Before and After: Kelsey’s Aha Moment Began in the Weight Room

Think you’re going to bulk up if you start lifting weights? Our next Before & After story will change your mind. It comes courtesy of fitness coach Kelsey Byers, who blogs at Good Morning Fitness and is part of our POPSUGAR Select Fitness program. Read her weight-loss success story and get her tips for sculpting your dream body below!

Kelsey: Before

POPSUGAR Fitness: What made you decide to start?Kelsey Byers: I gained 50 pounds in college by adopting unhealthy habits. For example, eating fast food, drinking alcohol, and skipping workouts. I went from a size four to a size 14 in a matter of just two years. I was miserable with my body and felt ashamed that I had let myself go. The thought of being in a swimsuit made me cringe. I must have taken 20 “before” photos but never quite made the decision to make a change.

When finally, I overheard someone refer to me as a “whale” and that pretty much did it. That was the last straw. I am actually very grateful for that “reality check.” Yes, it was mean, but it ignited that fire of motivation.

From that point on, I decided to make a lifestyle change for me and only me. I knew I would never stick with a diet, so I started making small changes like going out to eat less, cooking meals at home, and committing to the gym three workouts a week.

PS: What’s your favorite way to work out?KB: My boyfriend at the time, now husband, encouraged me to start lifting weights versus being a cardio-bunny. I was afraid of bulking up but he explained that women don’t produce enough testosterone to bulk up like a bodybuilder and explained that muscle would tone my body. Boy, was he right! I lift as heavy as I can and built my dream body!

PS: What’s your weekly exercise schedule?KB: I have a 1-year-old daughter now, so I stick to short and sweet 30-minute workouts usually around her nap time. If I do make it to the gym, I stick to about 45-minute sessions. Usually 25 minutes of lifting weights and 20 minutes of cardio.

Kelsey: After

PS: How do you keep workouts exciting?KB: You have to keep your body guessing. I try to change my workouts up at least once every two weeks or so. One week I might lift heavier with lower sets and repetitions, the following week I might lower the weight and increase my sets and reps. For example, the first week I might do three sets of eight with heavier weights. The following week I might lower the weight and do four sets of 15. Workout classes are always fun if you have access to them. I created a free pregnancy and postpregnancy workout program, and it’s available on my blog.

PS: How much weight have you lost?KB: I lost 50 pounds after college and fit back in my size-four jeans! I gained only 30 pounds with my pregnancy and was back in my prepregnancy jeans in a few months. I also trained through 40 weeks of pregnancy. A healthy lifestyle is a true commitment to your health, but you’re worth it.

Kelsey: After

PS: What was the first big difference, other than the number on the scale, that really made you feel proud and excited?KB: I didn’t rely on the scale too much or obsess about it. The scale doesn’t know if you’re replacing fat with muscle. I focused on taking progress pictures once a month, along with measurements. Those pictures motivated me when nothing else would. I think I felt most proud when I was invited to shoot for Oxygen magazine’s fat-loss cover. That was a dream come true and an honor to reach others with my story.

PS: How do you track your weight loss?KB: At first I took progress pictures and measurements, but these days I like to have my body fat measured by a nutritionist. That way I can tell if I’ve gained muscle and lost fat. It’s such a rewarding process.

PS: What’s a typical day of meals and snacks?KB: I eat every three hours, at least five meals a day.

Breakfast: five scrambled egg whites with salsa, 1/2 cup oatmeal with cinnamon, cup of coffeeSnack: meal-replacement shakeLunch: five-ounce grilled chicken, five-ounce sweet potato, steamed veggiesSnack: meal-replacement shakeDinner: five-ounce lean steak, baked potato, steamed veggiesSnack: optional ¡ª scrambled eggs with whole-wheat cinnamon toast

PS: What’s the range of calories you eat per day?KB: I eat between 1,800-2,000 calories per day. The best way I’ve found to calculate your calories is this:Goal weight x 10 = a number. Then add 300 to 400 more calories for training. For example, 140 pounds x 10 = 1,400 + 400 = 1,800 daily calories

PS: What are the healthy staples that are always in your fridge?KB: Baby spinach, egg whites, whole-wheat bread, salsa, chicken, extra-lean turkey, meal-replacement shake.

PS: How do you strategize for meals out?KB: My husband and I plan one “treat” meal a week. Since we work in the fitness industry, we like to be able to indulge but also stick with our fitness goals. If it’s my treat meal, I eat whatever I want for that meal. If we are going out to eat and I’m sticking to a healthy menu that evening, I typically order grilled chicken with no butter and no oil. Also, a plain baked sweet potato with grilled asparagus. Most restaurants will accommodate you. You can also look at the menu online ahead of time. That helps me plan.

PS: What advice do you have for anyone starting out on a weight-loss journey?KB: I like to tell people it took me two months before I saw a big difference with eating healthily. Most people don’t realize that nutrition makes up 80 percent of our results and exercise is 20 percent. With that being said, it’s not necessary to become a slave to the gym; just focus on your nutrition first and foremost. You can’t outtrain a bad diet. Commit to a lifestyle change versus a “diet.” That word just means temporary. Healthy is a lifelong commitment and possible for anyone. If I can do it, so can you!

Do you have an inspiring Before & After story to share? Message us on Facebook, and give us a few details of your journey. We might even profile you on the site, like Kelsey!