I gained 80-plus pounds during my pregnancy. After I had my daughter, I lost close to 35 pounds within two to three months. But I ended up gaining it all back. I had tried every "quick fix" there is out there, from diet pills to teas to body wraps.

When my daughters first birthday rolled around, I was still overweight, and I felt discouraged and stuck. As my daughter became more active, I found I was having a hard time keeping up with her. I also always tried to hide in family pictures, and shopping for clothes was something I avoided at all costs.

My turning point came on January 1, 2017, when I was 23. I looked back at the last year and asked myself, did I really give it my all?

I reflected on the year that had just passed and questioned whether I really gave it my best effort. I came to the realization that I spent the year continuously giving up when I got discouraged and falling back into old habits. For instance, one cheat meal would turn into a week of cheat meals, and I hadn't been doing healthy things like going for walks or being active.

I realized that tomorrow was going to come, and every single day that went by, I was losing the opportunity to better myself. Essentially, I was just wasting time. I always knew I wanted to live a long life, and my health played a key role in that. I wanted to be healthy for my family. They deserved the *best* version of me, and I deserved that for myself.

I made an Instagram account at the beginning of 2017 to track my progress, and I decided I was going all in.

I took my before pictures, weighed in, and came up with meal and workout plans that I was determined to stick to. My mindset was that, this time, I wasn't going to give up.

When it came to dieting, I knew from my track record that I would tend to gain weight when I ate too much sugar and other simple carbs on a consistent basis, along with processed foods. I had read a lot about low-carb diets as well as the keto diet , and I experimented with both approaches.

I went full-on keto for three to four months in 2018 to help me bust through a weight-loss plateau, and I found that keto made me more aware of what I was eating, and of looking at labels more closely. I also cut out sodas and energy drinks (I was drinking at least two to three a day) and started drinking half my weight in ounces of water per day (I still do this!). I also try to make sure I always have protein and veggies in my meals.

Now that I've been maintaining my weight loss for the last year, I eat intuitively. I've learned to eat when I'm hungry, and not to overeat (as in, until I'm stuffed). Today, I try to follow the 80/20 diet with my eating over the week, meaning I eat 80 percent healthy and low-carb (not necessarily keto anymore), and I enjoy treats and allow myself to indulge 20 percent of the time.

Heres what I typically eat in a day now:

  • Breakfast: Eggs and turkey sausage, with a few slices of avocado. Or, I make a whey protein smoothie with spinach, berries, and peanut butter powder. Lunch: Protein (chicken/fish/protein patty) along with a veggie (bell peppers/asparagus/carrots/cauliflower), and I usually pair it with a low-sugar yogurt.
  • Snacks: I love homemade trail mixes, Quest bars, bananas, beef jerky, or dried fruit.
  • Dinner: Protein, along with veggies and a grain or carb of some type (quinoa, sweet potato, brown rice).
  • Dessert: When I'm looking for something more nutritious, I love Rebel ice cream, Quest cookies, dark chocolate almonds, or dried mango. If I'm at a celebration or party, I will definitely have a small sliver of cake or scoop of regular ice cream.

When I started this journey, I knew that working out was going to be a part of my journey, despite the fact that the biggest part of weight-loss for me is nutrition.

I had to literally find the time. I learned to become an early bird, and I would go to the gym at 5 a.m., getting in my 30 to 45 minutes of cardio, followed by weight training. Since March 2019, I have been going to cycling classes at a nearby studio, and I also run on the weekends and do at home plyometric workouts to build strength.

Since 2017, I have lost 117 poundsall while maintaining my weight loss and still enjoying life.

Before I started this weight-loss journey, I wish had known how much mental toughness it would require. Following a workout plan or meal plan is straightforward and simple; having the right mindset and unlearning past habits is what makes it challenging. You have to be prepared to make a lifestyle change.

So yes, weight loss has been a challenge (of course). But I've learned so much about how strong I am as an individual after going through this process, and it really does make me feel like I can take on the world knowing I am in control of my own life and choices. I can say with complete confidence that I am the healthiest I have ever been. That feeling of knowing I worked so hard for this, and did it on my own, has brought me such confidence (something I lacked my entire life).

I'll be honest, I do struggle with accepting the loose skin. But I try to look at my stretch marks as a story. The experience has helped me understand the meaning of "self-love" when you love yourself and are able to take care of yourself, only then are you really able to let your love and care shine on to others.

I had to constantly remind myself that change does not happen overnight. So learn to be patient and gentle with yourself. Whether you have to set alarms, find an accountability partner, write down you plansjust keep going. You won't make any progress if you stop or give up, and even a little progress is worth celebrating.