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100 Pounds Lost, 15 Years Later

Left: hot single in the Hamptons. Right: Not-bad mom in her kid’s messy room.

Packed away in a box marked “phone & camera packaging, WW info, old postcards” is a certificate, one that was presented on July 5, 1997, fifteen years ago today. I received it at a small ceremony held in a meeting room in Astoria, Queens, up a rickety flight of stairs over a home-décor shop. The ceremony itself took about five minutes, and none of my loved ones were in attendance—the audience consisted entirely of people like me, people who were hoping to get healthy with Weight Watchers.

Judy, the leader, said a few words, about how I’d been attending Saturday-morning meetings there for three solid years. How I’d spent nearly nine months stuck at the 75-pound mark, but kept coming until I finally broke through. That day, Weight Watchers recognized my accomplishment with a piece of cardstock: I’d lost 100 pounds. I’m quite sure I cried. For years that certificate hung on my bulletin board—it only got tucked away when I left Astoria to move in with Stephen in 2004, just before our wedding.

Obviously, a lot has happened in the intervening years: a second (this time happy) marriage, a child, a new career as a food writer and now a Weight Watchers blogger. For more than half that time my weight stayed steady at the 88-pounds-lost mark, which was fine by me—in order to maintain the full loss, I’d have to spend 8-10 hours a week at the gym, which I wasn’t willing to do long-term.

I’ve struggled to remain in spitting distance of that weight since Harry was born almost six years ago. Well, since the “no-baby” weight I gained during a stretch of infertility. I’ve been off-program and on-program, and I’m down 10 pounds from a scary high a few years ago. But these days I’m still about six pounds beyond my “standard” weight, and I’m not happy about it. Unhappy enough that I never even considered putting on a bathing suit to make that picture up there symmetrical. I dread hitting the pool that just opened down the street.

Lately I’ve been eating my way through the day, it feels. The excitement of publishing a cookbook has waned, my life hasn’t been magically transformed by the experience, and I’ve got a bit of a hole in my life. Apparently, I’m filling that hole with food.

I can feel myself sinking into sadness, even as I type this. That kind of thinking isn’t doing me any good. Instead of focusing on my jiggly arm-wings, my bundt cake-sized muffin-top, or my excessive thighflesh, I’ll put that certificate back on the bulletin board. I earned it. And I can earn it again.

Any advice for the “expert” who normally gives advice?

This Post Has 37 Comments

  1. Brette Sember

    You are an amazing inspiration and I don’t think you should beat yourself up about a couple of pounds. You look great! I recently started WW online. One week in, 4 lbs down. Off to a good start and one reason I started was b/c it worked so well for you.

  2. Maricka


    Thank you for inspiring me today! I have grumbled my way through this day, but this post has absolutely changed that. My kid is napping and instead of powering through housework, I’m going to go take care of myself by getting some sleep — one of the first and best lessons we learn in WW. I wish you comfort in the form of whatever makes you happiest long term!

    Much love and respect,

  3. Winnie

    Such an accomplishment, Debbie. Congrats! ps you have so much other stuff to be proud of, too 🙂

  4. Betsey

    Debbie, You look physically lovely in your current photo too, but you are a beautiful person no matter what weight.

  5. Kristin

    You are amazing! Keep it up, Debbie. I’ve been doing the same lately – eating my way out of any issue that comes up. And it’s not helping me feel any better. Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. Joy

    Debbie, this post is even more inspiring than usual. I wish you wouldn’t feel blue especially given your amazing accomplishments. I too am one week back on plan (though I pretty sure yesterday’s festivities undid my entire first week of efforts). And I’m really enjoying your WW blog. Thanks for this post. It’s much needed inspiration.

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Thanks, Joy. I know you understand–I’m so glad you’re back to blogging about all this yourself.

  7. Chrissy

    Keep your head up, Debbie! I lost 40 lbs 3 years ago and have managed to keep it off, but there’s been periods in between when due to stress or lack of planning, I haven’t taken care of my body the way I should.
    You should be very proud of how hard you’ve worked. My hope is that you get to enjoy that pool this summer, and anyone who has a problem with that can do possibly anatomical impossible things to themselves.

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Thanks, Chrissy, and good for you! 40 pounds is no small achievement.

  8. Marie

    Deb, from the photo you look like a normal, healthy woman. This is not about a number on a scale, it’s about being comfortable in your own skin. You’re 15 years older. You’re stronger. You’re smarter.You’re an author. You’re a MOM.
    Don’t let a measly 6 pounds derail you. You roast chickens that are bigger than that!

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Line of the day: “You roast chickens that are bigger than that!” Which reminds me that Harry weighed precisely six pounds at birth. Interesting.

  9. Kate

    I love this blog post and I love how happy, strong and healthy you look in the today picture! It’s really a huge accomplishment to lose a large amount of weight in a healthy and sustainable fashion — you should be so proud of yourself! And you’re raising a healthy, happy son, too! Congrats on it all.

