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Name: Yariza Mejia
Age: 24
Height: 5'3"
Before Weight: 178 pounds

How I Gained It: Growing up, I always had body image issues. According to most of my family members, I was always fat. I wasn't as skinny as some of the other members of my family and most of my family would call me fat, which can be very depressing for a teenager to hear constantly. I wasn't very athletic; I was a couch potato and could have had better eating habits.

The weight gain came pretty fast. I got pregnant with my daughter and was eating really greasy, unhealthy foods and wasn't active at all. I ended up weighing 198 pounds during my pregnancy. After giving birth, my weight went down to 178 pounds. I stayed at that weight for a few years, my highest post-pregnancy. I would try to lose weight and stay at it for a month or so, but then I would just end up gaining it back. I never stuck with it, even though I was unhappy with my body.

I always had it in the back of my mind that I would lose the weight and be committed, but I always told myself "I'll start tomorrow." Tomorrow was pushed farther each day.

Breaking Point: I stepped onto the scale on the Wii Fit, and it told me for my height, weight and age, I was considered obese. When I saw that, to me it was very shocking. We also started a weight-loss competition at work and, being my competitive self, I knew I had to join and that the day had come for me to commit. I couldn't put it off any longer.

How I Lost It: I started to eat healthier, unprocessed foods and swore off fast food. I even started to force myself to eat breakfast, because that was something I never did. I ate small frequent meals and snacks throughout the day, like oatmeal, high-fiber cereal, raw almonds or pistachios, kiwi, cherries, strawberries and apples. I allow myself one indulgence day a week so I won’t feel deprived.

I became more active and put to use the gym membership that had gone unused for so long. When I first started exercising, it was something I dreaded. But once I saw that I was improving, it became something I even looked forward to. I came in second for the weight-loss competition at work and lost 11 pounds in about two months. I was so proud of myself and felt very accomplished. I knew it was possible to reach my goal. I knew there was no way that I could go back to being unhealthy. So I kept on the same path. I added more days at the gym. Now I do about 20 minutes of interval training and then weight training, sometimes with cardio after the weights. Let me tell you, muscle makes a huge difference in how your body looks and how you feel!

I also started keeping a food journal and counting my calories -- and the weight kept coming off. My original goal was just to get back to the weight I was in high school; when I passed it I knew I could become even healthier.

It wasn't easy. It took hard work and dedication. I felt like giving up a few times, but with the help of my wonderful support system, I got through it and I'm still doing it.

My life is so different now then how It was. I'm in the best shape of my life and I love running; I didn't think that would ever be possible. Even in high school I struggled to run a mile; now I can run more than four. I have become so interested in health and nutrition, and I'm strongly considering becoming a nutritionist because I just want to help others achieve their goals by educating them and letting them know that it's possible and it can be done.

Many people tell me "You look great!" and ask me, "What's your secret?" I respond that there is no secret and there is no magic pill that you can take and swallow to lose weight. I did my homework and spent countless hours reading and educating myself. The answer is and always will be the same: Healthy eating and exercise is the key to successful weigh loss.

Current Weight: 136 pounds. I still have six pounds to go to reach my ultimate goal weight, which I know I can reach. I have the right tools that have made me successful thus far in this difficult journey.
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