Mom Drops 100 Lbs. After Daughter Teaches Her to Count Macros: 'She Knows What She's Talking About!'

Bridget Shinn needed her daughter Hilary Downey's help to change her mentality about food — and to lose weight for good

Bridget Shinn was a chronic fad dieter. "I had been up and down my entire life," says the 61-year-old from Conway, Arkansas. "If it was a Monday, I was on a new diet."

The legal assistant had also had two failed weight loss surgeries, including gastric sleeve. "I didn't learn anything," Shinn tells PEOPLE for the Half Their Size issue. "Weight loss surgery doesn't fix your brain. It fixes your body — and that is not enough."

Shinn continued to gain even more weight after menopause, but it was a 2016 health crisis — when she was 275 lbs.— that made her get serious about her future. Doctors had to remove 9 inches of her colon due to diverticulitis. "It was a brutal surgery, and when it was over my doctor said, 'You either make some lifestyle changes, or we'll continue to do this.' "

Although she tried to control her diet, she was unsuccessful. "My mindset was deprivation."

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Meanwhile, she had been watching her daughter Hilary Downey successfully lose weight. Downey's journey had started in 2013 when she had to sit down in the grocery store after carrying her newborn son Tom from the parking lot. Also from Conway, Downey had gained 70 lbs. with the pregnancy and "just felt horrible," she tells PEOPLE. At 245 lbs., she says, "my joints ached, my energy was low, I would get out of breath."

That very day she went home and posted in an online mom group that she was looking for weight loss suggestions. Others mentioned food logging, which made a lot of sense to her. "After seeing my mom fad diet her whole life, I understood the behavior side of things — that I would only be able to sustain a diet that was realistic."

Hilary; Bridget
Grace Starr

Downey, 31, started logging her food using the Lose It! app and tracking her macronutrients, which are carbs, proteins and fats. By learning how many from each category her body needed to meet her goals, Downey was able to splurge and still slim down. "The messaging was encouraging and positive," she says of Lose It! "I liked knowing I could fit all the foods I loved into my diet — so long as I stuck to this budget."

With the help of Lose It!, running and strength training, Downey was able to drop all of the weight from her first pregnancy. She only gained 30 lbs. with her second son, who was born in 2015, and lost that weight as well.

Shinn couldn't believe her daughter's progress. "I was proud of her but also amazed seeing her go out to dinner and have pizza and Mexican — and she was maintaining the weight loss," she says. She considered asking Downey for help. "At first I was like, 'Oh this child can't tell me anything!' " she says laughing. "But then I said, 'Look at her! She's done it! It worked for her!' "

Hilary; Bridget
Grace Starr

Soon Downey was schooling her mom on macros and showing her how to use the Lose It! app, which Shinn has been using now to log her food for 900 continuous days.

As Shinn's nutrition improved, she started walking and progressed to working out with a trainer, lifting weights, doing Zumba and taking spin classes. Over two and a half years she was able to lose 100 lbs. "I've got to give Hilary credit — she helped me every step of the way," says Shinn. "She knows what she's talking about."

In the meantime, Downey had gone back to school to become a nutritionist. (Shinn was her first client.) "As I was going through my journey, I was watching so many women around me struggle with this all-or-nothing, black-or-white mindset: fad dieting, beating themselves up, approaching weight loss from a place of short-term, just-get-it-done negativity."

She graduated in December 2019 and has been growing her business ever since. "So many women put themselves on the back burner to take care of everyone else, and I love helping them realize they can make themselves a priority," Downey says.

These days, the mother-daughter duo continue to log their food and to work out together. "My oldest son, my first little spark of motivation to get healthy, actually just did his first 5K with us," says Downey. "That was an awesome full-circle moment — it brought me to tears."

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