In January 2019, Martine Etienne-Mesubi had had enough. She was 42 years old, and she weighed 225 pounds. She couldn’t play outdoors with Zoe, her 6-year-old daughter, without stopping to catch her breath. “When we went to the park I’d say, ‘Hold on Zoe, let’s take a break, let’s wait for mom, let’s sit down.’ I hated that,” she says.
Name: Martine Etienne-Mesubi
Residence: Baltimore, MD
Job: Global health epidemiologist
Family status: Married
Peak weight: 225 pounds
Current weight: 145 pounds
Height: 5 feet 4 inches
Her second daughter, Ava, had been born a few months earlier, and Etienne-Mesubi ate whatever she wanted when she was pregnant and nursing. “At 10 at night I would pull out a bowl of cereal or make toast, then go to bed right after. My eating habits were down the drain,” she says. By the end of 2018 Ava stopped nursing, so the “eating for two” excuse wasn’t cutting it anymore. Plus, Etienne-Mesubi was concerned about developing diabetes and hypertension, which run in her family.
She knew she had to take control of her weight and her health. “Being 225 pounds and carrying on the way I was with no-holds-barred eating all the time, I realized can’t keep eating like this.”
SHE KNEW WHAT WORKED BEFORE WAS NO LONGER FEASIBLE
After her first pregnancy, Etienne-Mesubi had lost weight by running and modifying her diet. She trained for 5ks, 10ks, and half marathons, and she watched everything she ate.
“I was in that diet mentality. I thought, ‘I can’t have this, I can’t have that, I don’t want to gain weight.’ Looking back, it was really not a good place for me with food. I was obsessive about everything I was eating and all the exercise I was doing,” she says.
She didn’t see a path forward for weight loss. “In my mind there was no way to do it except the way I did after my first daughter, and I was not feeling that energy,” she says. “I thought, ‘I’m older, we have two kids now, and I’m tired. There’s no way I’m running anywhere or doing any HIIT exercises’,” she says.
On Instagram she came across people who were losing weight with intermittent fasting and tracking their progress with the LIFE Fasting Tracker app. “I didn’t know what that meant. I thought people were just not eating. How do you not have breakfast or lunch? I couldn’t grasp the concept,” she says.
With a Ph.D. in epidemiology, Etienne-Mesubi put her research skills to work learning about intermittent fasting: “I needed some science. I wanted to know what evidence existed to show this was a legit way to lose weight.”
She discovered people had been fasting intermittently for years who said they were losing weight, feeling better, and reversing diabetes and hypertension. “I was blown away by all the information I was finding, and a lot of it is based in science,” she says.
Still, she was apprehensive. “I love to eat, I love food, and I love to cook. My favorite store is Costco because they’re always giving you something to taste. I didn’t know if I could manage not eating for however long,” she says. “But I decided to start the new year fresh, and this was how I was going to do it.”
SHE EXPERIMENTED TO SEE WHAT WORKED
There are a lot of different options for intermittent fasting, and Etienne-Mesubi started with 18 hours of fasting and a six-hour eating window. “In the beginning it was challenging but within two weeks it became very normal,” she says.
She learned that hunger often comes in waves, and if she drank some water or tea, or read to get her mind off the hunger, the wave would pass. “The minute I shifted my mind onto something else I wasn’t hungry, and before I knew it, I was at my eating window,” she says.
She had no trouble skipping breakfast, and sometimes wasn’t hungry at noon, so she would push the start of her eating window to 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. and finish eating by 6 p.m.
She also fasted for 48 to 72 hours every week for about two months. “I’m not a medical doctor. I do have a Ph.D. in epidemiology, but I wouldn’t recommend anybody do that without speaking to your doctor and doing your own research,” she says.
By April 2019 she had lost 30 pounds and her eating window had shrunk to two or three hours a day. She decided to challenge herself with one meal a day (OMAD). She figured if it didn’t work for her, she could revert to her regular intermittent fasting schedule.
She planned her daily meal for dinnertime so she and her family could all eat together, and she didn’t restrict what she ate. “I’m Haitian and my husband is Nigerian, and we eat everything. I wasn’t going to restrict my traditional foods,” she says.
SHE TWEAKED HER PLAN FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS
Over the holidays, Etienne-Mesubi continued with intermittent fasting but gave herself an expanded eating window of six or eight hours. “We were celebrating, and I have no regret and no guilt for extending my window,” she says. “Even though I allowed myself extended time to eat, I didn’t go crazy. I still enjoyed myself and my time with my family and kids. It was so freeing to know if I want to eat longer I can, and if I don’t feel like eating anymore I’m going to stop,” she says.
HER SUCCESS GAVE HER THE CONFIDENCE TO RETURN TO WORK
After seven years staying home to care for her daughters, Etienne-Mesubi returned to work last November as a public health epidemiologist working in global health. She was apprehensive about rejoining the workforce and says her weight-loss success helped give her the confidence to do it. “I thought, ‘Martie, you lost all this weight, you can definitely go back to work — you got this,” she says.
Etienne-Mesubi shares her journey on her blog, podcast and Instagram. “Anybody can do this. This is something you have control over,” she says.
“I feel amazing. I feel fantastic. I have newfound confidence,” she says. “I’m saying ‘yes’ to so many things. I’m excited about life and my future with my family. I’m a better mom and a better wife.”