This Texas mom went from a size 14 to 4 by making fitness, clean eating and her health a priority.

My name is Rebecca Walden and I live in Mansfield, Texas (a suburb between Dallas and Fort Worth). I’m a mother of two, balancing the demands of my day job as Director of Marketing for Texas A&M University School of Law with a side career as a freelance writer.

For most of my adult life, I’ve struggled with weight. Size-wise, I’ve always hovered around a 10/12, and for the past five years, a 14. I’m 250 days in to my fitness and health journey, 57 pounds down (a 30 percent change), and officially six sizes smaller. I was pushing into a size 16 in January and now my size 4 jeans are loose. There’s a sentence I thought I’d never say—ever.

My husband and I are on this health and wellness journey together. He has been a champ, staying open minded about trying new recipes (cleaner eats and lower-carb meals) and supporting me in my efforts to prioritize daily exercise.

He’s gone from being a couch potato to running 5Ks through our neighborhood (a recent development), and in the process, has shed 25 pounds. And shhh, don’t tell, but he also couldn’t tell that I had swapped regular rice for cauliflower rice last week at dinner. (#winning!)

Here is my transformation story.

Rebecca (right) with her family, January 7, 2017

24Life: Tell us about your fitness journey—where does it begin? Do you remember what you said to yourself or the exact words or moments that you decided you wanted and needed a change?

Rebecca Walden (RW): It began January 7, after seeing a family photo from my 6-year-old’s birthday party. It was less about how I looked and more about what the photo represented. Here I was, in the largest size clothing I’d ever worn in my life, and I barely fit into it. The image took me right back to when I was pregnant with my second child—a pregnancy that included gestational diabetes.

This was not my first bout with the condition. While I had gestational diabetes in my first pregnancy, I controlled it successfully with diet. This time? I required oral meds (Metformin) to keep my blood sugar levels stabilized.

I was also required to see a maternal fetal specialist, who pulled no punches in telling me I was at greater risk for developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. That picture brought me right back to how I felt sitting in his office, and I knew I had to stop playing fast and loose with my health.

24Life: Who helped you along the way?

My husband was a huge source of help, namely for supporting changes to our family schedule that would allow me time to exercise.

I also have two Group X instructors at 24 Hour Fitness Mansfield who have been very influential in my journey. These women are Amanda Ashworth and Gina Martin. They have never treated me like just another person in the room. On the contrary, they have gone out of their way to help me improve my form (squat form was particularly challenging at first!) and to cheer me on with every success (increasing weights on the barbell, hitting a weight loss target, etc.).

24Life: What keeps you motivated to stay the course? 

RW: I stay motivated a few different ways:

By how I feel. I no longer have the need to take naps just to get through the day.

How I manage stress. Maybe it’s the endorphins, maybe it’s the progress I’m seeing in the mirror, but I now handle life’s daily stresses with greater ease. Positive vibes aren’t just a cutesy saying for t-shirts. They’re real, and they keep you crushing your goals even on the most insane day.

How my clothes fit. I once had two pairs of white jeans in two different sizes because I was so up and down with my fitness commitment and eating habits. Now those, and a boatload of other clothes, are way too big for me. That’s a phenomenal feeling. I feel healthy, strong and confident.

And the appearance of lean muscle! All this time I thought for someone with my genetics, lean muscle was a total myth. Underarm flab has virtually disappeared. I can lift my six year old without having to take two Tylenol the next day. For someone who, in her 20s, had to have spinal blocks and physical therapy due to lower back pain, this is no small feat. I’ve come so far in overcoming my own excuses, and for that, I’m forever thankful.

Rebecca, April 3, 2017

24Life: Were there moments of self-doubt? What did those look like and how did you overcome those?

RW: I was most nervous when I knew I’d be unable to make it to the gym, and/or when I would be unable to eat something from my own kitchen. The solution proved to be planning ahead and thinking creatively.

For meals out, I look up the menu in advance and if that’s not possible, I choose a lean fish entrée or a minimalist salad (most simply prepared, dressing on side if at all).

