Putting My Mom on a Diet: 1 Year Later

by Andie Mitchell on June 1, 2014


Guys and dolls: remember Mom? The one who birthed me, raised me with an unfailing sweet tooth, dressed me in stirrup pants and mock turtlenecks until 6th grade, and continues to ladle guilt upon me like only a good Irish Catholic mother can? Yes, that’s the one. Mom.

Well, you might also remember that, last June, I put her on a diet. If you can believe it, she asked me to.

This was where we started:


“If we put it on the blog, I’ll be held accountable. And I just know that other women like me out there will be able to relate,” she told me then.

For part of that time, I lived with her, helping to make all of her meals — prepping, packing lunch, bagging nuts and raisins for snacks, encouraging her — and then, in November, I moved to New York City. We were, as you’d imagine, heartsick. How many phone calls can two women have in a day without co-workers beginning to get that bored look in their eyes when they tell you “Your daughter’s on the phone…again…?” Two, actually. Found that out rather quickly.

It’s been one year now. Where is she?

mom now

When we started this thing, I was hopeful. I know Mom well enough to help her find a way of incorporating the foods she loved into a healthier lifestyle. I know a fair bit about nutrition and weight loss. But I’m also the type that doesn’t like to see others uncomfortable. I’d put myself more in line with an enabler than anything resembling a drill sergeant. I feared I might coddle her, might not be the best at telling her how to choose just one dessert at a buffet because, can we live a little?!


Mom, for her part, has been incredible. Last summer, it began with a plan: what to eat, when, how much. Some hand-holding. And then, slowly, the plan fell away. She started picking her own meals, scooping her own portions, navigating parties and holidays. But the good habits had stayed with her. She stuck with her favorite breakfast on weekday mornings: peanut butter on a whole grain english muffin with a banana. She still snacked on nuts and raisins. And then, when Easter came, she worked Cadbury Creme Eggs and jelly beans into her day, her week. All the while, losing, maintaining. She never counted calories in any legitimate way, since she never really took to that, but relied more on intuition. Cut back here, save room there.

I never meant for her to stay on the “plan” long-term — that was never the goal. It was to give her a framework for what a serving looks like, what a healthy day looks like, how many vegetables she should aim for. Now, when I go home, I find her doing that naturally. I see her making fruit salads, eating whole grain cereals, choosing sweet potatoes, and generally cutting back on the amount of sugar she eats. But I also see her finding balance: having Dunkin’ Donuts hot chocolate in the winter — something she loves, or a cupcake from a new bakery…you get the idea.

What I realized in this process was that Mom didn’t need someone to be hard on her, someone to be strict with her — what I feared I couldn’t be to begin with. She needed someone to be kind, just to be there and to believe in her the whole way through. When she’d call me and tell me, “I just want to eat all the desserts today: cookies, cake, pastries, even the ones I don’t like — like Oreos,” she didn’t need me to tell her, “No no no, stay on plan! You’re in charge of creating the body you have.” She needed the gentler, “I get it. I’m right there with you some days. For me it’s doughnuts, and it feels like I need at least a dozen. But it’s just a tough day, probably emotionally, that’s leading you to feel like you need to eat all the things. What’s going on?” And we’d talk it through. When she told me that she’d had a weekend eating bender and that she wasn’t sure how to get back on track, I got that, too. We all do.

The journey to weight loss is one that’s physical, emotional, mental, and deeply personal. It can be lonely and isolating. Frustrating and hopeless. If we can find people around us that understand where we are, who treat us with compassion and without judgment, we’re stronger. We can let ourselves be guided sometimes, we can be carried, we can ask for help, or just reach out so that we know we’re not all alone out here.

When I simply offered an ear, an anecdote like that time I ate three cookies when I was sure I was just going to have one, or advice on what helped me get back on track, or what keeps me motivated, I found out that that’s all my job really was: friend. And my job was easy.

Today, Mom weighs 168 pounds. She has lost 42 pounds from 210 where she started last June, and she’s radiantly content. She’s confident. I’m proud of her in the way that you’re proud of someone for going after something they really want, not just because they got it. I see that she’s striving, and it makes me want to strive — for anything I want. I feel hopeful and inspired, but not because of the dedication, not because of the discipline — because of the balance she’s struck, because of the way she’s made her journey so uniquely her own. She’s figured out a healthy way to eat that keeps her happy and sane, and in doing so, she feels comfortable and confident in her own skin.

