Feb. 17, 2012 at 10:14 AM ET
As part of Joy's 25,000 pound Weight-loss Challenge, TODAY viewers were invited to submit short essays on how their lives had been transformed while following the monthlong diet plan. Two participants would win a trip to New York City and a makeover, courtesy of TODAY. When selected Dayna Rice, 29, from Charleston, S.C., told TODAY producers she's been too busy taking care of her daughter for the past two years to really focus on herself.
Read her essay:
By Dayna Rice
I started on January 1, 2012. It was the day that changed my life. I started at 180 lbs and as of today I have lost 14 lbs. I know that may not be an earth-shattering number for most people, but for someone that has been the same weight for the past two years it is HUGE!!
Nothing motivated me more than the chance to win this contest and meet Matt Lauer. I have counted every calorie and have been running on a treadmill and doing Zumba several days a week. I have been tempted many times but I think about the chance to come to NYC and that allows me to tap into my inner strength and keep going.
At the prime of my life I weighed 125 lbs. After I got pregnant I have struggled to lose the weight. I have been setting small realistic goals, which I think had been my downfall in the past. I celebrate every pound and I am more motivated than ever. Entering this contest and having to be accountable has made a big difference. There were many nights this past month that I went to bed excited to wake up and get on the scale. The sheer joy of getting to log in to TODAY.com and enter a new number was the extra motivation I needed to get through the day. Now that the weight has started to fall off I am officially hooked. I can now see my final goal of 130 lbs in the distance and I feel stronger than ever that I can definitely reach it.