Successful Weight Loss and Fitness: A conversation over coffee with Maggie Townshend

How are those New Year’s resolutions going?

A Forbes magazine article from 2019 reports that after one week 25% of people have given up their resolutions and after 6 months only 46% of people are keeping their resolutions. And guess what?……. 80% of new year resolutions were about losing weight or getting fitter!

It’s a struggle I’ve had most of my life and I regularly start a diet plan and then rediscover my love affair with chocolate or fine wine…or even less than fine wine! My friend Maggie knows this struggle too but over the last few years I’ve seen her quietly and with calm commitment lose weight, get fit and find an energy for life in a different way.

What I really like about her story is that is is about Transformational change for wellness. It sticks. It changes the way we live permanently. Transformational change is not a fad, a diet plan or a moment in our lives. We fundamentally shift our thinking and practices to live differently. It’s sustainable and has a snug fit with the personality and values of the person changing their world.

So this time I ignore the February flood of special offers on lady shakes and weight loss programs and decide instead to catch up with my old friend, Maggie for a chat. She has transformed her approach to food, exercise and being healthy in these slightly older years!

Maggie Townshend is an inspiration, as a 70-year-old who has taken on the challenge of getting healthy. She started this new phase of her life 3 years ago and now can do a 25-kilometre morning walk and has shed 30 kg in weight and kept it off, by reshaping her lifestyle.

What’s inspiring in this story is the quiet, calm commitment of a woman who has put her health first and followed through on this journey…and continues to live healthily. It’s not a diet or weight loss story. It’s not a quick fix. It’s so much more…..

In the lazy, summer days after Christmas Maggie and I catch up for brunch at Florentino’s Bistro one Saturday morning. As we find an outside sidewalk table I’m struck by the irony of talking weight loss in a restaurant renowned for fine dining in Melbourne.  I order scrambled eggs and Maggie opts for delicious fruit toast. (Hang on- bread..carbs…dried fruit?!?) The coffee flows. I have prepared questions but as with so many interviews, the questions float out into the ether and the energy of a good conversation takes over…)

Nora: Maggie let’s start with you..Tell us a bit about yourself…

Maggie: This is the second time I’ve lost a lot of weight and got fit. The first time was for my son’s wedding some years ago and I did fit in the new dress I’d bought, but slowly the weight crept back on. I’ve always been weight conscious and tried diets and programs like Weight Watchers.

I guess being a child of parents who lived through the Depression, food had a special importance. Eating everything on your plate was a family understanding. I’ve always eaten reasonably healthily but I always ate too much. With a busy corporate life, I spent less time on exercise and ate too much, too often.

Nora: Was there a tipping point or catalyst to your health and fitness drive this time around?

Maggie: I remember one day about 3 years ago walking past shop windows and seeing my reflection. I didn’t like the shape of the person I saw. My family have a history of diabetes and stroke. I was in my 60’s and working as a business coach in the banking sector. I’m a granny and I have 3 adult children. One of my sons lives overseas and my travelling days will restart once  Covid is under control. I’ve got things to do. I need to be fit and healthy!


In my 60’s, and now at 70, I also knew a lot about what motivates me and how I can be successful in making a significant lifestyle change.  I know

  • If I pay for something, I value it more
  • I like to set goals and monitor progress….. in detail!
  • I have a sugar addiction and can’t have sugary things in the house.
  • Willpower? ….not really!……I don’t have any food in the house that is tempting or not part of my eating plan e.g. peanut butter
  • I don’t play sport, but I really like walking as the main form of exercise
  • I weigh my self every day….. and if I’ve had 2 wines at dinner the night before it will show up on the scales the next day
  • As a coach I also know that there are times when the healthy lifestyle can crash e.g. over Christmas I expect to add a few kilos but you need to enjoy these times. Now I know how to lose the extra kilos
  • I’m in for the long haul of changing my life habits around food and fads and quick fixes

Nora: What no grapefruit or cabbage diets..? So Maggie, you reshaped your habits around food and exercise 3 years ago. What exactly do you do to be so fit and lose 30 kgs?