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

mom and paul

**UPDATE: A check-in from Mom, herself:

“Hi everyone,

So sorry for the lag in talking to you! No good excuses.  Andrea has been after me for months to post something and I am guilty as charged.  I’m happy to say that I did finally get under 170 pounds, but it was not easy and now I weigh 167-168 on a good day (without a candy fit) and I have even weighed in at 165 at one time.  Unfortunately, I have been having a very (and I stress VERY) hard time getting off the candy wagon.  It all started at Easter time when I had to make up 29 Easter baskets — lot of candy, lots of chewing.  I love the candy they sell at Easter and I ate it as fast as I could.  Then of course I head to my sister Maureen’s (the one who thinks that everyone should have their own dessert when you go to her house) and she had about 15 desserts and insisted that I take many of them home. The only saving grace I could muster up was to head to the GAP and try on some new pants.  If that doesn’t bring you right back to reality, nothing will.   I am also not getting much exercise so I sometimes feel like the fat rolls aren’t distributing as they might if I’d moved more.

After Andrea left, Paul and I attempted to make all our own meals again, and shop healthy.  Well I loved having Andrea cook for me and I let her do it without paying too much attention to her cut backs with butter and oils and portions sizes.  I was buying those expensive 100-calorie snack packs at one time, thinking I could just eat 3 or 4 of those a day, but Andrea put the kibosh on those and told me to smarten up.  She also suggested Paul do the shopping as he’s not much of a sweet eater.  What a crank she is!

On a good note, I like being a bit thinner, it keeps a lot of my arthritis in check and I sleep better and generally feel better.  I am constantly aware of what I eat and do really for the most part try to be sensible.  It is always going to be a struggle but I am not willing to throw in the towel yet.

The summer is almost here and I would have liked to be more fit, but what can I expect after having a long spring full of on-sale Easter candy?  Here’s to always being able to start over!

I hope that you are all doing well and in good health.  I wish you all only the best and thank you for all of your support of Andrea and myself, and most importantly each other.

Love Always,


**If you want to read the whole series: I’m putting my mom on a diet, here is the plan I designed for her, and here are her weekly updates: week 1week 2week 3week 4week 5week 6week 7week 8week 9week 10week 11week 12week 13week 14week 15week 16week 17week 18, week 19, 1 month eating on her own.

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

francine June 1, 2014 at 10:59 pm

congratulations to your mom for making all of those dietary changes in her daily life, and toyou gfor being such a source of support and love for her! it’s always such a blessing to read about positive mother-daughter relationships!


Jenn June 1, 2014 at 11:10 pm

Way to go, Mom! She looks AMAZING!


*Andrea* June 1, 2014 at 11:27 pm

congratulations to your mom!!!! she looks super happy and confident. and gorgeous! you have great genes :)


Beth June 1, 2014 at 11:48 pm

WOW, great work Mom!!!!


Amy @ Thoroughly Nourished Life June 2, 2014 at 1:12 am

Congratulations to your Mum and to you too Andie! One of the best parts about having walked the road back to a healthy lifestyle is being able to pass it on to others, and you have given your Mum and awesome gift by just listening to her and enabling her to help herself.
Congratulations Andie’s Mum you have come such a long way and you look absolutely radiant :)


Lisa June 2, 2014 at 4:18 am

Your mom looks great! And I love what you’re saying about the journey to weight loss, it’s so true.


Chezzie June 2, 2014 at 5:16 am

Congratulations to both of you! your mum looks 20 years younger!!!


Donna June 2, 2014 at 5:29 am

Andie, Thanks so much for the update on your Mom. I am thrilled Maryellen has made a healthy and realistic eating plan part of her daily life. She looks fantastic and deserves heaps of praise. You are a wonderful daughter and you both are beautiful – inside and out. Congratulations! And yes, your Mom was right – there are many of us who can relate. Everyone in my family has lost weight over this last year – and it all started with reading about you and your Mom and the plan for a healthier life. Oh, and I am 54 and still call my Mom twice a day, too!


marybeth June 2, 2014 at 8:12 am

When I came across your blog after New Years, I was looking for hope….not a diet, not a plan….just a little hope that this time, this very last time, I could change. So, I read, and read some more, and laughed, and truth be told, ate something/everything while I was reading. It’s now June 1st. and my hope is now a reality because your plan for your Mom and your Mom’s approach to eating, taught me it isn’t all or nothing; taught me to take it one meal at a time; taught me to eat to live and not live to eat….and now I’m 24 pounds lighter and heading in the right direction. Your Mom looks awesome and I’m sure you could not be more proud of what she has done. Thank you for the hope.


