Kelsey Byers didn't always have a weight problem.
Growing up, she was active in school and even labeled herself as a "string bean." After she headed to college, however, things started to change. (Isn't that always how it goes?) The convenience of fast food restaurants and the lure of happy hours were the new norm. Within two years, Kelsey put on 50 pounds.
"I had size 4 jeans at one end of my closet and size 14/16 jeans at the other," Kelsey told Yahoo Beauty. "It happened so fast, and I was miserable inside. I overheard a guy refer to me as a 'whale' and I was devastated — mostly because I let myself get that far."
Kelsey was so unhappy with the woman in the mirror that instead of getting depressed, she got motivated.
Kelsey describes her before and after photo above: "On the left, I was eating about 1,100 unhealthy calories a day... on the right, close to 2,000 healthy calories daily. Your food is 80% of your results. Exercise is 20%. You may not have time to work out but everyone eats."
The first change? Kelsey cut back on happy hours and joined a local gym. Three nights a week were spent doing vigorous cardio for 45 minutes, supplemented by healthy at-home meals and fewer visits to her favorite restaurants.
"It took months of being disciplined before anyone noticed any results, and that was probably the hardest part for me," Kelsey said. "It took me two years to gain 50 pounds, so I knew the weight would not come off overnight."
Kelsey attributes her successful weight loss to making short-term goals that revolved around her health (not her looks), and being her own biggest encouragement.
Keeping up the weight loss isn't always easy, but Kelsey has a few tricks that make maintaining her new healthy weight a little easier. For starters, she eats at least five meals a day.
"Even when life happens and I can’t get to the gym as much, as long as I eat healthfully, I maintain my weight," Kelsey said. "It’s when I slack off, miss meals, and don’t stay hydrated that the weight and cellulite creep back on. I still love all the same foods and drinks — cheeseburgers, margaritas, pizza, etc. — but finding healthy moderation is key."
At her heaviest, Kelsey ate 1,100 to 1,200 unhealthy calories a day, but now she's comfortably consuming 2,000 healthy calories daily. The foods she indulges in now are fruits, vegetables and lean protein.
"Some people eat healthy foods during the day," she said, "but if they don’t eat enough, they want to binge-eat at night. Make sure you are eating enough so that you feel satisfied. I aim for 20 to 25 grams of protein and carbs per meal."
Kelsey's most important piece of advice? Stop the yo-yo dieting and adopt a healthy lifestyle instead.
"It’s way more fun to maintain a healthy and fit physique all year versus going back and forth between loving your body and hating it," she said.
We couldn't agree more! To follow Kelsey on her fitness journey, check her out on Instagram.