How this 20-year-old found self-love, lost 40 pounds, and overcame mental illness

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

Photo: Courtesy of Mallory Smith

Mallory Smith is 20, 5’4”, and currently weighs 125 pounds. In 2017, after gaining weight during her freshman year of college and going through a tough breakup, she was able to pursue a healthier lifestyle, making her happier than ever. This is her weight loss story.

The Turning Point

I remember always struggling with my weight, even back in middle school. Even when I was smaller I had this body dysmorphic thinking that I was too big or not pretty enough. But really once I entered my freshman year of college, things started to get out of control. I remember looking in the mirror and not even recognizing myself anymore. That year, I did a lot of yo-yo dieting and would attempt working out every now and again, but I never stuck with it, because it felt futile and pointless.

When I came back home from college for the summer, I went through a breakup that I didn’t see coming. I became very depressed and anxious (something I have always struggled with, but it got worse) and completely lost my appetite. It was a struggle to force myself to eat. After a couple of weeks, I started to feel much better about the situation and noticed also that I had lost a little bit of weight. So now that I had gotten my appetite back, I decided I would start eating in moderation and working out. This was hands down the best decision I have ever made.

The Changes

I downloaded the app MyFitnessPal and used that to count my calories, aiming for around 1,000-1,200 calories a day depending on my appetite and how hard I worked out that day. I used the CICO (calories in, calories out) method. I ate whatever I wanted, just making sure I was never eating too much and keeping it within my caloric goal.

I try to get to the gym about six days a week. I start out with cardio on the elliptical for about an hour to an hour and a half even on a high-energy day. Watching YouTube videos or maybe a show on Netflix is a great way to keep yourself distracted while getting your cardio in. Then I move on to the weight machines. My favorite ones are the overhead press, vertical chest, compound row, leg extension, hamstring curl, leg press, and ab machine. I do three sets of 10 at the heaviest I can on each of those. And I have consistently stuck with this routine since the beginning. I have a calorie tracking watch/heart rate monitor (Polar FT7) that tells me I burn anywhere from 800 to 1,000-plus calories during my workouts depending on how intensely I worked out that specific day. Also, I drink a preworkout shake and a BCAA (branched chain amino acids) during.

I have seriously never felt better in my life. It feels like I have some sort of purpose now, and my self-confidence and happiness have soared from what felt like rock bottom. Seeing my progress right before my eyes is what kept me going back. I could see little baby muscles starting to form, and clothes were getting looser.

Another major motivator for me, personally, was fashion. I love dressing up and trying on cute outfits, and the thought of wearing something that previously I would have never felt confident enough to wear kept me going.

Mallory Smith before and after weight loss. (Photo: Courtesy of Mallory Smith)

The After

The physical changes are amazing. I can go up stairs now without feeling out of breath. Something I noticed, also, was that my ankles don’t swell anymore. A year and a half ago, I went to Universal Studios, and after a long day of walking, my feet were so incredibly swollen and hurt so badly. I went again in October of this year, wore the exact same shoes too, and there was absolutely no swelling. I thought that was the coolest thing.

I used to suffer from severe anxiety and depression. It was debilitating, and I would socially isolate because I could not stand the thought of leaving my bedroom. It was a constant struggle, and I thought I was going to have to deal with it for the rest of my life. Now my depression is almost completely gone. I only very rarely get anxiety or panic attacks, and they are easily manageable. I could never get the pills to work for me, so I’m glad something finally did. I truly have never been happier.

I found out that it’s actually very simple. It’s not easy, but it isn’t complex. Eat less, move more — that’s the basic idea of CICO, and it really works. You don’t need an expensive fad diet or an intricate workout plan. Just eat less than your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) and you will start to see results. In the past, I can see now that I would always try and overcomplicate things when it really is just as basic as eating less and moving more.

Mallory Smith (Photo: Courtesy of Mallory Smith)

The Maintenance

I’m still not done, for sure, so I do all the same things. I would love to have visible abs one day. But I have found that there are a lot of days when I feel more comfortable eating around 1,300-1,500 calories plus my same daily workout routine. Also, I don’t restrict myself from eating certain foods. I still eat pizza, and ice cream, and macaroni and cheese, and so much more — just in moderation.

Making the gym a routine is very important to me, and I treat it like some might treat a job. I find that what works for me is to go even when I don’t feel like going, but also know when to take a day (or even a week) off for recovery, such as when I’ve overworked myself or get sick. I log everything I eat, even the little things that you don’t think are important, like the candy bar you grabbed at work or the quick coffee you got as a pick-me-up from Starbucks. This helps to get into that habit of knowing how much I am really eating and making adjustments as needed.

Seeing my progress keeps me going. Seeing biceps where there used to only be little noodle arms is so exciting, and being able to fit into a pair of jeans that I never could have fit into before intensifies motivation. Also, seeing how much happier I am now will keep me from falling off the wagon; I do not ever want to feel that depression or anxiety that I used to deal with ever again. So this regimen is not just a quick fix, but a lifestyle change for me.

Mallory Smith (Photo: Courtesy of Mallory Smith)

The Struggles

I feel tired almost all the time because I never really get enough sleep. Being in college has pushed my bedtime later and later, but I try to get into bed as early as I can and am working on getting into a good sleeping pattern.


Just take everything a day at a time and trust the process. Some days are harder than others. There will be times when you feel like you just cannot make it to the gym or days when you eat way over what you planned. You have to forgive yourself for those times and just keep going. One thing I always tell myself when I don’t want to work out is “Just go for 10 minutes, and if you still want to leave, you’re allowed to.” Most of the time, after 10 minutes, I go ahead and finish the workout. Only a few times have I left early, and when I did, I forgave myself for that because, in the long run, one missed workout isn’t going to ruin everything for you.

Also, start loving yourself and your body now. Don’t live for the future. You can still love and accept yourself while also working to better yourself — the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. You can do all the exercise and eating right in the world, but if it’s fueled by hatred of your body the whole time, you may find that you’ve lost all the weight but you are still not happy. Instead focus on the positive aspects and tell yourself what you love about your body, not what you hate.

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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