Teneil June 2, 2014 at 8:33 am

Mum looks great. Weight loss is all about lifestyle really. Change lifestyle, change food chioces and be more active. The key is to have the motivation to do it. This is so motivating and encouraging. Congratulations.


sallybr June 2, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congratulations, your Mom looks amazing, and to me the main difference is the twinkle in her eyes! That comes from conquering something tough, that demanded commitment, patience, self-control… awesome!


Lori June 2, 2014 at 9:32 am

Congratulations! You look amazing. A beautiful smile.


Janet V June 2, 2014 at 10:03 am

You look Amazing Maryellen! Good for you. Maybe adding a session or two of hiking or something fun would help. Regardless, you have done an excellent job! I am inspired by you. Thanks :-)


leslie June 2, 2014 at 10:09 am

“Andie’s mommm has gooooot it goooing onnnnn!”

Congrats!!!! You look fantastic, all your hard work has paid off, you should be SO PROUD!


Kathy June 2, 2014 at 11:38 am

What a fantastic year it has been for your mom. She has done so well.
The weight loss makes her look younger in the face.
I love that her dog was in both pictures with her :)


Noel June 2, 2014 at 11:42 am

Oh I’m so happy for the update. I’ve often thought of her and wondered how she was doing. She is simply amazing!! Congratulations! I quit smoking 2 yrs ago and I realized that stopping or changing habits is totally a mind game. You have to get to a point when you say to yourself “I’ve had enough”. Nothing is easy but doable if you’ve made up your mind. You two are beautiful ladies. Oh and the dog is a cutie too!


Luana June 2, 2014 at 11:50 am

Mom looks terrific!!


Jennifer June 2, 2014 at 11:53 am

Fabulous!! I have often wondered how your mom was doing and I was SO HAPPY to see this post today! Kudos, Maryellen! You look GREAT!


Nichole June 2, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Great update, Andi and “mom”! Thanks for sharing :)


AR Sabir June 2, 2014 at 12:49 pm

An excellent article, changing your eating habits by adding more fruits and vegetables is a better to lose weight.


April June 2, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Maryellen, you look fantastic! It’s nice to see someone succeed in their goals in spite of having all the cravings and weaknesses the rest of us have. You are an inspiration and I hope you continue to stick with it!

Andie, I think you have discovered the deep, dark secret of helping someone lose weight. What most people really need is someone who believes in them, not someone to lecture them. You are a good daughter and friend to your mom. I’ve been doing Weight Watchers, with whom I have a love/hate relationship. I love that it makes me accountable, but I hate that I constantly feel like I’m failing when I go over my points (which happens…often). I sometimes feel those types of programs (or any diet) just make you think about it so much you get sick of thinking about it. I am trying to stick with it until the habits become more automatic and I don’t have to think about it all the time. But it’s frustrating. I love reading things like this that keep me inspired and remind me that tiny steps do add up over time. So thanks for being there, not only for your mom, but for me too!


Cinnamon Vogue June 2, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Wow Wow Wow. Maryellen a fantastic job! Andie you are so right. Weight loss is a physical, emotional, mental, and deeply personal experience.

Recent research show that sugar decreases brain size. There is also increasing evidence that sugar is the primary cause of most cancers, yet we spend millions on cancer cures.


Sherri June 2, 2014 at 3:04 pm

SO glad you did this update!!! She looks wonderful. That’s a great accomplishment. Great to hear from you!


Sharon D. June 2, 2014 at 7:04 pm

I was there from the beginning when Maryellen first began her weight loss journey. What an inspiration this is! Andie,”Your mom looks beautiful, and healthy!” I know you are so proud!! Great job!


Hootie June 2, 2014 at 11:27 pm

Maryellen you look fantastic!
Andie, how right you are! I feel like I have worked on the emotional part forever and still have a way to go! And physical, mental too. It’s a lot but you can’t give up. I go thru phases of “the screw it’s” but have to keep getting back in the game. I think kindness and acceptance and your approach are beautiful :)


Lilly June 2, 2014 at 11:37 pm

Wow…wow! Well done you! This is an amazing transformation and you should pad yourself on the shoulder everyday :) Congrats!


Camille June 3, 2014 at 1:49 am

Oh my goodness Mary Ellen you look amazing!!! Sooooo beautiful and I’m beyond impressed. Miss both of you and I send my love!! <3


Maryellen June 3, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Hi Camille,

Thank you for the comments. Love your blog, your pictures are amazing. You look gorgeous! Please becareful all the time and get back to the states as soon as possible and visit me and Andrea!


