How One Woman Lost 170 Pounds and Found a New Life

Here's Erika's journey from a 330-pound fast food junky to a personal trainer and nutritionist

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I was 330 pounds.

After going to college, having a baby and starting a business, I found myself at 330 pounds and feeling like I had very little time to focus on anything other than work and my family.

Around this time, my mother delivered an obnoxious nagging session about how I should take advantage of the new 24-hour gym around the corner. So I went. That's when I stepped on the scale and felt very confused by the number that greeted me. What do you mean: 328 pounds?

I began working out seven days a week – burning tons of calories at every session. I never skipped a day. But even after six months, I hadn't lost the amount of weight I thought I should have dropped. So I gave up.

Without fail, I gained 10 pounds in three months. I had to have been doing something very wrong to be gaining weight that quickly. At that time I had my epiphany: It had to be what I was eating.

I thought about how I had eaten to fuel those super-workouts and – even worse – what I ate afterward. I thought I was doing myself a favor by going to Taco Bell and only getting the nachos with chicken instead seven or eight tacos. I thought I was doing a good thing by only grabbing the taquitos with sour cream and salsa for a post-workout meal.

[Read: How to Eat Before and After Exercising]

In other words, I countered each of my workout successes with the most ridiculous eating habits ever. But why did I do this?

That's when I looked very closely at what I ate and when and why I ate it. I wasn't always eating merely because I was hungry, and I wasn't only eating it because it was around. A dear friend suggested that I read "The End of Overeating" by David Kessler, and it introduced me to the cold hard truth: I had gained so much weight because I was an emotional eater.

I realized that so much of what I ate throughout the day was determined by how I felt. I was unhappy with how my life was going, and I was creating my own little carnival with food – something that obviously affected my health. Not only was I morbidly obese, but I had high blood pressure to the point where my ankles and calves swelled and caused pitting edema in my lower limbs.

I threw out everything that was high in sugar, which meant that most (if not all) processed food had to go. I learned how to read labels, at which point I realized that just about everything had sugar in it. I became hyper-sensitive to messages in advertising that encouraged me to eat in order to feel better. I learned to cook my favorite recipes with far less sugar, fat and salt. In fact, I learned to appreciate foods that use sugars, fats and salts in a more minimalist fashion, optimizing a recipe for the best taste as opposed to what would make me feel the best.

[Read: How and Why to Rid Sugar From Your Diet]

Instead of turning to food to make me feel better, I started looking at new ways to manage my stress. I started to practice yoga at home. I looked forward to walks as personal time to sort out my brain and think more clearly without interruption. And, before I knew it, my walking turned into running.

The weight began flying off. Eating better, combined with simplified workouts – sometimes just walking for a half-hour a day – caused so much weight loss that had difficulty keeping track of it all.

Now, life is completely different. I lift weights; I take my daughter and my husband on little "fit dates" where we go out and do things instead of eat; and those early activities such as yoga and running still have a special place in my heart. I listen to Dr. Kessler's book each year so I can recalibrate my thinking and ensure that I don't slip back into my old habits.

Because I developed these healthy routines, I found myself losing a total of about 170 pounds to date, and I'll keep training, because this is who I am now. This is a part of me. And I – and my family – are so thankful for it.