“I like your dress. Where’d you get it?” said Grace Gardiner, winking at a fellow wedding guest. The woman chuckled. She and Grace were wearing the exact same outfit-and so were two other plus-size women at the gathering. I wonder if their legs are as sore as mine, Grace thought, following her husband, Greg, to their table. She was rubbing her knee, worried she wouldn’t make it through a single dance, when the bride and groom swept in. They were both so radiant and full of hope. As Grace watched them, she felt a shift inside herself. Life is such a gift, she thought. I need to find a way to take better care of mine.
As days passed, Grace thought back on her life. Juggling many roles — mother, daughter, friend, minister’s wife, medical transcriptionist — she was busy but sedentary. Her weight had steadily crept up; she’d often vowed to eat healthier, then beat herself up when she succumbed to stress eating. Now at 300 pounds, she had diabetes and needed a CPAP machine to control her sleep apnea at night; she could barely climb the stairs in her Ontario home. I may be too far gone to change, she thought. But I want to try.
So when a weight-loss group began meeting at the hospital where she worked, she signed up. Grace was soon using the program’s guidelines to track portions and make healthy swaps. This is pretty good, she thought, tucking into a grilled chicken salad instead of her usual sandwich and chips. With the family’s three kids grown and on their own, she found it easier to prepare healthy foods. And her first weigh-ins were encouraging. She was down two, seven, even 11 pounds a week. Even so, she didn’t feel confident. The plan was new and exciting. How will I stay on track through life’s ups and downs?
What are dessert teas?
One night, cravings for late-night snacks hit Grace hard. She confided in her daughter Victoria, who was home for a visit. “I have an idea!” Victoria said, pulling a box of “salted caramel” tea from her suitcase. Grace had heard her nurse friends mention dessert-flavored teas. This one was a mix of loose oolong tea, bits of caramel, dried pineapple and salt-all for under 10 calories. Victoria set a mug in front of her mom. One warm and lightly sweet sip immediately satisfied Grace’s craving. “I need more of this!” she said.
Grace went with Victoria back to her Toronto apartment, and together they visited a tea shop with hundreds of long canisters of tea in flavors like crème brûlée, vanilla orchid, and matcha ice cream.
“What’s your favorite dessert?” asked the clerk. “Anything chocolate,” Grace answered. After sniffing many blends — most with oolong, green, or black tea as the base — she went home with options that tasted like red velvet cake and s’mores. “This makes me happy,” she said, kissing Victoria good-bye.
At first, Grace just sipped her special tea in the evening. But she was soon ordering more online so she could bring it to work and have her own “cinnamon bun” or “chocolate chip cookie” when someone left baked goods in the break room. If she was keyed up after a double shift, soothing lavender tea helped her get to sleep. And Grace — who just didn’t like drinking water — finally started hitting hydration goals set in her weight-loss group, the ones that were supposed to reduce cravings and boost metabolism. At her next weigh-in, she hit 35 pounds lost. I’m doing it, she thought.
How does tea help with weight loss?
Lately, we hear a lot about the trillions of bacteria in our guts — especially when it comes to their impact on our waistlines. Turns out, having lots of bacteria called Bacteroidetes and relatively few of a type called Firmicutes triggers changes inside us that can make us effortlessly lean. “Emerging research shows polyphenol antioxidants in tea ‘adjust’ the two key bacteria,” allowing slimming bacteria to overtake the fattening kind, says Tim Bond, PhD, one of the UK’s top tea experts.
To benefit, experts recommend two to four cups a day of black, green, or oolong varieties; they can be regular or decaf, hot or iced. As gut bacteria shifts, it leads to healthier cravings, better blood sugar, faster metabolism, and much more, says Microbiome Diet author and tea proponent Raphael Kellman, MD. Proof the effect is powerful: One study found daily tea drinkers have, on average, 19.6 percent less body fat than those who skip tea. And women we spoke to say tea has helped them sip off up to nine pounds each week in weight loss!
What results can you expect?
Down 50, 60, 70 pounds, Grace felt better and better. She began walking and using gentle YouTube workouts. When an unexpected surgery led to weeks in bed and regain, Grace’s spirits stayed up. The tea does seem to lift my mood, she realized. Soon she was back on track and enjoying a big victory moment: “We don’t have sizes small enough for you,” she was told at a plus-size shop.
Grace’s results slowed over time, but her healthy habits and new love of tea from her weight loss stuck. The former size 4X is now 160 pounds slimmer and in a size six. She’s also free of diabetes and sleep apnea. “I finally have the energy I’ve always wanted to help minister and comfort other people,” she says. For anyone who feels it’s too late to get healthy, Grace, 56, urges: “Take that first small step. Don’t worry about the finish line. Because no matter what, you’ll be better off. And you might be surprised by how far you can go!”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.