Like many women, I have always struggled with my weight; therefore, I also struggled with my self-image. I stopped wearing shorts in the 5th grade because I hated my legs, and it all started from there.

Even in those days, I tried dieting. The earlier days were not as structured as the more recent ones, but it seems like every year since I started realizing that I was more “fluffy” than most girls, I have done some kind of diet, where I lose anywhere from 30-50 pounds, feel pretty awesome, then eat my way back to my old weight, and sometimes find some more pounds.

After having my son, my second child, I was the biggest I have ever been. I felt terrible, I couldn’t fit anything, and I was simply miserable. I was terribly out of shape and had poor eating habits, which resulted in feeling lousy and not wanting to do anything.

I couldn’t afford Weight Watchers, though the program always was my favorite to do. I tried downloading apps on my phone and it would help me lose 10 pounds, but I would always end up finding them again. I had to find something. I had to do something different.

I decided to throw dieting out the window. Diets only work for so long. I wanted to change my life forever, not just until I met my goal for the summer. I decided to make a lifestyle change.

This is how I changed my life, and maybe you can, too:

Building a new relationship with food
I am terrible about turning to food for comfort. When I was sad, stressed, so mad I want to throw something, I would go to the fridge. Food was my companion, my crutch. I always could depend on food making me feel better, even if it was just for the moment.

Falling in love with the active life
I LOVE Zumba! I did it before, but not very often. I now try to go at least 3 times a week. I love to go to the YMCA. They have an amazing facility and wonderful childcare. I love to go on Saturday mornings, Tuesday mornings, and Friday evenings. Each session has a completely different feel and atmosphere. There are all kinds of people there, different shapes and sizes, different abilities, so I never feel judged.

I have also decided to do something for myself and conquer a fear I have always had: I am becoming a runner. Right now, I am at the run a block/ walk a block phase, but I can already feel the endurance building, as well as the pride.

Breaking up with the bad stuff
To know me is to know how much I love ranch. I dip everything in ranch. If I go out to eat, I have to have a side of ranch. I decided to find something new to replace ranch that would not stick to my hips as much. I found this salsa at Walmart that is low calorie AND even the Walmart brand, so cheap! I hardly miss the ranch and I have even discovered that stuff without ranch still tastes good.

Simply distressing
Negativity makes you stress and stress makes you fat. I do not mean going to a spa, because who can really afford that right now? I mean making sure that you cut out what stresses you out. My dirty apartment stresses me out, but with my new found energy, I am willing to clean it more.

Staying positive
Feeling positive about myself and pride in myself about other things in my life has encouraged me to make this lifestyle change. I graduated college, got a job, I am raising two kids, I started a dress program for girls in the area with a good friend, I can do this, too! This goes full circle because when you eat better and exercise, you naturally feel happier.

Also, posting and sharing on Facebook has been encouraging. When I lost 25 pounds, I made my first post. I even made a post about fears of running, even though I always wanted to do it. I had so much encouragement from friends that it inspired me to do it.

Discovering success stories of other people
When I start to get frustrated or worried, I like to simply search for different Zumba success stories on the internet. I also meet a lot of people at the YMCA that have succeeded in weight loss and are extremely inspirational.

Doing it for me
One time, I lost 50 pounds so that I could get my boyfriend back. One time, I did it to meet a man. I kept dieting for relationships and then gain the weight back. I did it for someone other than me. Now, I am doing this for me. I am proud of myself as I zip up a pair of pants that would not come close to fitting just a month ago, when I can actually look at myself in the mirror, when I don’t feel like passing out 20 minutes into a work out.

I began my lifestyle change when school let out and set a goal to lose 50 pounds before we went back in August. I have lost 30 of those pounds. I know I have a very long journey ahead of me, but I feel so positive that this time, it is going to be real. Every day I wake up and feel great and I am still not bored with some diet or guilty because I “cheated”.

I will be sharing other success stories in future blogs and hopefully share in celebration of your successes.

A lifestyle change does not always have to be about weight. It is mostly about you, and your happiness and becoming the person you want to be. Make that change.