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/ Source: TODAY
By Meghan Holohan

Over a year ago, Tori Lewis was on vacation with friends in North Carolina. The weather was beautiful, but she felt like she couldn't enjoy it. At 300 pounds, Lewis felt so uncomfortable that she refused to go to the beach. Instead, she coped like she usually did: eating and drinking too much.

“It was not a great vacation. I didn’t get in a bathing suit once. I was embarrassed to go to restaurants. I drank a lot because that is all I could think to do to have fun,” Lewis, 28, of Lynchburg, Virginia, told TODAY. “I was like, ‘OK, this is a mess. I am done living like this.’”

Like so many others, Lewis originally gained weight in college when she stopped paying attention to what she ate and drank. Each year as she gained more and more weight, she felt increasingly unhappy. She tried a lot of diets, but none of them ever worked.

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“I was just in a vicious cycle where I felt terrible about myself and I used food and alcohol to make myself feel better,” she said. “I knew that things were getting bad and I kept on ignoring it.”

But after the vacation she knew it was time to change. She spent so much of her life feeling embarrassed about how she looked and hating herself — it was exhausting.

“From the moment I would wake up, go to the bathroom and stand in front of the mirror the first thought I would have is ‘Oh my God, I hate myself,’” she said. “Walking into a grocery store would cause me anxiety because I was self-conscious of how I looked.”

One of her friend’s moms had lost weight by following the ketogenic diet, a low-carb diet, high in fat and protein. Lewis wondered if this could work for her, too. She started researching it and began eliminating sugar and simple carbs and adding healthy fats, such as avocado and olive oil.

“I think it is a perfectly balanced diet. I stopped eating sugar, which sounds really extreme when you hear someone say it. I stopped eating crappy carbs. I am eating meat and dairy and vegetables,” she explained.

At first, Lewis was skeptical that keto would make a difference but soon she was losing weight.

“To me, a diet was always something extreme that you went on for a period of time and you lose some weight and you move on. I have completely rewired my brain about the way that I look at food,” she said.

Since October 2017, Lewis has lost 120 pounds simply by focusing on what she eats and now weighs 175 pounds. While she loves the way she looks, she truly loves how much stronger she feels emotionally.

“Physical changes are not the only changes I have undergone. I am happier. I am more willing to do things,” she said. “I am just a normal person who did this and other people can do this too.”

Lewis shares tips on how others can make healthier choices and lose weight.

1. Have a buddy.

Lewis’ husband Travis, 31, also committed to keto and has lost 90 pounds. Following the diet together made it easier for Lewis to stay accountable to her goals.

We talk about our weight loss every single day,” she said. "It was fun to have someone along for the ride who understood. Just to have the support was good.”

2. Just get started.

When Lewis knew it was time to lose weight, she researched what would work best for her life. She was armed with information, and knew she had to make some changes.

“The hardest part is starting. You have to make a plan. You have to do some independent research and then you have to commit yourself,” she said.

3. 'Be patient.'

While Lewis experienced incredible weight loss in a little more than a year, it took time for her to see results. Sometimes it didn’t seem like she knew what she was doing or that it would work. But she stuck to it and she reached her goal: weighing less than her husband.

“You also have to be patient,” she said. “It is incredibly overwhelming for so many reasons when you make a change like this.”

For more weight-loss inspiration, check out our My Weight-Loss Journey page. Interested in changing your habits? Sign up for our Start TODAY newsletter for extra support.