Last updated: May 13, 2015
food love
Photo: Justin Clemons
Blanca Valdez
35, 5'3" Waco, Texas
Before
210 lb.
Dress Size: 16
After
132 lb.
Dress Size: 4
Total Lost
78 lb.
Sizes Lost: 6


I grew up in Mexico, and food was a big part of my family's culture. It was how we said I love you, and it wasn't socially acceptable to turn down a meal, or even seconds. By the time I finished college, I weighed 180 pounds, and the number kept climbing, especially after three pregnancies.

Bridal shower breakdown
I knew I was carrying extra weight, but I didn't realize how much until I borrowed a friend's clothes for a bridal shower in January 2011. I had always thought of her as larger than me, yet the size 20 fit perfectly. I was so upset that, when my friends went out dancing, I snuck back to the hotel and hid in bed. It was then that I resolved to leave my poor eating habits behind.

Energy, found!
I started small, cutting out sweets and soda and putting the kibosh on eating after 6 p.m. I lost 34 pounds in two years, but it was only when I joined Weight Watchers in January 2013 that I finally learned about structure and proper portion sizes. I began planning out my meals and stopped using the weekends to splurge. Eating right made my energy soar, which I channeled into exercise, taking every gym class at the YMCA I could. I hit my goal weight of 135 that November and started strength training to tone up. Now my family sees my success, and they know that if I turn down a meal, it's not because I love them any less; it's just that my love for them isn't dependent on food.

Related: I Did It! Weight-Loss Success Stories

Weapons for Weight-Loss Success
Blanca dropped an impressive 78 pounds with help from these smart tricks. Try them yourself, and find more ideas at health.com/weight-loss-stories.

Get Grilling
I love grilled shrimp tacos on corn tortillas. They're full of flavor, low on calories and easy to make.

Pump up your playlist
My workout jams are super eclectic—Latin, pop and contemporary Christian music! Right now I love "Soul on Fire," by Third Day, for when I hit the stair climber.

Try a training plan
After doing Jamie Eason's free(!) 12-week LiveFit strength-training program at bodybuilding.com, I wore a bikini for the first time since I was 5!

Related: How to Cut Portions and Not Feel Hungry!

Have a back-up
I plan my meals ahead of time, but I also have healthy fast-food favorites, like the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad at Panera Bread. This way, I'm never caught off guard.

Share your transformation
Did you downsize? Tell us about your healthy change at health.com/i-did-it and let us know what diet and fitness strategies worked for you.