One evening, Amber Anderson was scrolling through Facebook when she saw a video of herself at a church service. She started watching and suddenly felt shocked.
“I looked massive,” the stay-at-home mom from Baxley, Georgia, told TODAY. "I didn’t realize how big I looked until I saw that video."
While Anderson, 29, has been overweight since she was in third grade, her weight wasn’t overwhelming until she became pregnant. When she had her oldest son eight years ago, she gained about 70 pounds and never lost the weight. She gained more weight with her other two following pregnancies.
“I did not care about myself as much as I should have. I was putting everybody before me,” she said.
Though it wasn't just the video that spurred Anderson into action: She was in a dressing room at a clothing store when she discovered that at 5 foot 1 inches tall and 265 pounds, she was too big to squeeze into a size 24, the largest size pants available.
“The pants were too small,” she said. “I knew I had to do something for my kids’ sake.”
So in January 2015, she signed up for a spin class and started researching how to eat healthy. She downloaded the app Lose It!, which helped her track her exercise, calories and water consumption. That's how Anderson learned how many calories she ate and helped her to swap highly caloric foods, such as a 900-calorie cheeseburger, for fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean protein.
“I just added (healthy foods) and took away more and more bad food,” she said.
In the first month she lost 19 inches and about 20 pounds. Seeing the change in her body kept her motivated.
In a year she lost 140 pounds, more than the half of her weight. Today, she weighs 125 pounds. Even though she made an incredible transformation in such a short time, she sometimes faced challenges. But when things got tough, she got creative.
“If I hit a plateau I would switch (it) up,” she said. “I would shock my body with eating and exercise; I did something different with both things.”
She’s maintained her weight loss for more than a year and finds that keeping the weight off remains tough.
“I have struggled more maintaining it. It is 10 times harder,” she said.
Losing weight and maintaining the loss has allowed her to gain confidence and love who she is.
“My personality was able to shine through,” she said. “I learned the value of self-worth.” Here is her advice for anyone hoping to lose weight.
1. Pay attention to your habits and listen to your body.
Before using the app, Anderson didn’t know how much she was eating and how food and drinks affected her weight.
“You need to learn about your body. You need to learn about yourself,” she said.
The app allowed her to track what she ate and adjust it for when she started exercising more. And, this helps her maintain her loss.
2. It takes time.
Most people gain the weight over years, which means losing it takes time, too. Making sustainable changes involves a long-term commitment.
“Take it slow,” she said. “It is a lifestyle change. It is not a diet. It is not a quick fix; it is the rest of your life.”
3. Confront your fears
Getting on the spin bike for the first time felt really scary to Anderson. But she did it.
“It was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life,” she said.
Even after she became comfortable with exercise and healthy eating, she still struggled. Losing weight is physically and emotionally challenging.
“I cried a lot. There were some nights I cried myself to sleep,” Anderson said.
But crying, asking for support and praying gave her the strength to get back on the spin bike or skip junk food, which helped her reach her goals.
For more inspirational stories, check out our My Weight-Loss Journey page.