  10. Amy Weiss

    Debbie, I’m in awe of what you’ve accomplished, both personally and professionally. We all experience lulls and letdowns after achieving our goals. Recognize them, and find new challenges, even if they’re tiny ones. For me, it means adding a new kind of activity to my schedule, changing things up at the gym or going for a walk. If you can, try a Zumba class – it’s a really joyous way to get moving & sweat, even if you can’t do all of the steps at first. Good luck!

  11. Lee

    Debbie, you are a tremendous inspiration to me. I don’t think you truly know how much. I love you to pieces.

  12. Jesse

    My dearest Debbie. Fifteen years: 100 pounds, a happy marriage, a career change, an infertility struggle won, a beautiful child, a published book. You, my dear, are amazing! You have accomplished in 15 years what some people won’t accomplish in a lifetime. And guess what? You are allowed to feel run down and tired and let things slide for a little while without judging yourself to be anything but the amazing woman you are. The awesome thing about WW has always been for me that as soon as I am ready for it again, it is ready for me. Give yourself the time you need to get back on the train, and remember that the ride might be different this time. Your body is a different body…and thank goodness for that! I don’t know about you, but you couldn’t *pay* me to be a single in the hamptons these days! Xoxo

  13. Paula Hartson

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I am in the middle of my own weight crisis. I lost almost 50 pounds with weight watchers 12 years ago. In the mean time I too got a second (better, way better) marriage and a beautiful son. I lost 30 of the 42 pounds I gained during my pregnancy. Too bad I was already at least 25 pounds overweight at the time (which was 20 pounds over my original foal weight). I just can’t stop eating.
    We took a nice trip to the beach and I am so embarrassed by my picture I want to break down and cry. I keep thinking I will go back to weight watchers, but I seem to always come up with an excuse. I keep beating myself up for being at a weight I swore I would never be at again.

    So today I got rid of the icecream and the giant tub of almonds and told myself that I believe I can do this. I have to. I want to have as many years with my son and husband as I can. I know it will be harder at 42 than it was at 30, but I have seen older women do it. I know we both can too.

    See, I believe in you too. 🙂 we just have to write down every single calorie we eat. Even though I HATE portion control. I hate the thought of bringing on diabetes more.

    Many hugs and positive thoughts sent your way,


    1. Debbie Koenig

      Go, Paula!!! You can definitely do it. You’re right, it’s harder in your 40s than it was in your 30s, but it’s still doable. It’s always doable. We just have to be willing to do the work. Journaling is absolutely key for me–sounds like you’re thinking the same.

  14. Victoria


    Thank you for posting this. Unfortunately, I don’t have any advice to share, but I wanted to say how much I appreciate you sharing your struggle. I’m at a particularly low point – weight-wise – in my life. When I became pregnant, 3 years ago, and for the first 2 years of my son’s life, I decided that I was not going to beat myself up about weight/ food issues. (Because I only have 2 settings: ignore it or be psycho about it.)

    Now I’m at my highest weight and turning 39 in a week, wondering if I have the strength to make the changes that I need to make in my life. I don’t know the answer to the question, but I do know that reading your blog helps me to feel more like I *can* make the changes. For all of the wonderful things that you put out there for your readers that help us – I wish all of it back at you!

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Oh honey, I know exactly how you feel. I waited until Harry was 3 1/2 to do something about it, though! You’re ahead of the game. 😉 Thank you for your kind words–and yes, you definitely *can* make the changes.

  15. Noelle McKenzie

    Debbie, you’ve come a long way already and you owe yourself that credit. The hardest part about managing our weight is not just getting it off, but keeping it off. I live in Brooklyn too and I would love to work with you on this. I’m a certified personal trainer and I admire your determination. Please shoot me an email so we can chat more!

  16. Danica Radovanov

    It has taken me 18 months post-pregnancy to get within 15 lbs of my pre-pregnancy weight. Please be kind to yourself. Beating yourself up never creates anything beautiful, inspiring or self-loving. Can you tune into what inspires you and find something that you can do every day (or at least a couple times a week)? I had to go back to work part time, but it’s having a magical effect on my self esteem. I also went to a chinese herbalist/ acupuncturist and discovered that I had hormone surges which he treated with herbs, and I’ve felt so much better–plus I am much less bloated. In combination with some pilates that involves wrapping my core (but excludes flexion) I am finally feeling and looking better. I love your cookbook by the way, and am inspired by it all the time.

  17. Karen

    Hi Debbie,

    I was so excited to find your cookbook, full of delicious, comforting, real food and the way you truly let yourself shine through. Your cookbook was clearly a labor of love and it shows. So I spent this moning making Little Grams meatballs and at 11am my husband and son couldn’t stand the delicious aroma any longer and we had a very early lunch.