Camille June 9, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Thank you Maryellen :) I just got back to the states a few days ago and hopefully I can come over to the east coast soon!! <3


Little Gold Pixel June 3, 2014 at 4:03 am

Maryellen – I really enjoyed reading your journey for the past year. I love that you still eat what you like on occasion, and that you are REAL about it. Don’t be too hard on yourself about the Easter candy. Cadbury eggs are out of this world good and it would be a shame not to have one.

Andie – You are a wonderful daughter. Your relationship with your mom reminds me of of the one I had with my mom. I miss her every day. You can never call your mom too many times!


Pam S @ Nuts for Nutrition June 3, 2014 at 5:57 am

Wow! I can’t beleive it has been a year already, I remember when you guys first started!

Your mom looks AH-MAY-ZING!!

Maryellen you are an inspiration!! Congrats on such a great accomplistment :)


Maryellen June 3, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Thank you all for the encouragement and praise, you have no idea how much I appreciate it.
Thank you to Andrea for having to watch me eat all those snacks two fistedly when you came home for visits (sometimes I go off the snack deep end!!!) I cannot believe a year has gone bye either and must admit that I am shocked I haven’t caved in per my usual. Andrea has had her hands full keeping me going, but she has done a great job and I love her for it. She has worked so hard at weight loss over the years and I have only scratched the surface, but I had to try and will keep it up, as I like the way it feels. Thanks Again and let’s keep going together.


Morgan June 3, 2014 at 5:14 pm

This is incredible! Mary Ellen, what you’ve done is beyond impressive. I’ve been reading from the beginning! My mom lost weight when I was little and now I’m losing at 26 years old. Almost like our roles are reversed, but you all remind me so much of my mom and I! You are both so lucky! And we are lucky to have you all share your wonderful, sometimes trying experiences. More of an inspiration than words can explain!


Katie @Glutes and Ladders June 3, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Congrats Mary Ellen! I’ve been wondering about you and I’m so happy to see you’re doing well. Seeing this update definitely made my day.


Leslie Thomas June 3, 2014 at 11:09 pm

I love this post. You are so right losing weight is such the journey. Your mom rocks :), and I love the support you provided for her.



Florence June 4, 2014 at 11:28 am

This post made me so happy! Congratulations Maryellen! I love what you said about just needing kindness, not a strict reinforcer of the plan. It’s so funny how we think we need someone or something to discipline us when actually we just need to have a loving and caring attitude. Thanks for this reminder!


Stacy Dalton June 4, 2014 at 1:01 pm

I wish I could get my mom to do this. I don’t think she eats enough, and when she does eat…it doesn’t seem healthy at all. And, she won’t exercise to save her life – literally. You’re mom looks amazing! Such an inspiration. I lost weight) only 15 pounds), but that was hard work. It’s great to hear success stories!



Sam June 4, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Yay! She looks great :).

And I love seeing blog posts from you! I wish you posted recipes more! Hah. But I understand being busy.


Erin M June 4, 2014 at 4:33 pm

great job to your mom! So proud of her!

I’m 34 and 5’1″ 177 lbs and was just told by my doctor my cholesterol is border line high. I was always healthy and fit growing up. I yo-yo’ed on and off in my late 20 and when I met my now husband I was a very health 147 on my way down. That all halted and he and I started going out to eat more being less active and my weight creep up to what I’m at now. My heaviest. I know what I need to do, as I’ve done it before (on WW). The scare from my doctor and your mom’s story is great motivation. I can’t afford WW or a gym membership right now so I’m confident I can do it the way your mom. Thanks for sharing her story!!


LN June 4, 2014 at 10:09 pm

I am so trilled for your success. You are so deserving of how you look now because you kept your eye on the weight-loss ball. You and your daughter are so special. Hugs to both of you.


Raquel June 5, 2014 at 1:09 am

One year already! WOOOOW!!!! You´ve made such a great job! what a perfect team! :) Congrats and greetings from Spain!


Samara June 5, 2014 at 7:48 am

Ive been a reader for some time now, and remember last year when you originally posted that your Mum was starting a diet.
Its wonderful to read the healthy and balanced changes that you have made Maryellen – you both are so very inspiring. Congratulations from Australia!


Leslie June 5, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Thanks so much for sharing. Your last line is exactly what I try to get across in my own weight watchers meetings! It is not about what we can or can’t eat, it is about balance and recognizing who you are and how you can live your healthiest life.

