‘Eating Low-Calorie, Filling Foods Helped Me Lose 125 Pounds’


My name is Samara McKellar (@samara.fit.wlj), and I am 21 years old. I live in Kansas City, Missouri, and I am in college working towards my degree in early childhood education. After having to go on blood sugar medication and struggling to find clothes I felt comfortable going out in, I realized my weight was holding me back. I decided to change my eating habits and lifestyle, and I’ve lost 125 pounds.


My weight issues have always been apparent in my life. When I was younger, I was slightly overweight, and it made me uncomfortable at times. When I was around 12 years old, I went to an endocrinologist for a check-up, since both of my parents are diabetic. They never officially diagnosed me as pre-diabetic, but my hemoglobin A1C levels (used to screen for diabetes) were high enough to put me on medication to try and lower them and keep me out of the diabetes range.

As I got older, I went from being overweight to medically obese—to then being identified by doctors as morbidly obese. I would try out unhealthy fad diets in high school that would only last a week at most, then I would overeat after giving up. I had many supportive friends and peers in high school, but there were definitely people who also made rude comments that made me feel less-than due to my weight and looks. I saw food as a comforting way to deal with my emotions.

I decided I wanted to lose the weight for good on New Year’s Eve in 2017.

I was 18 years old and 294 pounds—and I was trying to find an outfit to wear to a get together with friends. I was getting so upset about how I looked in everything, and how I felt about myself. I couldn’t confidently go out and wear the clothes that I found most girls my age wore. I decided in that moment that I had to stop feeling this way and living out that scenario.

On the first day of January 2018, I told myself that I would work on boosting my self-esteem and my health. I would really try to eat healthier, and just start with one habit at a time.

I focused on eating lots of low-calorie, yet filling, foods.

There are *so many* low-calorie foods that are still very dense. This helped me a lot in the beginning because it was hard for my body to adjust from over-eating a ton of food to eating a healthy amount for my weight. However, eating lots of foods like fruits, vegetables, and eggs helped me to feel full for longer, even though they were low calorie.

I chose an eating plan that recommended using a calorie calculator and determined how many calories I could have a day if I wanted to lose one to two pounds a week. I followed that range of calories and used apps like Carb Manager to help me track my foods. I liked the Carb Manager app because it easily displayed calories as well as macronutrients. I also followed a low-carb diet that allowed for about 50 net carbs a day.

Here’s what I typically eat in a day now:

  • Breakfast: A banana smoothie with powdered peanut butter, almond milk, and a little Stevia.
  • Lunch: Protein burger (chipotle black bean burger, chicken patty, or turkey burger) on a low-calorie bun with light or sugar-free condiments. For my sides, I usually have grapes or an orange and veggie chips. Chicken Caesar salads are also one of my go-to lunches.
  • Snacks: Mini cheddar rice cakes, veggie chips, hard-boiled eggs, sweet potato chips, or Wheat Thins with light string cheese. Frozen fruit with vanilla Greek yogurt is also one of my favorite snacks.
  • Dinner: Some sort of healthy carb with protein and veggies, like a chicken stir fry or salmon with a baked potato and mixed vegetables.
  • Dessert: Chocolate hummus with frozen strawberries, or a chocolate rice cake with peanut butter on top. Also, a fruit bowl with a little bit of Stevia and light whipped cream usually satisfies my sweet tooth.

    I also cut out almost all beverages with added sugar. Before I started trying to change my habits, there were days I’d have two sweet teas or lots of soda. Now, I stick to water, green tea, and Crystal Light beverages. I realized the empty calories in sugary drinks never actually filled me up.

    By April 2018, I was going to the gym three to five days a week.

    I believe that weight loss is 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise. Going to the gym helped motivate me to keep my eating on track. I wanted to keep my word to myself to eat healthy and make sure all the hard work I put in at the gym wouldn’t go to waste by cheating too much on my diet. The gym also helped lift my mood and put me in a positive mindset when thinking about my weight-loss journey.

    Usually my workouts consist of walking one-and-a-half or two miles on the treadmill, then doing 5 to 10 minutes on the StairMaster. After that, I will do some arms, abs, or legs.

    I’ve lost a little over 125 pounds in about two years.

    I knew nothing about fitness and health before I had decided to seriously change my habits, but I became informed and dedicated. I went from a size 22 to a size 8. I am also happy to say, I no longer need that diabetes A1C medication. My blood work has come back at normal levels since losing so much weight.

    I feel like a truly happy person on the inside, and so much healthier and free. I still enjoy my treats and my cheat meals in moderation, but I have found a new passion in my life. This journey made me realize how important self-love is regardless of size or weight. My weight and health were holding me back, and getting healthy was the best decision I’ve ever made.



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