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  • Andrea Pence said eating more protein helped her lose 140 pounds. 
  • She said she didn’t cut out treats but found some healthier swaps and focused on high-protein meals.
  • The right balance of nutrients can make weight loss easier by helping you feel full for longer. 
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You don’t necessarily have to resign yourself to cutting carbs or skipping dessert to lose weight. A 38-year-old mom of two said she lost 140 pounds in two years without restricting her favorite foods by eating more protein and tracking her meals.

In early summer 2022, Andrea Pence decided it was time to make a change. The Tennessee resident realized her routine had left her feeling constantly tired, dealing with achy joints, and struggling to stay active.

“I was tired all the time. I didn’t realize just how fatigued I was, just how rundown I was. I had pain in my knees and pain in my back, I was getting out of breath just walking,” she told Business Insider in an interview coordinated by the health app MyFitnessPal.

Pence said her initial goal was to lose about 90 pounds. She lost a total of 140 pounds, got rid of sleep apnea, and boosted her energy enough to exercise daily, Pence told BI.

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She said learning to be more aware of calorie counts (no surprise, she uses MyFitnessPal) was a big help, but the game changer was getting more protein in her diet. That shift helped her to feel fuller for longer, so she could still eat her favorite foods, just in moderation.

A woman in before and after pictures showing 140 pound weight loss

Andrea Pence said she lost more than 100 pounds by eating more protein and tracking calories.

Courtesy of Andrea Pence



Eating more protein can help you feel full

Pence said tracking meals helped her to see that she was not getting enough protein and underestimated how important the nutrient is for managing appetite on a weight loss diet.

“I’ve given up in the past when I’ve tried because it’s been so frustrating. You don’t see results and then you’re hungry all the time,” she said. “Protein was absolutely 100% one of the most important things. If you go heavy on protein, you’re going to be full.”

Now, she aims for around 100 grams of protein daily (within the range of how much protein dietitians recommend, about 0.7 grams per pound of body weight daily).

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Pence said she typically has a high-protein breakfast of Greek yogurt. She also substitutes higher-protein versions of convenience foods like bagels and microwave meals for lunch and dinner. However, Pence said it’s worth having some ice cream instead of trying to make it healthy when it comes to desserts and snacks.

“Sometimes there’s not a lower calorie swap, and that’s OK too,” she said.

You don’t have to cut out foods you love to lose weight

Pence said she didn’t cut out any food groups.

“What’s helped me do this for the long haul is I’ve not cut anything out that I’ve wanted,” she said.

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It’s true: Dietitians have previously told BI it’s not necessary to follow a specific weight-loss diet like low-carb, intermittent fasting, or anything else.

“Diet culture has people out here thinking you have to eat this bland salad with grilled chicken every day, and that is all you can eat,” she said.

Pence said she had previously tried losing weight by eating “healthy” foods, like fruit and granola parfaits, but she later realized they had more calories than she expected.

Being mindful of total calories and finding ways to fit in more protein helped Pence enjoy her food while still meeting her goals.

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“If I want a cheeseburger, I’m going to have a cheeseburger,” she said.