Mastering the Diet Dance: Jo’s Steps to Success

When Jo's weight got in the way of her ability to dance, she decided to take action.

As a dancer, Jo had always been aware of her body. “I spent years in a leotards and tights and going through puberty was tough,” she remembers. “I was so self-conscious. I have a pear shaped body and being next to all those thin girls was difficult. Dancing attracts a lot of slim and lithe bodies. I didn’t fit that mold.”

Early in life, she became a vegetarian, but that didn’t lead to a healthy diet. “I ate a lot of pasta and carbs,” Jo, now 25, remembers. “I got away with it because I was a dancer and burning a lot of calories, but I was not eating healthy!”

When she entered college and turned twenty-one, her metabolism caught up with her. “I started drinking, not knowing that every cute and sugary mixed drink was loaded down with three or four hundred calories,” she says. “One blended drink can have the caloric content of an entire meals’ worth of food! It’s ridiculous! That’s when I really started packing on weight.”

Over the next few years, Jo married her sweetheart and earned her degree in Exercise Science—but her diet definitely still needed improvement. She ate a lot of low nutrition meals, and gained weight slowly but steadily. “I kept telling myself oh, 160 isn’t so bad and oh 170 isn’t so bad and I’ll never be 180 and then I crossed over 200 telling myself I wouldn’t get any bigger,” she remember. “Then all of a sudden, I hit 216. It was a slap in the face. This is not who I wanted to be! I was depressed and needed to make a change.”

As a dancer with a degree in Exercise Science, she acknowledged a certain irony in the fact that she found herself battling the scale for a more acceptable number, but she could no longer deny that she needed to make a change.

“When I saw the scale say 216, everything came into focus,” Jo continues. “I was uncomfortable in my own body. I struggled with the idea that weight isn’t everything, but also that my weight was seriously affecting my life. As a dancer, I couldn’t do what I wanted to do inside this body. I couldn’t bend because there was fat in the way. I was keeping myself from the life I wanted to lead because of my weight.”

So Jo enlisted the help of her husband, a former cross country runner, to help her train for a 5K. “I’ve never been a runner—so that’s why I chose running. I wanted to try something completely different,” she says. “I knew I needed to make big changes. It was difficult. There were days when I would actually sit down in the dirt and cry. But it got easier over time because I began losing weight—once I started carrying less weight around, I was moving a smaller body and things got a little easier.”

Jo completed the 5K, but wanted to keep the momentum going. She needed another goal to work toward.

Though she’d studied exercise science, Jo confesses that during college she was more interested in the topic academically than practically. Years later, as her degree became more and more applicable to her own life, she eventually jumped into the fitness scene. “I started following a bunch of fitness bloggers and vloggers, and I realized more people were into exercise and fitness and not just the nerds I was friends with in school,” she says. When one of those bloggers mentioned DietBet, Jo decided to join a game. 

Since the exercise component of her weight loss was well underway, Jo knew that nutrition was next in line for transformation. “I cut back on processed food,” she explains. “I always knew I shouldn’t be eating it, but I told myself it was alright because I was young and healthy. But I wasn’t healthy, was I? I started eating a lot of whole foods and began cooking more. I learned how to get involved with my food. I may not be as strict these days, but I learned a valuable lesson: if I want mac and cheese now, I make it from scratch. I use real milk and cheese, not powder out of a box. This way, I know what’s going in my food. I became hands-on with my nutrition.”

She lost eleven pounds on her first DietBet, securing her spot under the 200-pound mark. Jo then spent the next year losing weight and winning money online, and even jokes that it became her hobby for a while. “I felt amazing! I even made myself this little chart of rewards. Every time I hit a new goal, I could get myself something on the list,” she says. “But in the end, the new number on the scale was more rewarding than any gift I could have bought myself.”

Eventually, Jo’s husband encouraged her to take a weight loss break to assess her fitness and health lifestyle. “At that point, I’d been losing weight for a long time, but I wasn’t going to be in the weight loss mode forever,” she says. “I needed to figure out a plan for maintaining and decide how I wanted to live.”

She took some time solidify her relationship with food and exercise, and envision what a healthy future would look like for her. In the end, she landed on an approach that cultivates confidence and respects her own efforts, rather than focusing on the scale.

Over the course of losing 50 pounds, Jo had realized that if she loves and honors herself by treating her body with kindness, then weight loss will follow. And while the weight loss is an appreciated outcome, it’s not what’s most important: for Jo, a newfound love and respect for herself is the ultimate goal.

“If I added up all the weight I’ve lost and gained over the years, it’s like I’ve lost the same pound three hundred times,” she laughs. “I like to tell people to make process goals instead of progress goals. Make it a goal to eat clean three times this week or run a mile without stopping. Those will lead you toward the next goal and the next one after that, which will lead you toward your ultimate end result. Working toward something you can control every day is better than waking up and feeling like a failure each time you step on the scale.”

Of course, the number on the scale still plays a role, and Jo has come back to DietBet a few times to shave off 5 pounds or so. “ I haven’t given up on weight loss, but my priorities are different,” she explains. “It’s about my overall lifestyle.”

It’s also about giving herself credit for all the hard work she’s done, and helping others do the same. “I hear a lot of people talking about how they’re happy with how they look after they’ve lost weight or been through a major transformation. Then in the same breath, you hear but I’m not there yet! They’ll talk about how much work they still have to do.”

Jo understands this feeling more than most, but she has some thoughts on how these people might achieve true happiness, and, in turn, true health: “How about just saying I love how I look and accepting ourselves?”

Sounds like a good plan to us.

Ready to write your own success story? Join a DietBet game today!

Individual results may vary from success stories.

Make it WayBetter

For Jo, dancing helped motivate her to get healthy. What activity that you enjoy would be easier for you if you lost weight? Focusing on being able to do something you love can be incredibly powerful!