    Later today, at the pool, my swimsuit was a little more filled out than usual. I have spent the last 6 months on WW trying to loose 20 pounds of ‘baby’ weight- my son is almost 5. I am down to the last 3 pounds from my goal and have been here most of the month. This is one of the hardest things I have ever done!

    Anyway, I wanted to say thank you, sooooo much, for your book and for sharing your struggles with other moms. We are so hard on ourselves. I am a huge fan of Laurie Colwin and I haven’t enjoyed reading about cooking and food so much in a long time. I really hope you have plans for more books, more blogging and moe of sharing yourself!

  18. Jane Boursaw

    I think you look amazing! As one who struggles with weight issues after being thin my whole life – up to about 10 years ago – it seems to be a lifelong journey.

  19. Sue

    Debbie, I hear you! I lost 45 lbs 2 years ago and I’ve managed to stay within 5 lbs. BUT, when I lost the weight, I was swimming and lifting weights 3 times each week; now, I walk occasionally. I feel less slim even tho I’m the same weight. I guess it’s how you feel, not the number.

  20. Amanda

    I am so happy to see so many supportive comments. I wanted to respond earlier but I just wasn’t able to. I have only been following your blog a short period of time, but its obvious even to me that you are a very caring person. I think that for many of us cooking and feeding others is an expression of love. While this can lead to problematic weight gain (because yay we love food!) It shouldn’t lead to feelings of self hatred. Its just not 100% natural to restrict food. We probably wouldn’t have survived as a species if we didn’t have the desire to eat whenever possible. I also get the sense that when you look in the mirror you still see a fat woman. You worry that you are heavy enough that your son will be teased. This is in no way the case. There is nothing wrong with how you look period. Of course we all need to be at a weight where we feel healthy and confident. This an individual decision. I think that many of us are trying hard to look unrealistically fit and thin. I am not sure this desire is compatible with working full time and/or taking care of a family unless this is you main interest. Loving food and staying really really thin are not totally compatible (despite the message we get from the media on a daily basis.) Sometimes i think about how I could lose a little more weight so I could look better here or there and then I pause and think, okay sure – but to what end? Is it going to make my baby happier? No. Do I need a perfect stomach for hanging out in a bikini? Not really.

  21. Terri

    I have three daughters, age 9, 5, and 1. It has been harder and harder to loose the weight after each one, but I don’t need to tell you all, right?! Here is what worked and what didnt work for me. I started counting calories with that fitness pal app. It might work for some, and it DID help for me too but I became OBSESSED with it and beat myself up over every little calorie i went over. Iwould literally sit down to a meal and eat while I entered in ever little bite I took. Id look down at my empty plate and feel so unsatisied! It was turning into a disorder for me. I started circuit training and injured myself like 2 days into. My luck. I ran across a park in my neighborhood, i have lived here 6 years and never knew it! (it’s a big neighborhood!) Its a mountain biking trail with dirt packed trails. I feel like I have discovered Eden! It’s in the woods and has hills that the bikers go down. I climb up them! I love it! I call it refugee training. I loose myself in nature and dont think. I dont go to the gym anymore where Im constantly staring at my calories burned. I stopped counting and weighing and after a few hours a week (like I said, three little ones that can’t go hiking with me) everyone is noticing my weight loss. I have no idea how much Ive lost!! My pants are looser, which is the best problem ever!
    My advice: just go with it. Loose yourself in something that makes you happy and keeps you active. Stop worring (thats supposed to make you gain weight by the way) Screw what the people at the pool think. Swim laps or tread water. That burns tons! And stop weighing yourself! I got rid of my scale
    Thank you for this website! I’ve just discovered it today and sent the link to every mommy I know. Thank you thank you thank you!

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Thank you so much for writing, Terri! My brother’s using an app right now & has lost 40 pounds THIS SUMMER. I’m so proud of him! But I also want to strangle him for losing so easily (or at least it seems that way).

  22. Terri

    Ugh, men! My husband eats like you wouldn’t believe and is as skinny as a rail. I swear that man has a tapeworm.

  23. Rachel

    It’s been a while since I’ve stopped by, I’ve missed you. Well, I’ve missed reading your blog, love seeing you on FB. Thank you for sharing this post. I’m struggling with 40pounds, 20 in the last 1.5yr. You’ve done amazing things and I have no doubt you will continue to. I love the comment about the roasting of chickens larger than 6lbs. We can do this darling. Yes, we can.

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Ah, Rachel, I’ve missed you too! If I can do it, you DEFINITELY can.

  24. Michelle

    Hi Debbie. I found your website through your cookbook. I am currently obese and looking to lose weight. Reading your story has been an inspiration to me. I signed up for Weight Watchers (for the 30th time I am sure, but the last!) and will be going to my first meeting tonight. Thank you for inspiring me.

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Goooo, Michelle! I started WW my last time on New Year’s Eve–there’s something to be said for jumping in and not waiting until AFTER the big events are over. You can do it!

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