‘Eating A Low-Carb PCOS Diet And Walking Helped Me Lose 120 Lbs.’

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My name is Hannah Curlee Young (@bl11hannah), and I’m 42 years old. I live in Nashville, Tennessee, and I’m a women’s wellness coach and motivational speaker. After a back injury, I gained weight rapidly. I went on The Biggest Loser and started eating a low-carb, low-sugar PCOS diet and walking for weight loss, as well as incorporated strength training and HIIT, to reach a healthy weight for me.


I grew up as a very active child and teenager. I played sports year round and never struggled with weight issues. But at the age of 19, I slipped and fell down a flight of stairs and broke my back. This accident dramatically changed my life.

I went from being extremely active (I even played sports at the collegiate level), to being in bed for months. I lost my identity. I had to have help bathing during recovery and started battling depression. About three months after my spinal surgery, I started gaining weight.

I gained almost 100 pounds in a little over a year. It was really mind blowing. I basically went into hiding for years. I stopped seeing friends from my past, avoided people, and started a destructive path of yo-yo dieting. I could never find balance. I was either 100-percent off track or 100-percent restrictive and miserable. I was still having a hard time learning how to exercise with a spinal injury, and for the first time in my life, I felt completely worthless.

I also was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) in the early 2000s before it was more well known, and based on my ultrasounds and hormone panels, was told I most likely would not be able to have children. I was also told that with PCOS, it’s not only difficult to lose weight, but also difficult to maintain a loss. This felt like a total gut punch.

The day my weight hit 299 pounds when I was 29, I knew something had to change.

I wasn’t even sure how I was going to do it, but I knew I had to get it together. I had wasted my 20s being miserable, exhausted, and in a body that felt much older. I had aches and pains, sleep issues, and was pre-diabetic. I knew that if I didn’t get my insulin levels under control, medication was next.

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Enter: Season 11 on The Biggest Loser in 2011. I had never watched a single episode of The Biggest Loser before my sister Olivia and I were on the show after being scouted by a casting producer. I thought it was for medically obese people, and didn’t realize I was in that category.

I had no idea what I was in for or what it would even be like. My first week on the show was awful. I literally felt like one of the most out of shape people there. I fainted the first day before the cameras even started rolling! Every week certain contestants would try to predict who was going home or who wouldn’t lose enough weight for the week and somehow I was always on that list. I was the ultimate underdog and honestly, that was what lit my fire in the beginning.

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Being on The Biggest Loser helped me learn to accept help and take responsibility for my own actions.

I had the best and most difficult experience of my life. I had to wake up every day and stare down my failures and talk about my deepest disappointments, all while pushing my body, filming a TV show for hours a day, and prepping my meals. It was exhausting and amazing and incredibly life changing at the same time. The Biggest Loser taught me that the only thing holding me back from the life I always wanted was me. It helped me realize that my best was enough and that being myself and learning to love myself was the only way to move on.

Everyone thinks the physical part of TBL is the hard part. Yes, it is difficult, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the emotional work that has to be done to truly change your life. Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels weren’t just trainers, they became confidants, mentors and they pushed us to be better, to want more and to demand it. Honestly, if it weren’t for my sister Olivia (who was also on the show with me), I never would have done this.

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I started to climb out of that victim mentality; my own excuses became stale and rotten. I began to wake up with purpose and I put my head down and went to work. Olivia and I gave 150 percent every single day and honestly, it was the first time that I stuck with a diet and exercise routine. See, I learned that most eating plans work, we just don’t stick with them long enough to make a real change. We were told that the best diet you can find is one you can stick to and make your lifestyle.

I learned that nutrition and movement went hand in hand. That even though I lost weight slower than most of the contestants, it didn’t matter. My goal was to keep going every single day, to wake up and take action to change my life. (I finished in the top two with Olivia!)

I still use so many of the things I learned from the show.

I learned that a moderately lower-carb eating style works best for my hormones to stay balanced. I learned that moderation is an eating style. I also learned that the human body is resilient. I had to deal with how I had treated my physical body, and how that started in my mind.

The show brought back the fighter in me, the person that can truly conquer anything. I learned that utilizing friends and family for support was a must going forward. I learned that living under a black cloud had to do with me carrying it around for so many years. Jillian sat down with me and explained that I needed to change things at home. Rearrange my kitchen, really think about if I am happy in my current job, re-think certain friendships and take a survey of the people in my life. Were they there to support me or was I just always the one supporting them? I made so many changes and it stuck.

