Emily Liedtke, 40, 5'2", from Beaverton, Ore.
Before: 340 lb., size 26
After: 129 lb., size 2
Total pounds lost: 211 lb.
Total sizes lost: 12

I was an active kid who played tennis, danced, and skied competitively, but I still found myself overweight at a young age. I remained heavy well into my 30s, despite trying everything from restricting calories to taking diet pills; these methods failed because I would just stuff myself later. Fast-forward to 2014, when I was bedridden with a back injury. My weight shot up to 340 pounds, and my blood pressure also became sky-high, which resulted in a mini stroke. My doctor warned me that if I didn’t do something to change my unhealthy ways, it could cost me my life.

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Chasing pavements

I heeded his warning, but instead of undergoing a complete overhaul, I started small, with walking. At first, I could only make it to the mailbox, and each step left me breathless and with nagging back pain. But I kept at it. Slowly, I worked my way up to walking three miles six days a week. Diet-wise, I cut out fast food and began using different-size plates to help control my portions. By February 2015, I was down 80 pounds and feeling much more confident. 

Fighting for fit

To avoid a plateau, I joined a gym and started working with a trainer twice a week. I also revamped my eating habits once again, this time making sure to have meals that fueled exercise, such as grilled chicken and steamed broccoli or eggs with avocado. I lost another 20 pounds and gained muscle definition in my legs. Next, I signed up for my gym’s weight-loss competition and shed 37 pounds and 15 percent of my body fat. I also nabbed the $1,000 first-place prize. These days, I’ve made it my job to be fit: I’ve gotten back to my dancing roots by becoming a barre instructor. And at 129 pounds, I’m at a weight that’s best for me. 

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How Emily keeps it off

Aim for 15: When I’m dreading a workout, I tell myself to try to make it through the first 15 minutes. After that point, I almost always feel more energized and want to keep going. 

Find a unique reward: Instead of celebrating with food when I hit a goal, I treat myself to something healthy, such as a hike with my husband or a massage. 

Change your vocab: I used to tell myself that I “couldn’t” have something, which made me crave it even more. Now I say I “don’t” engage in an unhealthy habit. It’s a little trick that makes the behavior seem less like a choice and more like part of my lifestyle. 

Nail down your emotion: I created my own mood emojis to help monitor how I feel after every workout and meal. This lets me keep tabs on what’s working for me and what’s not.

Emily's wearing: Shop Avocado Traveller Short Sleeve Jacket ($124; shopavocado.com); Strappy Active Tank ($36; shopavocado.com); X-Strap Sports Bra ($38; shopavocado.com); and Athletic Tight ($56; shopavocado.com).

 

As told to Lindsay Murray