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People who decide to lose weight can often point to an exact moment when they know “this is it” — life needs to change. For Haley Smith, it was the instant she saw her engagement photos.
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“I didn't even recognize myself, and I was just so ashamed and embarrassed,” Smith, 24, who lives in Amarillo, Texas, told TODAY.
“I really wanted to change because I didn't want to feel about my wedding day the way I did about my proposal.”
At 5 feet 10 inches tall, she weighed 277 pounds. It was an issue she’d been struggling with on and off for years. Smith was a little overweight as a child, then got in shape by the end of high school. But by her senior year of college, the weight was back to being out of hand, she noted.
Smith tried counting carbs, calories and fats. She tried juicing, pills and workout programs. She sampled most of the brand name diets, but found they were too hard to stick to for longer than a few weeks.
Besides feeling unhappy, she felt unhealthy.
“I can remember vacations where I had to sit out or cut short so many activities I wanted to do because I would be sweating or hurting thanks to being so overweight,” Smith recalled.
Then in July of 2015, she saw those engagement photos. Since that moment, Smith has lost more than 110 pounds, sporting a lean, slim body for her wedding last October. She now weighs 165 pounds, ultimately hoping to get to 150.
Here’s how she did it and her advice to others:
1. Set small, realistic goals
In the beginning, that just meant not eating after 8 p.m. and eating out only twice a week, Smith said.
Once she made those lifestyle changes, she began tracking all of her food intake and her workouts.
“Start small. That's the biggest thing I've learned. Making small but realistic changes will make not only starting, but getting through the first couple of dry spells easier,” Smith advised.
2. Slowly ramp up your exercise
Smith began working out with the “Couch to 5K” app, running 30-second intervals for about a half hour, three times a week. She slowly worked in push-up and crunch challenges.
These days, she usually works out about seven times a week, sometimes twice a day. She alternates strength with cardio, so if she lifts weights in the morning, she may do a bike ride or go for a walk in the evening. Each workout usually lasts 45 minutes to an hour.
3. Focus on home cooking
Smith now rarely eats out. She and her husband cook at home with the help of a meal kit service that delivers ingredients and recipes to their house. It’s a real change from their previous lifestyle.
4. Fill up with protein
It’s the macronutrient Smith tries to consume the most. Here's her menu on a typical day:
Breakfast: Protein shake, “because it's quick and easy, but also [provides] a good amount of protein for strength workouts,” she noted.
Lunch: Chicken or pork with some greens or a vegetable side like green beans.
Dinner: Fish with a side of avocado — typically something lighter than lunch.
Small snacks between meals: Beef jerky or mixed nuts.
5. Don’t keep tempting snacks at home
Chips and white chocolate are Smith’s weaknesses. To reduce temptation, she and her husband try not to keep any unhealthy snacks around.
“Being an emotional eater, whether happy, sad or bored, I always had snacks around at the ready,” she recalled. “I definitely have cut back on sweets and snack foods in general.”
6. Find something that motivates you during tough moments
For Smith, it was focusing her Instagram account on fitness. She suddenly had lots of followers who encouraged her to reach her goals. Having that accountability and wanting to post frequently made her think about fitness and health all the time, she noted.
She has also found it helpful to put up motivational quotes all over her house and decorate her scale with messages such as "Don't give up."
7. Don’t worry about the loose skin
People who lose a lot of weight often find they have loose skin. Smith has it, too, though it’s not very noticeable and the more she tones, the better it gets, she said.
8. Focus on all the health benefits to come
For Smith, it's now less about the number on the scale, and more about being healthy.
“I feel better and more capable than I maybe ever have,” Smith said. “I'm able to say 'yes' to anything that comes my way. It's such a joy to not feel so held back. I am still getting used to it and I've still got a ways to go, but it's a world of difference from a year and a half ago.”
This story was originally published in October 2016.