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When I got home from the show, I read the book The Obesity Code.

For the first time, I truly learned about the power of insulin. I was already in a health coach training program and was looking at the food pyramid in disbelief. How could someone run efficiently eating tons of bread, milk, and cereal? I knew that keeping my insulin nice and balanced would help my body continue to heal.

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I would define my eating plan as a low-sugar, lower-processed carbs eating style. Technically I am not keto, but I cut out flour, sugar and processed carbohydrates on the regular. I do leave room for treats and have learned to respect food as fuel, but I also know that food can be medicine and can truly heal the body. I eat veggies and fruits that are lower on the glycemic scale (meaning they don’t spike your blood sugar as much), and I still weigh and measure my food intake.

I have also been practicing intermittent fasting on and off for about six years, and I supplement daily with Exogenous Ketones. This way of living works for me and I actually really enjoy it!

Here’s what I eat in a day.

  • Breakfast: I drink an Exogenous Ketone for breakfast (grapefruit is my fave flavor). This does not break my fast, as I do not eat an actual meal until noon.
  • Lunch: Two whole eggs, two egg whites, spinach, tomato, real or turkey bacon, usually half a serving of goat cheese, 1/4 avocado, and coffee with Keto Kreme, an MCT oil powder and collagen. The coffee helps me get in more healthy fats with the MCT oil.

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    • Snacks: I have a Greek yogurt bowl almost every day. I love making different-flavored bowls with different extract flavors. The one I had today was Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp of natural almond or peanut butter, almond extract, sweetener of choice (I use Stevia), blueberries, and slivered almonds.
    • Dinner: Turkey taco salads with low-carb tortilla chips. I make turkey taco meat on a bed of shredded lettuce with all the toppings. Think a little shredded cheese, tomatoes, green onion, real sour cream, and fresh salsa. Then I cut up a low-carb tortilla into small triangles with a pizza cutter and air-fry them with sea salt until crispy.
    • Dessert: I don’t eat dessert often, but I do love to make a protein mug cake in the microwave topped with Lily’s Sugar-Free chocolate chips!

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      I learned how fierce my body really is through exercise.

      It was hard and painful in the beginning, but I got better, stronger, and had more stamina in the first 90 days then I ever thought I would. People don’t realize that we did a lot of intense exercise on the show, but the main thing we did was walk.

      Now, I exercise five days a week. I do a walk/run in the morning with about 45 minutes of weight training. On the weekends (usually Saturday) I go hiking. And my 4-year-old keeps me on my toes, as does my husband, who is a very active personal trainer. I have no choice but to keep up with them!

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      These three changes made the biggest difference in my weight-loss results.

      1. I accepted that I am not an intuitive eater. I had to learn how to eat according to my body and my relationship with food. Tracking my meals and caloric intake kept me accountable and helped me understand what food fueled me and what foods I could make room for. I also had a log of several months to look back on when I felt stuck or felt like I needed to make changes. Food diaries aren’t just about macros; they’re a blueprint of what works for your body and what doesn’t. I would also log my mood, energy and workouts to see when I needed to rest and when I needed to push.
      2. I never gave up. It was the first time that I just kept going. I wanted to quit a million times. I had weeks when I lost zero pounds or even gained weight. I had to accept that weight loss is never linear. It is up and down, but it’s those who keep on going that succeed! Your body needs time to adjust.
      3. I made myself a priority in every aspect of my life. I changed careers, I branched out and tried new forms of exercise, and I celebrated every milestone and shared it with others.
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          I lost 120 pounds in nine months.

          After the show, I found my ideal weight at around 25-28 percent body fat and learned how to put on muscle so my calorie burn stayed high. Six years into maintenance, I became pregnant and had a baby. My body has definitely changed in my 40s, but I am proud to say that I am healthy, happy, and most of all strong.

          I stay accountable in my Facebook group “The Weigh Down” with other women focusing on health while having a life. Social media can be a dark place, but with the weight loss community it has been very supportive for me. I am very proud of my journey and am so thankful for my time on TBL and my TBL family.

          Losing weight alongside my sister and doing projects with her along the way has been a dream come true! The real work started after TBL ended, and I am proud to say I have kept my health a priority. I am a happy human and have a healthy, amazing family when I have bad days. And I know I always have another chance in 24 hours to choose better.

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