Trading Häagen-Dazs for Halo Top and Admitting I Hate Exercise: How I Lost Over 40 Pounds

How one Philadelphian lost weight and transformed her body.

Photographs courtesy Jess Vadino.

Changing your body takes hard work, persistence, and dedication. Here’s one Philadelphian’s story. Want to share your Transformation Story? Email

Who: Jess Vadino, 40, a digital consultant from Old City

Why I wanted to change: “I hit a point in 2012 where I wasn’t happy with my weight and general fitness levels – I was going to the gym sporadically, and was eating right (or so I thought). I saw Dr. Charlie Seltzer for a couple of months, and then life got in the way. Fast forward two years and about 30 pounds, and I started seeing Dr. Charlie regularly the last week of 2014. When I started seeing him again in 2014, I’d hit a new low with my self image. I’d been through some tough personal times, put my health and well being last, and I no longer felt like me. I was sitting in an easy chair, on the phone with my older sister, crying because I didn’t know how I’d gotten so far away from who I was. I ate terribly. While I’ve never been a gym rat, I was no longer active.”

What changed: “Literally everything. I’m stronger, I’m faster, I bounce back MUCH faster from things that used to exhaust me. I sleep a little less, but I sleep better. I’m also a lot more relaxed; I don’t stress about making time to be active. Eating ‘right’ is now completely second nature. At the core it, though, I’m still very much me — I still do the things I like to do, I still eat the things I want to eat, I still rarely set foot in a gym — all challenges Dr. Charlie was more than willing to work with (which was AMAZING to discover and has been incredibly transformative in my own self-confidence and self-esteem).”

How much weight I lost: Around 48 pounds.

Photograph courtesy Jess Vadino.

How I changed my diet: “I challenged Dr. Charlie because there were some things I didn’t really want to give up. I have a wicked sweet tooth, and life without sweets isn’t a life I want to lead (or, less dramatically, it’s not a diet I want to try). I don’t eat most meats, and I travel a CRAZY amount for work. And I hate working out.

“Dr. Charlie took all of that in stride, and worked with all of my parameters to help me find a new way of eating that works really well for me and my lifestyle. I eat a crazy amount of lean chicken and turkey, I avoid bread unless it’s REALLY good bread. I eat Halo Top ice cream instead of Haagen-Dazs and I cut back my calories to compensate for my exercise goals.

“Those are probably the most ‘big’ changes I’ve made. I’ve made smaller adjustments — getting a medium latte instead of a large, getting a kids’ size order of fries, and having a small ice cream or packaged candy instead of dessert at a restaurant.”

How I changed my exercise routine:  “I stopped working out, for the most part. I’ve always hated going to the gym, and though I love being active (I walk everywhere, love aerial yoga, can’t get me out of the pool). I don’t love exercise for sake of exercise. I stopped forcing myself to do something I hated, focused on doing the things I enjoy, and we’ve added some small tweaks here and there. Because I travel so much, it’s not always easy to find somewhere to walk six miles in a day or go to aerial yoga, so Dr. Charlie came up with some ideas for things I can do while on the road (or, as I like to think of them, things I can’t make excuses to not do). I do a lot of push-ups, lunges, and jump squats.”

“If I can do it — someone who is impatient, who tried fads, who gets frustrated easily, who loves sweets — anyone can.”

What I’m most proud of: “I’m happy with the way I look, and I love how much stronger I feel, but the most meaningful part of my transformation has really been my change in attitude and self-confidence and self-esteem. I used to diet for a few weeks or a month, fall off the wagon, get frustrated and give up. I’d try to get hooked on working out by running, and then I’d get frustrated when I wasn’t as fast as I wanted to be. I’d give up and get so discouraged!

“I’ve become more forgiving of my own mistakes — which is why I’m working now to get myself back on the right track after getting too lax in the last couple of months. But instead of getting frustrated and giving up completely, I look back and think: I did this before. I can do it again.”

What’s next:  “I’m happy where I am (not just weight, but weight, fitness, energy, appearance, etc.), but I’m the kind of person who’s always striving to be a little bit better every day. I did let some of my good habits slip, and my current challenge is getting myself back on track.”

What I want you to know:  “That if you’re not happy with how you feel or look, it is never too late to change old habits. There is no shame in asking for help or seeking help, even though it’s really, really, really hard! And that if I can do it — someone who is impatient, who tried fads, who gets frustrated easily, who loves sweets — anyone can. It just takes some effort, and a really good coach and support system.”

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