Maggie: Ok let me try and summarise this..

  1. Tracking and staying motivated

As I said, I value something if I pay for it, so I did sign up with Noom, who are essentially a wellness coaching website. But this is only one don’t have too use a third party. I found keeping a detailed Food Diary very useful. When you write what you eat and the amount that you eat each day it’s a very visible commitment to eating well.  I portion size my food and measure my calorie intake. A calorie counter is on many apps and my FitBit.

  1. Food

I aim for 1200 calories a day but allow 1500 some days. I eat often. This is what a day might look like

Breakfast: around 7am – Porridge, Yoghurt, stewed rhubarb or frozen cherries or berries but no sugar

Morning tea- A piece of fruit eg peach

Lunch: around 12.30pm This is my main meal of the day. 100gm of protein (salmon, meat, chicken) 3 cups of steamed vegetables and 100gm of berries.

Afternoon tea: A piece of fruit

Evening meal: around 5.30/6.30-  a salad with hardboiled egg or tuna

Evening treat: I make up a mix of berries and frozen yoghut into popsickles. This is my evening treat- a frozen yoghurt treat.. I have one most evenings!

I don’t drink alcohol much, I don’t eat dairy except for yoghurt. I do eat protein including lean meat.

I do go out for dinners and lunches and  I may have a glass of wine but everything is allowed within the 1200-1500 calories. If I have wine I cut back on other foods that day or the next.

Oh and a great investment I made was to buy an air-fryer. It’s fabulous and doesn’t dry out chicken: great for vegies too.

Maggie on her 70th Birthday

  1. Exercise

I walk every day. I began with 10,000 steps a day on my app. Then a friend and I started walking together twice a week, rain or shine. It was a commitment I wouldn’t break. Our early Saturday morning walks got longer and longer. It wasn’t difficult. We were talking and seemed  to extend the walk until we now can do a 25 km walk quite easily and without any injuries. Again this build up has been over 3 years and staying injury free is important.

 Nora: But what happens when you fall off the wagon and it’s your birthday…you know.. human frailty..or you’re stressed and binge?

Maggie: Yes sure, I’m a stress eater too, so now I tend to put on my headphones,  go outside and walk if I’m stressed. Instead of heading to the ‘fridg, substitute another behaviour which delivers an endorphin hit, like walking. I celebrate birthdays and love going to new restaurants in town. It’s about sticking to the basic eating plan and enjoying food without guilt and retribution.

Eating out is great, just rebalance it back in the next day or two.

Nora: Maggie this has been a 3-year journey for you. What are the benefits of your new lifestyle? Have you noticed any changes?

Losing 30 kilos has meant I have a renewed interest in clothes and sourcing interesting designs. I love op shops and sustainable fashion. My daughter found a great Jean-Paul Gaultier dress in an Op shop, which I “borrowed” and I was thrilled that it fit me.

I certainly have a lot more energy and sleep better than before. I don’t think of myself as “on a diet” at all. It’s the way that I live, and I don’t feel like I’m missing something. If I want sausages, I’ll eat them and rebalance the calories in another part of the day.

Walking is a meditation, my thinking time and also a social time. It’s integrated into my life and who I am.

I’ve reached my goal weight a while ago and I feel great. This is the way I live now and it works for me.

Nora: Thanks Maggie… I really appreciate the insights and your experience… making change is hard. Making change stick for the long haul can be exceptionally difficult but you’ve made it work. That’s inspirational! Now, let’s get another coffee…


Disclaimer: Please note this is one individual’s experience of healthy living but should not be seen as medical, nutritional nor exercise advice for you. Please consult your GP before starting any exercise or nutrition program. We are not sponsored by any app or wellness coaching program.




3 February 2022 | Living Well

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