much information as I could. I loved the idea of making permanent changes because I knew what I was doing wasn’t getting me anywhere and I really wanted to change my life. I was willing to make the commitment, I just needed to know what direction to take to get started.”

How Amy Got Healthy


Amy, congrats on your success, and thanks for shining a light on the path you took. I’d love to hear more about how you went from being totally confused when it came to nutrition, to the superhero you are today.

In the beginning, I was at a total loss for what to eat. At first I just reduced my portions but was still eating the same processed foods. This didn’t work at all. I had read Steve’s article, “How to Not Suck at Losing Weight.decided to make small sustainable changes in my diet. But I couldn’t help to be at a loss sometimes: If I didn’t have cereal for breakfast, what else was there? Everything I ate was processed or a starchy carbohydrate. I had to spend some time at the grocery looking in the produce department and trying to come up with something other than a salad as a way to incorporate more vegetables into my diet. It was also tough to let go of soda, and sugar in general. I really thought I wouldn’t be able to live without my soda or sweets. I transitioned from it slowly though.

How did you make the transition?

I went from eating my sugary cereal in the morning to eating Cheerios (not perfect but it worked while I transitioned) and I drank my whey protein shake.

I started bringing my lunch to work.

I swapped the potato chips for carrot sticks and the soda for unsweetened tea.

I started eating healthier vegetables at dinner instead of the white potato.

I made little changes every couple of weeks. There was something Steve had written about how hard it is to get rid of an old habit and how it was easier to establish a new habit and crowd out the bad one. That’s what I started doing. I just started adopting more and more good habits until there was no more room for the bad ones.

When I started I was counting calories, and eventually got sick of it (one extreme downside to this method is that you never get to stop thinking about your weight or what you are eating – you are always planning and calculating – bummer). So, I decided to go “modified” Paleo with the strategy above. The transition took a couple of months. I still eat dairy and I do eat a sandwich for lunch during the week, but the majority of what I eat is meat, vegetables and fruit.

Wow, what a journey. It’s great to see how you took gradual steps over the course of many months just to sort out certain aspects of your diet. When we see progress photos or inspirational photos on Facebook, it can feel like we’re just expected to become an overnight success. You’ve really shown how the real work is in the trenches, day in and day out.


Love the focus on diet, but what role did exercise play?

Because of my back and hip issues, I was worried about injuring myself. So, I set the goal of eating healthy every day and doing at least 1 physical activity everyday.

Because I didn’t know what my physical condition/pain level would be on a daily basis I didn’t want to tell myself I had to exercise for a set amount of time or miles, etc. If my back was hurting and I wasn’t able to workout for an hour, I didn’t want to consider myself a failure.

My goal was just to do one thing, even it was just stretching… it was one positive step in the right direction. I just made a promise to myself that I would do the most I was physically capable of doing everyday so if I knew in my heart that I was in pain and all I could do was stretch or walk for 5 minutes, I was a success. I started off very slowly with strength training and bought the seated elliptical to accommodate my back issues.

I found out though that the more I did the more I was capable of doing. I didn’t always feel like working out though. Steve had written an article about if you get dressed to exercise, you’ll do it. After dinner every night I would change into my workout clothes. I was sore and tired but I would get dressed, and then I would end up on the elliptical.

Wow, you not only were determined, but incredibly smart and kind to yourself. It sounds like a winning combination: the grit to stay with it, and the self-compassion to give yourself a break when you need it. What did you work up to?

Well, I actually put 8 miles on my elliptical regularly for 6 months straight. Which I know is a lot and not for everyone, but for some reason, my body was loving it. It was almost like my body had just been waiting for me to use it. By this time it was summer, both my elliptical and strength training progressed, and I was able to get outside so I started to ride my bike and play tennis. This is when I started doing Steve’s beginner bodyweight workout. With my back issues, I found that I did better with bodyweight workouts and resistance training than using free weights. I have also found that doing push-ups (I started that with Steve’s 30 push-up challenge) have been great for my back as well (I’m up to 100 push-ups 3 times a week).

