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After graduating from college, Laura Morgan watched as her friends traveled, went hiking and camping. At 378 pounds, Morgan felt like she couldn't participate in any of the fun. She was afraid she wouldn’t fit into an airplane seat, so she skipped traveling. She knew she’d be winded if she hiked or camped, so she stayed home most of the time.
“I couldn’t do any of that,” Morgan, 25, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, told TODAY. “I said to myself, ‘You are 23. You are already missing out on everything in life and this is the time in life when you should be seeing the most and doing the most.’ And I wasn’t.”
Around the same time, a colleague was doing a healthy eating challenge and Morgan decided to join the 24-day contest. She eliminated fast food and stopped binge eating, which she had been doing for years to cope with her emotions. During that challenge, she realized it was possible for her to be healthier.
“To come out of those 24 days and lose 17 pounds, I felt really, really good,” she said. “That was the best I had felt in a very long time.”
She cut take-out and junk food and added a lot more fruits and vegetables to her diet. She started eating lean protein, such as low-fat ground beef and chicken. She made healthy substitutions so she could still enjoy pizza and other comfort foods — but without the extra calories. As she became more aware about what she was putting into her body, her binge eating stopped.
“I haven’t binged in over a year,” she said. “I am much more free by understanding how to eat.”
While Morgan did not start out exercising, she eventually joined a co-worker at the gym about three times a week. She would walk on the treadmill or use the elliptical. But after a while, she became bored with the repetition and started taking high-intensity interval training (HIIT) classes.
Now, she likes exercising so much that she goes to the gym almost every day.
“I enjoy building strength,” Morgan said. “I found a passion and really focused in on it.”
Since April 2016, she’s lost 140 pounds and now weighs 238 pounds at 5 feet tall. Morgan doesn’t have a goal weight in mind. She simply wants to be healthy and do all the things she missed out on. She’s already started: Last year, she took a trip to Austin and was pleased that she fit in the seat.
“It was a huge step for me,” she said. “I am traveling and have been able to shop in a normal clothing store.”
Recently, she went paddleboarding and booked another trip to Denver, where she plans on hiking a 14,000-foot mountain.
“I am happy and confident,” she said. “Now that I'm capable of doing so many more activities than I used to be, all I want to do is travel and hike and kayak and see new places.”
Morgan, who shares her progress with more than 14,000 followers on Instagram, offered this advice for others hoping to lose weight:
1. Start small.
In the past, when Morgan tried to lose weight, she tried changing all of her bad behaviors at once. Then she’d fail. This time, she cut out one thing at a time. When that became a habit, she removed another bad habit or added a healthy one.
“The biggest thing is just making one small change at a time,” she said. “... (We all keep) trying to change everything about our life in one swoop and get burned out because it is really hard.”
2. Mistakes happen. Move on.
If Morgan has a cheat day or misses a day at the gym, she doesn’t let that derail her. She just resumes her healthy habits the next day.
“You are going to fall off or make a mistake because it happens to everyone,” she said. “Leave it in the past and get right back on track as soon as you can.”
3. Don’t focus too much on the scale.
When Morgan hit a plateau, it felt very frustrating. But she knew she needed to keep working even if her weight wasn’t changing.
“I kept reminding myself even if I don’t see the number on the scale move, I am still making changes that are good for my health,” she said.