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How a cruel comment prompted this mom to lose 90 pounds

Peggy Pullen was inspired to lose 90 pounds after a cruel comment from an unknowing child at a swimming pool.
/ Source: TODAY

Motivation can come from the most unlikely places. For one mom, the push to lose weight came from a particularly surprising source: a cruel comment from an unknowing child at an indoor swimming pool.

"I was called a hippopotamus," Peggy Pullen, 48, told TODAY, recalling the moment in November 2014 she realized she needed to change. "In front of everybody, in front of my kids. The hardest part was the look on my children's faces. It wasn't just me who was humiliated — it was them, too."

At the time, Pullen, a mom of four kids in Lehi, Utah, weighed over 200 pounds. That afternoon, she went home and cried, too embarrassed to even face her own family.

"I was just bawling," Pullen said. "I didn't want to eat. I didn't want to come out of the room or anything. I was in a really bad place. I needed to do something about it. I knew I had to make a choice that my children could learn from."

Peggy Pullen, weight loss transformation,
Peggy Pullen on the day she started her weight-loss transformation, January 1, 2015.Courtesy of Peggy Pullen/

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Getting started

She had tried to shed the weight before through fad diets and pills — Atkins, Weight Watchers, cabbage soup and more. But nothing really worked.

"Basically, any diet that has come out to the market, I've done," Pullen said.

"I knew that diets didn't work, so I wasn't going to go through that anymore," she added. "I needed to be challenged."

Peggy Pullen,, weight loss transformation
Pullen dances at a wedding. She weighed about 200 pounds at the time this photo was taken.Courtesy of Peggy Pullen/

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For Pullen, the answer was joining a 12-week program through that helped her figure out what to eat and how to work out. She found support through other people in the program, who were also trying to lose weight and had shared their stories online.

The first step was the hardest: posting her "before" picture.

"It was a tough moment when my husband took my picture," she said. "I like to wear a lot of black and hide, and not show my husband my whole body. We as women like to hide sometimes, and I had my whole gut out and everything."

Peggy Pullen,, weight loss transformation
Pullen poses with her husband after her weight loss.Courtesy of Peggy Pullen/

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"I posted my picture and the second I did, I had a nervous breakdown," she added. "It was worse than the pool. (But) some young kid said he liked my picture, and then all these people started to show their support. I think they knew it was tough, what I had done."

Making new habits

Of course, what happened next wasn't much easier. Pullen had to curb her cravings for sweets and carbs. She also loves to cook and had to learn to alter her recipes to be healthier. As a newbie at the gym, she felt unwelcome and even bullied.

Peggy Pullen, weight loss,
Pullen credits clean eating and weightlifting for her new shape.Courtesy of Peggy Pullen/

"When you are fat — very fat — and you want to go and lift weights with the cool guys, they own the machines," she said. "You're not welcome and those cool guys are very close friends with the people who work there. They laugh at you, and they don't like an old, fat lady in their space, so they bully you."

But Pullen, who is 5 feet 3 inches tall, stuck to her routine and within 10 months was down to 120 pounds. For her, clean eating and lifting weights are what worked. She now weighs 110 pounds, and has kept the weight off for about a year and a half.

"One of the biggest things I (noticed) before I got fit was that I was always so tired," she said. "Junk food makes you tired. Today, I eat clean and whenever I get hungry, I eat protein first."

Peggy Pullen,, weight loss transformation
Pullen, now a bodybuilder, lost about 90 pounds.Courtesy of Peggy Pullen/

RELATED: How this mom lost 80 pounds without surgery or joining a gym

That's not to say she doesn't allow for the occasional cheat meal — or deprive her kids of things like birthday cake. Pullen knows the best diets allow for moderation. While she's figured out what works best for her, she still keeps in touch with the online community that helped get her there.

"You have to have a support group — it's the most important part of your transformation," Pullen said.

Because even when you think you can't do it, other people do, and eventually, the feeling is contagious.

"It's something that clicks inside of you," she said. "You start to believe in yourself."

For more inspirational stories, check out our My Weight-Loss Journey page. If you're interested in starting your own journey, sign up for our One Small Thing newsletter. It's filled with healthy tips!