I still don’t keep a set schedule for exercise – my goal is to just do something physical that I enjoy everyday. Because I’m no longer in pain, the exercise is fun, and I have a lot more options to choose from. This past spring I even went on a hike for the first time in my life. I hiked in a state park with my husband. We ended up hiking about 6 miles. It was an awesome experience and I was really proud of myself.

We always talk about how when you level up in a video game, you see your experience move forward right before your eyes, giving you the motivation you need to keep moving forward. Did you use any technique to track your progress?


At first I tracked my progress by weighing myself daily. My mood really rose and fell based on that number but after awhile I noticed patterns of when I would gain and lose and remain the same. It helped to desensitize me because I knew that there would be fluctuations and that I always started to lose weight again. Steve wrote an article about how the scale can lie and it’s a good idea to use measurements and take pictures so I started doing that. It really saved me, because there were times when I felt I wasn’t making any progress and I was able to look at my pictures and see how far I had come, and it gave me the motivation to keep going.

It sounds like there was a separate, complete learning process in every area, from diet to tracking. What was the most important one?

The most important change I made was my attitude. I didn’t need a diet; I needed to change my life. I knew I wasn’t healthy. I felt miserable, and I was missing out on life. I originally wanted to lose over 80 lbs to be at a weight that was considered healthy. I mentally couldn’t face that number so I decided on 80 lbs as my goal. I focused on my two daily goals and only told myself that I needed to move forward. Using my two goals each day (making healthy nutrition choices and moving my body), things took care of themselves. In 13 months I lost 116 lbs.

The stress of dieting and getting healthy can often be an impediment, leading to doubt and all sorts of bad decisions. How about your support network? You had an early fitness adviser, what else?

I had a wonderful support system of family and friends. Everyone was cheering me on, and so happy for me. In the beginning I didn’t want to share what I was doing with anyone because I was afraid I was going to fail. But it’s hard to make life changes on your own, you need support. I felt like everyone at Nerd Fitness had my back too. There was always an article I could relate to or read posts and I knew I wasn’t alone. When I joined the Rebellion, I felt like I was finally in a group that had the same goal for their lives that I had – I just want to be the best version of me that I can be.

Congratulations on your success. What’s new these days? Anything you’ve been doing that you didn’t’ do before? Any other changes you’ve noticed in yourself?

Tennis! I used to play and haven’t been able to play in close to 20 years. I started playing again last summer and have been playing this summer as well. One of my goals is to start playing in tournaments again.

I have a lot more confidence in myself. I am stronger and more capable than I ever gave myself credit for. When I’m faced with challenges now, I know I can handle it. I also am a better problem solver. I was constantly having to evaluate what I was doing and how it was working and coming up with ways to get around obstacles and challenges. Now when I set out towards a goal I know I can get there.


Okay, nerd cred time: Star Wars or Lord of The Rings?

Star Wars (the original trilogy)

Yes! Favorite Video Game?

Donkey Kong

Favorite quote?

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, ‘I’m possible’.” – Audrey Hepburn

perfect Really is The Enemy of good

Amy Tennis

Don’t give up. You only have to get it right once. Don’t beat yourself up about the past; that was yesterday and you don’t live there anymore.

Dumbledore Amy

In the Nerd Fitness Rebellion we have hundreds of heroes like Amy. Sometimes this can feel daunting, like walking into a gym and seeing a “level 50 version” of a character. But just like Harry and Luke, Frodo and Katniss, these are just ordinary people, who took one step after another.

They didn’t start with all the knowledge required. They didn’t start with a love of fitness. Amy certainly didn’t start with a love nor ability to do miles upon miles on the elliptical or the ability to rock a bodyweight workout.

Instead, they asked, “What’s first?” And they got started. They took action right away, and sometimes they made mistakes. So they made some changes, and they kept going.

Amy made tiny changes to her diet over time. She gave herself a huge break when it came to fitness, but was also her own toughest coach: she had to do something every day.

She built a system that was both determined and forgiving.

And she had smart systems in place to help her keep going. She used photos to track her success, and learned to stop freaking out so much about the normal fluctuations of the scale. She built a team of allies to support her along the way.

These systems helped to keep her on her path, but ultimately it was her own decision to keep figuring it out that led to her success.

There’s a million corny quotes about the importance of failure and getting back up. But that only matters if we get started in the first place. Whether that’s a commitment to join the Nerd Fitness Academy, or just testing out the Beginner Bodyweight Workout – start!

