After her varsity days ended, Paige Jackson gained 50 pounds. But rediscovering her fitness roots helped her score a new body.

Updated November 15, 2016
Credit: Tim Black

Paige Jackson, 30, 5’7”, from New Orleans
Before: 220 lb., size 18
After: 155 lb., size 4
Total pounds lost: 65 lb.
Total sizes lost: 7

I was a three-sport athlete in high school, so active that I never gave a second thought to the fried chicken and cornbread I was scarfing down. Going off to college in 2004 put an end to my intense training schedule—but not my crazy eating habits. After a semester of soda and chicken cheesesteaks, I was 50 pounds heavier. I blamed my tight waistband on factors like the dorm dryer, shutting out comments from concerned friends who noticed how much weight I’d gained. It wasn’t until I had to grab a size 18 dress for my mother’s summer wedding that I finally realized I needed to make my health a priority.

Sophomore reset

The following year, I moved off campus, which kept me away from that all-you-can-eat dining hall and empowered me to fill my own fridge with healthy foods.

I also revved up my walking routine—which I had begun over the summer—and in no time, I was running for a full 30 minutes. On non-jogging days, I alternated between a Turbo Jam exercise DVD and strength-training regimens I found in magazines. At the end of the semester, I was down 30 pounds.

Insta encouragement

By the time I graduated in 2008, I had become a little too lax with my portion sizes. To get back on track, I toted clean lunches, like salads, to work. I also began exercising with a trainer. These moves helped me ditch another 40 pounds. When my Facebook friends started commenting on my weight loss and asking for advice, I created a “Fit Tip of the Day” series on my page, which in 2012 turned into @spandex_and_sportsbras, a joint Instagram account with a friend. The best part about my 2,500-member fit family: They keep me accountable. And I love being able to help motivate others to reach their health goals.

My slimdown essentials

Focusing on fitness has been critical to Paige’s success. Here, she picks the three strategies that helped the most.

Keep inspiration everywhere: I always have my phone background set to a motivational quote. Words of wisdom like “If you want it, work for it” offer a little pick-me-up every time I look at the screen.

Don’t fixate on pounds: Throughout my journey, I have always relied on active goals, like running a 5K or building muscle, to measure my progress. Working toward real-life results is way more rewarding than obsessing over a number on the scale.

Find delicious swaps: Instead of giving up my favorite comfort foods completely, I make them healthier. For example, for my good-for-you hash browns, I cook one shredded sweet potato in a tablespoon of coconut oil until it’s soft and crispy, then I top it with cinnamon and sea salt. Talk about yummy!

Paige is wearing: Crane & Lion Keyhole Sports Bra ($60,, Crane & Lion Racerback Tank ($60,, and Crane & Lion Original Tight ($95,

As told to Lindsey Murray