Lauren’s Before and After Story Is About More Than Weight Loss

Healthy living is more than a diet ¡ª it’s a lifestyle, and Lauren Shaber knows this all too well. After years of failed diets, Lauren realized that the road to happiness wasn’t about meeting a number on the scale. She shares her journey from junk-food-lover to green-juicing triathlete on her blog, Lauren Lives Healthy, which is part of our POPSUGAR Select Fitness network. Read on for her inspiring lifestyle makeover and weight-loss story below!

Lauren: Before

Each and every person has their own story, especially when it comes to health and fitness. Mine isn’t unlike many; I grew up in a smallish town with a loving family, playing sports and eating delicious food. Over the years, I’ve had ups and downs like anyone else, which is why I call it a journey. Health-related, I’ve tried numerous diets and wellness programs, fitness regimens, and changed my sleep habits, and have learned so much. Now I realize that diets don’t work, sleep is important, and working out in moderation matters. I want to share my journey with you so hopefully you, too, can realize that it is possible to change your habits and live a healthy lifestyle (with small changes!).

I think my whole journey started when I was young, before I ever knew I was interested in health and fitness. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was super unhealthy. My favorite foods were boxed macaroni and cheese with hotdogs, McDonald’s chicken nuggets, or anything fried ¡ª french fries, mozzarella sticks, calamari, you name it. Oh, and you can’t forget burgers, bagel dogs, and hollandaise or ranch on everything. When I wanted something, I ate it. We celebrated every birthday or holiday with food, went out for dinner nearly every night, and stopped at fast-food restaurants on a regular basis. My friends and I went to Jack and the Box or Taco Bell nearly every day my senior year of high school and didn’t think anything of it. I remember going grocery shopping with my mom and we wouldn’t think of buying wheat bread; our family loved Wonder Bread, so we would stock up on that, Sweet Hawaiian rolls, and pre-made entrees. I was “lucky” in the sense that I hated desserts. No matter where we were, if I got dessert, it would be fruit. Fruit, any kind, has always been one of my favorite foods.

Lauren: Before

I started making healthier recipes [in college], but would go for unhealthy take-out from my favorite spots one or two meals later. I’m pretty sure I lived off clam chowder bread bowls, flatbread pizza, chicken strips and fries, sushi, light beer, and cheap wine for the next three years. I remember a few times where people invited me out for dinner and, even though I had just eaten, I went with them anyways and got a full meal. Inside, I felt ashamed, but I wanted to please other people. I rarely turned down a night out on the town, a house party with friends, or drinks at the local bar. I started working out here and there, even working out with a trainer for a few weeks, but quickly realized that my heart wasn’t fully into it.

I graduated early with a job offer set to start four months later. I told my parents I wanted to travel, so I booked a month-long solo trip around Europe. I brought it down to two weeks, starting in Amsterdam, meandering through Belgium and France and on to London and Scotland, where I would later meet up with my mom and aunt. I fell in love with traveling, even more so that I had before. It was so freeing to walk around in a city for hours on end, get completely lost and walk it out until I found my way back. I met tons and tons of people who I’m sure I would have never met otherwise. I got to connect with my roots in Scotland, which is where my dad was born. I was able to explore Paris, one of the cities I had been dying to visit for 10 years. It was perfect.

About two weeks after returning, I hopped on a plane to LA where I later joined a group of about 40 peers, and we all headed to Israel together. In two weeks, we explored the country, learned some Hebrew, and hung out with the locals. I loved swimming in the Mediterranean, hiking Masada and exploring some of the world’s ancient cities. Of course, I fell in love with the cuisine more than anything. I was lucky to be a part of a trip designed to be more active than others, because it made me realize how much I loved being outdoors. It was great . . . until I got home and saw the pictures from the trip. In looking at pictures from those two trips, I felt so unhappy with myself. I started to focus more on the way I looked than the fun experiences I had. That’s definitely not how I wanted to live.

Lauren: After

After going back to San Luis Obispo to walk in graduation, I moved up to San Jose. I arrived a month before my job was set to start to get used to the area. Something clicked during the move and my mind-set completely changed. I wanted to get in shape and lose weight for me ¡ª not for a boyfriend, or for the bullies, or to fit in a piece of clothing I loved. About eight months before this, I had found Tone It Up on social media somewhere. I bought their plan in November 2012 but never really committed to it, until that day in June 2013. I took my before pictures on July 1, 2013, and made it a point to get the body that I wanted. When I moved, the first thing I did was go to the grocery store where I bought ingredients for Tone It Up-approved meals. I planned my meals every week, meal prepped on Sundays, cooked on a regular basis, and worked out almost every day. I reached out in the Tone It Up community and ended up meeting a girl who also lived in San Jose, who has since become one of my closest friends. She introduced me to boxing and I found my place. I started going to the gym about 4x per week and put my heart and soul into punching the bag. I worked out with a trainer to get the basics down and enjoyed being able to walk out 100x sweatier than when I walked in.

That month, I lost 15 pounds and felt amazing. I started checking in regularly on Instagram, where I met other women who were trying to better themselves in a healthy way. I committed to, trained for and completed my first triathlon, which soon turned into a 5k, then 10k, followed by a 15k and finally a half marathon. I felt like I wasn’t being seen as someone who needed to be bullied anymore because I believed I was becoming someone who I wanted to be.

Lauren: After

It was working. Over the past year, I’ve been the happiest I’ve ever been, I’m sure in part to me changing how I think. I’ve met friends around the world, started dating my amazing boyfriend, got involved at work, lost weight, and started to love myself in the process. I’m a firm believer that health and fitness is a journey to better yourself, hopefully to even love yourself one day. I’m not sure there’s ever an endpoint, but I know that I’m excited to continue on this path and learn more about who I am and what I love.

I don’t rely on the scale anymore to dictate my start and end points. I used to think, “when I hit ___ pounds,” that’s when it’s all going be worth it. In reality, I was wrong. It’s about how you feel, 100 percent. It shouldn’t be about a number on a scale by any means. Whether you’re 300 pounds or 130, a size 0 or 12 ¡ª it’s possible to be happy. Your weight should not define you.

I’ve happened to lose weight on my journey because my body has more fat on it than it needed. To date (January 2015), I’ve lost over 25 pounds and am happier than I’ve ever been. I can assure you that it isn’t the weight loss that changed my outlook; it’s the fact that I started taking care of myself and listening to what my body wanted and what made me happy. Instead of finding me at the nearest bar or take-out restaurant like you would have two years ago, you’ll see me at my local farmers markets, out on a training run, or in the kitchen because those are the things that make me feel most like myself now.

Lauren: After

I’m continuing on this health journey to not only better myself, but to help others along the way too. I’m in the process of becoming a certified nutrition coach so I can eventually teach others the benefits of nourishing their body the right way. I’d like to see others change their life, the same way I’ve changed mine.

It’s crazy how someone can change so drastically thanks to health and fitness. Who would have thought I’d be considering training for an IRONMAN 70.3 (long-distance triathlon)?! Not me. I have different priorities, look at myself in the mirror differently, and surround myself with those who support me. I can honestly say that finding and creating this lifestyle has made me a better person.

Check out more about Lauren’s journey on her blog, Lauren Lives Healthy.