“She’s figured out a healthy way to eat that keeps her happy and sane, and in doing so, she feels comfortable and confident in her own skin”.


Laney June 5, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Oh, this update made me so happy! Your mother looks gorgeous and her journey has been so relatable to so many of us.


momtaxijulie June 5, 2014 at 4:06 pm

I’ve loved your whole mom on a diet series! She looks fabulous!


Laura @ My Friend's Bakery June 5, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Wow Maryellen! You look fabulous! Congratulations!!!! So inspiring.


Amy June 6, 2014 at 8:04 am

I love this post! It’s very hard to help another person lose weight or live a healthier lifestyle. I think you did it with a lot of compassion and patience, which is the key…in all things, I suppose. Your mom looks lovely. I also really appreciate your note about balance, not trying to maintain a strict diet/plan forever and how to fit in our dodgy must-haves into a healthy routine. Balance is literally the hardest part of health. The swinging pendulum is what gets most of us, on either side of the middle. Congrats!


Anne June 6, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Mom- you look AMAZING. Radiant. Glowing. Thin. Beautiful. You’re doing it. Living it. In Real Life. I’m so inspired!

Andrea: Great coaching:).


Annelies June 7, 2014 at 10:52 pm

Way to go Maryellen! So glad to hear you are feeling good and get an update.


Trish June 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm

It always makes me so happy when people make these kinds of changes in their lives, but don’t deprive themselves of simple pleasures. I can’t imagine a life without cupcakes :)


T June 19, 2014 at 4:13 pm

I’m so glad you posted an update. I came here today just to check and see if there were any updates on or from you! I did the diet with you and Andie in the fall, with great results, but today am back from vacation and up about 5 pounds again so I’m looking for inspiration to eat healthy. I’m planning my meals for the next month, going grocery shopping, planning out exercise, etc. But just seeing you there smiling and looking incredible is great motivation to stick with this! And it really looks like way more than 40 pounds to me. you look great and thanks for sharing your story!


Amy June 24, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Good for you and your mom both. Sure wish I could accomplish something similar for my mom. She’s not as mobile anymore – uses a walker – and that makes getting exercise a lot tougher. Seems a vicious circle. If anything, though, it helps keep me motivated and keep moving.


Kathleen July 3, 2014 at 9:42 pm

Wow! Your mom looks fantastic. I eagerly followed her progress last summer and when I went back to work (teacher) in the fall, I didn’t get to check in as much. I was really excited to see how fantastic she looks and I love the approach you took to help her. (Kindness always works for me!) I preordered your book today, Andi, and can’t wait for 2015 to arrive so I can read it. Love, love, love the cover and you!


Debbie T July 18, 2014 at 11:04 am

This is so inspirational to me. I am exactly where your Mom was and am hoping to be where she is now some day. I agree that what I need is not a policeman, but a friend. I think you excel at that because you have been there and you can truly understand how she feels. I have great children who want the best for me, but they can’t understand because they haven’t been there. They want to help, and they are my friends above all, so we just need to work on our roles and we will get there. Thank you for giving me hope! I will look forward to your book.


Malie September 9, 2014 at 12:01 pm

I saw the very first post and had followed this for a while. Your mom looks awesome! Good for her for sticking with it. I need so badly to do the same.


Joanne October 2, 2014 at 11:46 pm

Congratulations on the weight loss, Maryellen. It makes you look so much younger!


sandra October 6, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Did you notice how much your body is shaped like your moms in the above picture.( you have on your swimsuit)


Lorrie Haley October 26, 2014 at 4:25 am

Wow, this is so inspirational! I love how much love you guys have fore each other! I love that both you and your mother have such a close bond that you can relate with each other the way that you do. You both are so lucky to have each other! It’s crazy how much we can influence each other just by sharing our stories and experiences!


Ava January 16, 2015 at 8:58 pm

Has Paul joined in the lifestyle of eating well? He looks plump. Maryellen- I wish you continued good health and happiness!


Marylee Dixon February 20, 2015 at 8:53 am

Amazing, I am inspired on this very cold morning, when all I want is something good and cozy, like grilled cheese and tomato soup because it is comforting. Your Mom is beautiful inside and out, and I am in a similar circumstance. Thank you and sending the love.


the gold digger April 9, 2015 at 6:51 pm

Love this story and love how you supported your mom – it’s not easy to remember that sometimes, people just want to have someone understand that it’s hard. They know what they need to do – they don’t need to be browbeaten – they just want to be understood.


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