IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

1 woman thought she was destined for diabetes — until this 1 realization helped her lose 70 pounds

Aevie Vielma, 35, thought her family history destined her for diabetes and other health problems. She found a way to change the narrative.
Aevie Vielma weight loss
Ditching intense workouts and deprivation for more mindful movement and eating habits helped Aevie Vielma lose 70 pounds.Courtesy Aevie Vielma

Welcome to Start TODAY. Sign up for our Start TODAY newsletter to receive daily inspiration sent to your inbox — and join us on Instagram!

Ashley (Aevie) Vielma, 35, comes from a large family with gatherings centered around food and taking it easy. So, she’s been considered overweight for as long as she can remember.

“Throughout my adolescent years, doctors would make comments about my weight. That was sort of my norm,” she tells TODAY.com. “When I was around 10 years old, I can remember being self-conscious about my weight and thinking about diets. That seems crazy now, looking back, because I was so young.”

When she was in college she tried to be more active and get fit. But she focused on deprivation and high-intensity workouts, which wasn’t sustainable for her once she was an adult with a desk job.

Her weight increased to 205 pounds, and she had issues with her thyroid and blood pressure. Plus, she saw family members with high cholesterol and diabetes, and she expected the same future for herself. “That was the norm,” she says.

Working out at a gym where she says she didn’t have a lot of support, she tore her ACL and her meniscus. She needed surgery in February 2018 and couldn’t put any weight on her leg for two months.

“I was more sedentary, I put on more weight and that brought me down,” she says. “It was really difficult emotionally and mentally for me to wrap my head around what my mobility would look like in the future.” 

In September 2019, she needed a physical for work, and she discovered that she was borderline diabetic. Even though she thought health issues were a normal part of getting older, she had a hard time accepting that she was on the path to diabetes.

Since then, she’s found ways to eat mindfully, build her strength, improve her blood-sugar levels and lose 70 pounds. Here’s how she did it. 

Aevie Vielma weight loss
Learning that she was pre-diabetic motivated Vielma to finally break the unhealthy cycle that had plagued her family for generations.Courtesy Aevie Vielma

She looked for a sustainable weight-loss solution

“I wanted to get out of this cycle I had seen in my family for so long, and when I looked at other people who were able to manage their weight, they weren’t doing all of these intense things,” Vielma says.

She listened to the "Losing 100 Pounds with Corinne" podcast, which focuses on lifestyle changes, because she knew deprivation and high-intensity workouts wouldn’t work for her: “That would be unsustainable, and I knew I would feel dejected and frustrated.”

The podcast taught her that if you’re going to change your lifestyle, you should make it something you can stick to for the rest of your life.

Aevie Vielma weight loss
Looking for a workout that felt good for her body, Vielma turned to Pilates.Courtesy Aevie Vielma

She reconnected with Pilates

Vielma recalled that her rehab after knee surgery had included some Pilates-based movements. “It was really effective, but it wasn’t too intense,” she says. She looked up studios near her home in Houston, Club Pilates popped up and she joined.

Pilates is a full-body conditioning program designed to stretch, tone and strengthen your body with a focus on breath and posture.

“I still remember the intro session. I felt my body, my core and my legs working in a way that they never really had before. It felt so good, even though it was intense. I was working muscles and coordinating my breath with my movement, and an instructor was there to guide me. I was hooked. It’s one of the only things I have done consistently,” she says.

She began going to classes once a week. “I started paying attention to my inner awareness, how I was breathing outside of class and my posture when I was sitting and standing,” she says. “I made small changes, and Pilates was a constant part of that process.”

Aevie Vielma weight loss
Vielma didn't even realize Pilates and mindful eating helped her drop 50 pounds until her annual physical.Courtesy Aevie Vielma

She learned about mindful eating

Vielma began keeping a food journal, not to count calories but to be aware of what she was eating and how it made her feel. “That was my data. I never eliminated anything. I just lowered the quantity,” she says.

She experimented with how she felt after, for example, eating less cheese or drinking less sugary drinks: “I started noticing my energy was a little higher or more sustained. It helped empower me because I wasn’t depriving myself. I was the one saying, ‘I don’t necessarily care for this, because I don’t like the way it makes me feel.’ That’s really my philosophy when it comes to anything I put in my body,” she says.

By eating mindfully, she improved her relationship with herself: “When I started the journey, I wasn’t aware that I had a poor relationship with myself. But once I got to a certain point, I realized this is actually about me loving myself. How can I say I love something if I treat it poorly?”

I realized this is actually about me loving myself. How can I say I love something if I treat it poorly?

Aevie Vielma

Fibroid surgery set her back — but fitness helped speed her recovery

A few months after Vielma started Pilates, she needed surgery for fibroid tumors, and the doctors had to open her abdomen.

“The procedure ended up being a lot more intense than what I anticipated. I had to take a break for six weeks, and as soon as I could return, I went right back to classes. The instructors were compassionate and empathetic, and I was able to level up a bit more quickly because of the foundation I had,” she says.

Over time, she started to see definition in her body. She had a physical in September 2021 and was surprised to find out she had lost 50 pounds. “I was wearing a lot of workout clothes and stretchy clothes, and I have broad shoulders,” she says. She had a little extra room in her clothes, but she didn’t realize how much she had lost. Plus, her A1C, cholesterol, fasting blood sugar and blood pressure levels were all better.

Pilates also helped alleviate compression in her neck and middle back, clear up little aches and pains and build her core strength.

“I discovered ways to move my body I never thought I could. I got so much stronger and more flexible. I feel better now than I have at any point in my life. It’s been a tremendous gift. I knew I needed to move more to help maintain my health and my well-being, but I went in sort of skeptical. I kept going because it felt good,” she says. “I learned that I don’t have to accept some of the narratives that I’m just getting older. And I don’t have to torture myself in the process.”

Aevie Vielma weight loss
Vielma was so hooked on Pilates that she decided to become a certified instructor herself.Courtesy Aevie Vielma

She decided to become a Pilates instructor

Vielma liked Pilates so much that in January 2022, she began training to be an instructor. By that July, she was fully certified and had lost another 20 pounds. “After starting Pilates with my knee rehab, I felt like I had come full circle,” she says.

She points out that Pilates has something for just about everybody. “It doesn’t matter where you’re starting from or how limited your mobility may be,” she says. 

She’s worked with:

  • A 94-year-old man who wanted to have the mobility to go on vacation with his wife, look up at the sky and bend down to get the newspaper.
  • A professional basketball player who had an aggressive rehab plan because he wanted to play overseas.
  • A 12-year-old girl with autism who wanted to join her school’s cheer team.

Her top weight-loss tip

She credits slow, sustainable changes for her success: “Don’t think that you have to kill yourself to meet a goal. Sometimes we want results immediately, but we have to be kind to ourselves. You can reach that goal. It doesn’t have to happen overnight.”

Aevie Vielma weight loss
Vielma currently teaches four classes a week at Club Pilates in Houston, Texas.Courtesy Aevie Vielma