Our heroes stumble along the way. That’s why their stories are so darn impressive. So get started. Stumble. And figure out what’s next.

Do you have any questions for Amy?

Stop by and leave a note of congratulations!



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33 thoughts on “How Amy Gave Up Perfection and Lost 116 lbs

  1. Wow, congratulations Amy! This is one of the most amazing transformations I’ve read (and I’ve read many). I love everything about it, especially that you didn’t fall into the trap that so many people do: if they don’t find the “perfect diet” and “perfect exercise” (which of course don’t exist) they don’t do anything. Also, all the steps you took show that you’re not only determined, but also very very smart (ex.: not cutting out sugary cereals all at once but transitioning with Cheerios, slowly building new habits until there was no room for bad ones, sticking with bodyweight exercises instead of giving up strength training all together etc…) I think you’d put many personal trainers to shame. Looks as if you had someone magically guiding you every step of the wait, some sort of helpful entitiy… oh wait, you had NF! 😀 Anyway, congratulations again and thanks for the inspirational success story!

  2. I don’t know why but this really resonated with me. I’m starting up again after slacking really badly and reading your journey – how you viewed tasks and everything really makes me look at how I view things. I love the – at least one physical activity a day – part since I really didn’t care prior to this. I’ve started walking to work when it’s not raining (or 90°F outside) but on the days I don’t I’m definitely making a goal to do something physical! My new housemate loves swimming so I’ll be starting that soon too!

    Thank you so much for sharing. It means a lot and congrats!

  3. This is a GREAT review of Nerd Fitness!! As one who once was a size 2 and ballooned to a 14 over the years, (many, many, many years)… I have finally at my age …. way past Amy’s age, decided to “do something about it”! About three weeks ago, I began my Paleoish diet… got sucked into it by one of Steve’s blogs! It’s been easy to cut out the sweets… except for chocolate… and since I haven’t drunk sodas in years, that was not an issue. The hardest thing for me is bread and carbs, i.e., chips w/ salsa and queso!! I can live without potato chips just fine, but once a week or so, I gotta have my TexMex! The good news is, I have lost six pounds… I only have 44 more to go!! But, I’ve also cut out salt (due to my edema) and I think that has helped tremendously! Reading Amy’s account of losing weight, makes me want to get back to the gym and get on the weights! It’s way too hot to walk outside in Texas right now – near 100 degrees everyday! But, I’m wearing my Fitbit and trying to get at least 6K steps each day. Eventually, I will increase to 10K, but I too am starting off slow… but I’m gonna do it! 🙂

  4. This was one of the best stories I have read! I love the gentleness with which you employed the “no excuses” approach. You knew you had limitations, but also recognized how you were limiting yourself. That takes a lot of grit and emotional resilience. Thank you for sharing your story!

  5. I think every feature Steve does on success stories has been great, but Amy’s is my favorite! You really embody the idea that big changes happen from doing small things better over and over and over again. Thank you for your story!

  6. Oh man, I really needed this today.

    Congratulations, Amy! Your story is so inspiring: small changes + focus on a small set of goals = major success. I’m so happy for you that you’ve been able to leave pain behind and return to activities you love—and discover new ones.

    I’m trying to get back on the horse after I allowed some tendinitis and other pain sidetrack me. Rallying my support network and refocusing on goals. Remembering that, though I may have lost a few battles, I can still win.

    Thanks and congratulations again!

  7. Thank you for sharing Amy’s story of success! Joined NF and started getting emails. Thank you for them! It’s another strategy to stay focused on my body. It’s a life-long focus. Not done in a month, 6 wks, or a year. It’s a life-long focus! Yes, cutting out the bread has truly helped me. It truly does wonders to cut that out! Once a month…or two, I’ll have a sandwich. But really don’t need it. Amy’s story proves true that persistence and goal setting is critical for success!

  8. A very genuine record of a personal journey to make permanent changes ..well done Amy.

  9. Incredible. Just incredible. Congrats on your journey Amy! It sounds like you’ve really “nailed it” as far as finding a way to stay consistent and continue to make progress towards your goals. You really are an inspiration and I hope many other people (men and women) can learn from your example.

