Ask Rachel Graham how she’s managed to lose almost 100 pounds in one year and the formula is simple: Healthy food and exercise. No secrets. No gimmicks. No quick fixes.
She’s also honest about the impact of going from 235 pounds to 144 pounds, especially the loose skin on her stomach, thighs and arms.
Still, the big transformation has left the 24-year-old mom from Nova Scotia, Canada, feeling happier and healthier after years of struggling with her weight.
“I want people to know that it is 110 percent possible,” Graham told TODAY.
“I used to feel as though it wasn't. That I didn't have ‘what it takes,’ and that it was just too far out of reach... If you want to make changes, it is completely possible with healthy food and exercise.”
Here’s Graham's journey:
How she gained the weight
Graham had an eating disorder in school, so when she became pregnant with her first son, she finally allowed herself to eat whatever she wanted.
“I gained and gained weight while I was pregnant and told myself I'd lose it once I had him. I didn't,” she said.
For years afterwards, Graham struggled with an all-or-nothing mentality, eating either very little or everything in sight. She tried low calorie diets, wraps and diet pills. She’d lose some weight, but it always came back.
At 5', 5", she reached 235 pounds before becoming pregnant with her second son.
The moment she knew she had to change
Graham became alarmed that she got out of breath doing simple tasks, like walking up the front steps of her house. She also felt depressed.
“I was tired of crying. I was tired of being lonely. I never wanted to make plans with friends, I had become antisocial. I wanted to be a better mom. A happier mom,” she wrote on her blog.
Her weight loss plan
Starting in June 2015, she began focusing on calorie counting, eating healthy foods, portion control, and exercise.
Graham searched Pinterest to find healthy, balanced meals and keep the menu interesting. She didn't cut out any foods altogether, but was careful around fast food and sweets, her weaknesses.
“From the beginning, I knew if I was too strict I would find myself bored,” Graham said.
She works out five days a week, incorporating cardio, some strength-based exercise at home, and working with weights at the gym. For a long time, her main form of exercise was fast-paced walking while pushing her son in a stroller. Sometimes, she’d just jog in place or do jumping jacks while watching TV. The idea is to just get moving.
Her daily menu
Graham has never settled into a food routine, but here’s a sample of what she might eat:
Breakfast: Protein shake with a banana and almond milk.
Second breakfast and lunch: Eggs scrambled with veggies and feta. Lunch is usually leftovers from the night before.
Dinner: Chicken or shrimp stir fry with brown rice and a side salad.
Now that she’s maintaining her weight, she allows herself to “let loose” one night a week and have a “cheat meal.”
What keeps her motivated to stick to the plan
She’s been posting photos of her weight loss on social media to keep herself accountable. So whenever Graham had cravings or didn’t feel like exercising, she turned to her Instagram account to get back on track.
“I found that in those moments, it really helped that I had been documenting my progress through Instagram,” she said. “I could look back and see how far I had come along the way when I was struggling. It worked.”
How she feels about her loose skin
Graham calls it an ongoing struggle. But if the only negative side to becoming healthier is some loose skin, then so be it, she noted.
“When I began this journey I felt as though I would love my body if I just lost the weight. It simply isn't that easy,” she said. “I'm trying my hardest to just embrace this ‘new’ body of mine, loose skin and all.”
She plans to have surgery down the road to fix the issue.
How she feels now
With about 150,000 followers on Instagram, she’s overwhelmed to get support from all over the world and is humbled that she’s inspiring others.
“I didn't just lose weight, I truly feel like I've changed my life. I am happier, healthier both physically and mentally. I have so much more energy to live,” Graham said.