The scene: One girl who is kosher/vegetarian, one dining hall with not-super-tasty food, one amazing Chabad (local Jewish organization) with incredible food, lots of stress and late-night snacking options, and not a lot of exercise living on the ground floor of a dorm building on the campus of a small liberal arts college where a walk around campus would take ten minutes, tops.

I didn’t gain the freshman 15. I actually lost 15 pounds freshman year. Instead, I gained what I like to call the senior 20.

lose weight

Photo by Shira Kipnees

By the time I graduated college, I was at the heaviest I had ever been. I was majorly overweight and looked bloated or like I was pregnant. In fact, one time when I was outside a pet store, a woman came up to me and said that I looked like I was “expecting a kitten of your own.” I got annoyed after she left, but ultimately brushed it off as the rantings of a crazy lady, especially since she didn’t look all that put-together.

I was really out of shape too. At my graduation party, just walking a few blocks in heels to where my parents parked the car had me huffing and puffing. I was behind everyone and couldn’t walk and talk at the same time.

lose weight

Photo by Shira Kipnees

So what finally made me decide to lose weight? The major turning point actually came at my nephew’s first birthday party. I had been talking to my sister-in-law’s sister about the dating scene in NYC and how I’m on JSwipe. I also mentioned that I had a guy that I had been texting with and whom I had hoped to meet at some point. Later, my sister-in-law’s sister pulled my mom aside and said that she told her friend (who was in a similar situation, weight-wise) that sometimes you might want to wait to meet a guy in person until you lose weight.

I later asked my mom what was said and she told me. I got mad really quickly because I knew it was somewhat aimed at me and because this woman was blessed enough to eat whatever she wanted and never gain an ounce. I was majorly jealous.

lose weight

Photo by Shira Kipnees

Ultimately, I decided to do Weight Watchers, but the cheap do-it-yourself option. I had done it the summer before senior year of college and lost weight, and I knew I could do it on my own. I wanted to be attractive to the Jewish guys of NYC, a notoriously very superficial and picky group, and knew that losing weight would not only help me look better, but would help me feel better. When I looked up my BMI online, I was either in the obese category or very close to it. I knew that this was terrible for my body and I couldn’t keep living this way.

Part of the problem with me attempting to lose weight at home in New Jersey, where I grew up, was the lack of exercise and the constant temptation of all sorts of snack foods in the cupboards. When you grow up in NJ, you learn that you don’t really walk anywhere, it’s just get in the car and drive to wherever.

In New York, however, while you could take public transportation to places, I learned that everything was much better for walking than home in Jersey. You have to get groceries? You’ll walk there. You want to go shopping? There are no malls like in New Jersey – you can just walk around and see all the cute little shops and some chain stores. You’re going to the gym? You’ll walk to and from the gym, rather than drive there like you do in the burbs.

Another problem with living at home was that I would often indulge in my mom’s cooking, and that while she would attempt to cook healthier for me, I had zero sense of portion control – and I’d always end up snacking later than night on all sorts of junk that we had in the house, including treats that we might be keeping for my niece or the stuff my mom would snack on after work when she barely ate all day.

My parents and I would also often go out to eat on weekends, and in Jersey, it can be harder to find places with healthier options. We’d often go to the local Italian place and I’d OD on whole wheat bread, or we might go to the Cheesecake Factory where I’d get a healthier veggie burger with a salad, only to end up with a very caloric mixed drink.

Once I moved to the city, the availability of healthier food astounded me. Everything could be customized to include things like whole wheat or made to be less fattening. NJ was the land of the diners, but NYC was where healthy food reigned supreme.

I made major diet changes. I started eating lots of fruits and vegetables and exercising portion control. Weight Watchers works on a point system and I had 26 points that I could use in a day, not counting most fruits and vegetables. I started researching Weight Watchers recipes and counting points on the daily.

One point was approximately 35-40 calories, so I had to control my snacking at night. So long Teddy Grahams, hello frozen grapes. I realized I finally had control over what I could eat and keep in my apartment and could completely eliminate temptation.

I didn’t have to rely on anyone else to provide the healthy options for me – I could just walk to the supermarket in NYC with a huge selection of healthier food options and figure out how to make it work with my diet. While food is everywhere in the city, the food options are infinitely healthier than in New Jersey, where there’s a diner in every town.

Another part of Weight Watchers is getting points for being active. When I first moved to NYC, my main exercise was going up and down the stairs of my fourth floor walk-up, which to be fair, can be brutal. As the weather got nicer, I started to do more walking, especially since I live right near Central Park. When I lived at home, if you wanted to go to the park, you most likely needed to drive there.

lose weight

Photo by Shira Kipnees

But while I was getting healthier and had lost some weight, I still needed extra help getting exercise. I was no longer huffing and puffing and could do my stairs with ease, but I needed to get in shape and do more than just walk in order to lose weight.

My best friend from high school, Ali, had been raving about SoulCycle to me for years. “Just give it a shot,” she told me. “You may like it.”

After one evening out that led me to complain that I needed more in my life, the answer somehow came to me. I was going to try SoulCycle, see what all the hype was about. There was one super close to my apartment and it was only $20 for the first session, including a free shoe rental, so I figured if I didn’t like it, no harm done.

But to my surprise, I ended up loving it. I loved the music, the energy, the way I could feel social without actually having to socialize with people. I didn’t feel judged and I finally loved the idea of working out.

lose weight

Photo by Shira Kipnees

Now I am proud to say that I have lost a lot of weight and I am very healthy, fit, and in shape. I go to SoulCycle twice a week and still love every moment of it. I was so thrilled when one of the front desk workers recognized me and said that she noticed I had been doing a lot of SoulCycle lately and that I should keep up the good work.

I may still have some more weight to lose, but being able to fit into clothes that once would never have fit me before I lost weight is something that brings me endless joy. My goal is to document my weight loss so that I can see how my body changes as I spend more time in NYC and keep up my healthy habits.

I recently bought a few new pairs of shorts for the summer only to discover a few days later they were too big. When it happened with the first pair I thought that maybe it was a fluke and that I had accidentally purchased the wrong size. Then it happened with two other pairs of shorts that I bought a few weeks later with my mom and it was then I realized that this was a result of my hard work and not just a fluke.

My mom and I currently have a deal regarding my weight loss – if I can lose 24 pounds before my 24th birthday (which less than three months away), she will buy me a new swimsuit for our family vacation this summer. Right now, I am down about 16 pounds, but I am also gaining a lot of muscle.

My legs are toned, my arms look less flabby, and I can do insane things like do SoulCycle twice in one day and do a short walk or run in Central Park that same day without feeling and looking like a murder victim on Law & Order: SVU. New York City may be a food mecca, but there are plenty of ways to make it a healthy one.

lose weight

Photo by Shira Kipnees