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Woman who dropped 171 pounds feels 'illegally wonderful' 

Sep. 30, 2013 at 1:08 PM ET

Leigh Mount talked about her transformation on Monday.
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Leigh Mount talked about her transformation on Monday.

Once “the fat kid,”  Leigh Mount says she grew up into an adult who only ate snack foods that came in “bright colored crinkly bags.”

The larger she became, the more she fueled her depression with binge eating and drinking, she revealed on Monday’s “Look at Me Now, Joy Fit Club” spotlight.

At her heaviest, the 30-year-old Texan weighed 319 pounds. But two years ago, she stopped her unhealthy eating and drinking habits and subbed her cigarettes for hoops — hula hoops, that is. Since then, she has dropped more than half her body weight.

“I finally accepted myself on the outside and it is the greatest feeling in the world,” she said.

Mount’s turnaround started in July 2011, when her stepmother took her to get her hair done. It was the first time in years Mount had done anything to improve her appearance.

She followed up her haircut by purchasing a pair of jeans, which were “way too tight” but made her happy to be back in denim. When her boyfriend took notice of her appearance, Mount knew it was time to make a change.

Video: TODAY diet and nutrition editor Joy Bauer introduces 30-year-old Leigh Mount to the Joy Fit Club. Leigh attributes her loss of 171 pounds to swapping alcohol and cigarettes for a healthier habit of hula-hooping

She went on a weight loss program that relied on healthy eating habits, like emphasizing lean proteins and healthy carbs.

She's now lost a total of 171 pounds in just under two years, or specifically, “662 days,” as she told Hoda.

Mount said hula hooping has played a role in helping her lose weight and keep it off, and it's also proved to be a helpful substitute for an unhealthy habit she had to kick.

“I go outside where I used to smoke,” she explained.

Mount also told Fit Club advisor Joy Bauer that she keeps a paper clip chain to remind her of her progress, adding or removing a link every time she gains or loses a pound.

“Since day one of the diet, life has felt illegally wonderful,” Mount said.

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