  10. Congrats, Amy! I love that you mentioned changing your attitude was one of the most important pieces. Getting into a new mindset it usually the taught part. Thank you for sharing your story.

  11. Congratulations Amy, your story is very encouraging and I must say I need to read this story over at least 3 times a week. Because, I am the Rebellion funny huh. It has encouraged me to do as you said at least one Fitness activity a day. Although, I do go to water aerobics two or three times a week. I understand now by reading your article that I need to implement something else in between. I want to say thank you Amy for sharing your story with me. I did read it thoroughly and highlighted with underline different key points. So, please keep your prayers going forward for those who are still trying, and those that are the Rebellion. Congratulations again Amy.

  12. This success story was really the push I needed in the right direction. I have chronic pain and due to lack of exercise and various medications, I’ve gained 100 pounds in the past 3 years. I’ve been telling myself forever that I need to make a change, but this is exactly what I needed to really get me started. Congratulations on your transformation, and thank you so much for sharing. :]

  13. I can just say congratulations !! It was so inspiring to read your story. Thanks for sharing. That’s so great to read you!

  14. You are rocking it Amy! Your goal to just do something physical every day, no matter what it is, really resonates with me. I feel like people spend so much time trying to find the best, most efficient way to do something, when really anything will do, as long as you just *do* it. And you have done it! Congrats to you for making such a great change in your life! Keep kicking butt!

  15. Hi Amy! Congratulations on your dedication to yourself! I’m always trying to figure out good, fast breakfast items. What are your whey protein shakes comprised of? Is it a mix? Do you have a recipe you can share? What did your breakfasts evolve into? Do you still do the shakes? I’d love to know what you did! I’m just getting started on my path to small changes. I want to get a breakfast routine down before school starts up again. I’ve also started drinking my iced coffees with no sugar or stevia. Thanks!

  16. Amy, your story is the one I’m hoping to write for myself in the very near future. Congratulations on being dedicated to yourself! Can you tell me what your whey protein shakes are comprised of? Are they a mix; a recipe? How have your breakfasts evolved since then? My first two food goals are to establish a healthy breakfast for myself before school starts and to not add sweeteners to my morning iced coffee. Thanks!

  17. Congrats Amy!!! Everyone here at Dyer has watched you and cheered you on every month we saw you. You are such an inspiration to everyone! 🙂

  18. Ow, congratulations. At first I thought it wasn’t you, but upon seeing the whole post I was just amazed of how you transformed. Congratulation once again and you are beautiful.

  19. Congratulations Amy on this tremendous achievement! This really proves that hard work has no substitute. The right knowledge is also key to remain healthy and fit. Misinformation about the right food and exercise can do more harm than good. So, it’s best to seek professional help for matters of weight loss and fitness.

  20. I loved this article, Amy. Thank you for your honesty and passion. I have lost 92 pounds and have had a difficult time going the extra miles to keep losing. I’ve been in stasis. Your article has encouraged me to keep going. I’ve been following Steve’s posts for years, but this is the first one I felt so strongly to respond to. Thanks again and much love!

  21. Congratulations Amy! For all those aspiring to stay fit and lose some weight then work smarter with Actofit which tracks your motions 3 dimensionally. Join their fitness bandwagon on to avail the early bird offer.

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  24. Thank you Kristina! I hope you have been able to keep fighting the good fight to stay healthy!

  25. Anne – I hope you have been accomplishing your fitness and health goals! My whey protein shake is Isopure “Pure Naked” whey protein (I was trying to stay away from sugar), frozen berries, and Keifer. I also have 4 poached eggs and 2 cups of coffee with whole milk every morning.

  26. Eva, Sounds like we had some of the same physical constraints to our exercise. Just do the best you can with what you have! Sometimes my back or legs would be problematic, but I would just remind myself that my arms worked so I focused on those. Whatever you can do is SOMETHING and that’s what matters in the long run!
    You are right, it’s not the battles it’s the war! Keep fighting the good fight! and best of luck!

  27. Congrats, Amy! I love that you mentioned changing your attitude was one
    of the most important pieces. Getting into a new mindset it usually the
    taught part. Thank you for sharing your story.

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