If an intense work week took me away from the gym (or travel), I relied on moves like burpees, jacks and push-ups that I can do anywhere.

24Life: What surprised you the most about yourself during this journey?

RW: The physical changes continue to surprise me. I spent 38 years making excuses and blaming everything from genetics to my schedule as to why I had the soft and weak body I did.

It is absolutely thrilling to see muscles develop and grow. It’s sort of like a game now, “Hey body, what else can you do?”

24Life: What was the most challenging part of your journey and how did you overcome it?

RW: The most challenging part was in the beginning, when I was full of brand new motivation, eating faithfully, exercising hard and the scale did not budge. I just refused to quit, believing in the process long term, and focusing on this as a lifestyle changed for good—not a short-term solution. I told myself, “There is no finish line.” It didn’t seem like deprivation. Just a new way of living, and after a few weeks, the scale really began to respond!

24Life: Did you have a specific goal in mind?

RW: My first goal was to lose 20 pounds. Throughout this process, it’s been important to me to keep my goals realistic and to focus on small steps. I figured if I could reach that first goal, I would see how I felt and then re-assess. Turned out 20 wasn’t so hard after all. My BMI was still way too high (say what you will about BMI, but for me, a secondary goal was to have mine within normal range), so I set another goal, this time to lose in 10-pound increments. At no point have I felt hungry or deprived. I like to say that I am eating well, not less. The scale continues to move, and my clothes continue to fit better.

24Life: What is your go-to workout?

RW: BODYPUMP! One of the other regulars in class likes to say that it “hurts so good” and that’s the absolute truth! I am constantly challenged in this class, and feel such a sense of accomplishment when I can load up the barbell with a little more weight.

24Life: What advice do you have for others who are just starting out or want to quit?

RW: Find and honor the habits that motivate you. I respect that some people despise the scale. For me, weighing myself each morning is a useful tool. So, too, is having a soft tape measure, as the scale does not tell the whole story. I’m not dead-set on any specific number for my weight. I am focused on maintaining my strength, finding my abs (hopefully!) and doing all I can to be my healthiest self.

24Life: Any specific rituals that you have that you think may be helpful to others?

RW: Strike the right balance between “going it alone” and finding like-minded folks. In other words, don’t postpone a change because you think your family or significant other won’t go for it. At the same time, make an effort to connect with people (at the gym, etc.) who will make you want to be there.

I have found such wonderful camaraderie in the Group X classes. By showing up regularly, introducing yourself to others and opening up about your fitness goals, you’ll find a wealth of support. Through Group X classes, I’ve figured out that one of the regulars is a neighbor three doors down, and another regular has ties to my hometown. We’ve since exchanged numbers with a soon-to-be-held coffee date on the books!

Rebecca (left) and fitness instructor Amanda Ashworth

24Life: What did you do when you made a mistake or fell behind schedule or got frustrated with your results?

RW: I kept—and still keep—a “big picture” mentality. I’ve easily had 10 or so days out of this 250 day streak when I indulged and went over my daily caloric allotment. Or days when, for various reasons, I did not show up at the gym.

But I don’t beat myself up about it. I keep in mind the math of a pound (3,500 calories = one pound). It’s what my week looks like, not one meal or even one day.

Again, I’m focused on a lifestyle changed for good. If I have a glass or two of wine on occasion, or eat fried shrimp a couple of times while we’re at the beach, I enjoy it immensely and refuse to fret over it.

24Life: What’s next for you? Do you have any future goals that you’re going after next (or currently)?

RW: I think I’ve convinced Gina (Group X instructor for bootybarre, Zumba and Step & Strength) to do the SpaGirlTri with me! It’s a traveling triathlon and I believe it returns to Dallas next summer. What an accomplishment that would be! I’ve only participated in 5K races before, and my performance in them was nothing to write home about. Pumped to give this one all I’ve got!

Photo credit: Courtesy of Rebecca Walden

Please note that the results that Rebecca has experienced are unique to her, and your results may vary. Always consult your health care provider before undertaking changes in your diet or fitness regimen.