My name is Elena Green (@elenagreen_fitness), and I’m 34. I live in South Carolina, and I am a mom and personal trainer. After my doctor let me know that I was considered medically obese, I researched calorie counting, adopted the 80-20 rule for weight loss, started doing HIIT workouts, and shed the weight that was holding me back.

Before I started my weight loss journey, I had two pregnancies back to back. I also had not quite gotten back to my pre-pregnancy weight before becoming pregnant again. I am now a mom of four, so as you can imagine, balancing motherhood and finding the time to take care of my health was very challenging. Over time, the weight just kept piling on. I wasn’t making the best food choices and was not really taking time to exercise.

I had tried many methods to shed the weight but nothing seemed to work. I had a very hard time finding something that was sustainable and that would work well with my lifestyle. I would end up just quitting various diet plans because they were unrealistic. At my heaviest, I was 258 pounds. I was 32 at the time.

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Eventually I learned that I had high cholesterol, and my doctor informed me that I was now in the medically obese category. I was also experiencing bouts of depression and anxiety, and because of that, I sought comfort in food. I knew that it was directly related to the fact that I was unhappy with the state I was in health-wise. Finding comfort in food gave me a temporary escape from my reality.

On May 28th, 2018, I decided that I was going to take my health and my life back.

I remember looking in the mirror and asking myself, what the heck happened? I shed some tears, had moments of honesty, and promised myself that I was going to change my life for good. I knew that I was capable of so much more.

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I wanted my confidence back. I wanted the energy to play with my babies. I just wanted to be free. I wanted to be happy with myself. I wanted to look in the mirror and be able to genuinely smile at myself and not say mean things. I committed to the process at age 33, even though I knew it wouldn’t be easy.

At first, I converted back to what I already knew was the key to weight loss at a basic level: eat less and move more.

But I did not want to be hungry all of the time due to eating less, so I started doing research like crazy.

I came across calorie counting and learned more about the concept of eating in a calorie deficit. So I incorporated the 80-20 rule: 80 percent of my foods consisted of whole nutritious foods, and the other 20 percent were my indulgences. Not only did this mindset allow me to lose weight, it allowed me to still incorporate foods that I really enjoyed, like cookies and ice cream, in moderation.

This approach was perfect for me because there are always snacks around considering I have kids. It worked well because I did not have to eliminate food groups, and it allowed me to get out of the dieting mindset. At the end of the day, it’s about creating a lifestyle that works best for you.

Here’s what I typically eat in a day.

  • Breakfast: Egg white and turkey omelet with a bagel
  • Lunch: Turkey burger or large salad
  • Snacks: Protein shake
  • Dinner: Chicken breast and veggies
  • Dessert: Chocolate fudge bar

I started working out a couple days after deciding to better my health.

The form of exercise that worked best for me was HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. It was very challenging at first, but I did my best and built up stamina over time. I started working out for 20 to 30 minutes, three days a week. I slowly increased it to five days a week and took the weekends as rest days.

HIIT worked really well for my busy lifestyle. It was unrealistic for me to spend hours working out. HIIT workouts are pretty short, but they allow you to have a pretty intense workout in a short period of time.

I discovered HIIT by researching short, effective workouts. From that point on, HIIT has been my preferred method of training, along with incorporating weight training.

These three changes have made the biggest impact on my overall weight loss.

  • Change one: I gave myself grace. I made sure not to be too hard on myself. It’s important to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I was creating a new lifestyle, and change takes time. I knew I would have good days and not-so-great days, and that was okay. Always remember to take some deep breaths, and give yourself permission to be human.
  • Change two: I kept it simple. Simplicity wins every time. When you’re starting out, don’t be so focused on perfection and changing a million things at once. You will quickly find yourself overwhelmed. Keep your fitness choices and foods simple. Create a simple routine that you can stick with long term, and progress and make changes as you go.
  • Change three: I didn’t quit...even when I felt like it. You will have times where you feel like quitting, or feel like things aren’t working or going according to plan. No matter what things may look like, just keep going. Keep being consistent, and focus on good daily habits, not the end result.

In the span of two years, I have lost 120 pounds.

I’ve since shifted my focus from weight loss to gaining muscle.

My journey was not easy, but it was most certainly worth it. Making the decision to put my health first has changed my life drastically. I reconnected with myself again. I restored my confidence and energy. Getting healthy and strong has improved every area of my life.

One of the greatest things that has blossomed from my journey is being able to share the gift of health with other women through a community I created for women (EGFIT). I’ve gone on to help other amazing women reconnect with themselves through active living, mind and body transformations.

I believe that one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is the gift of hope. Through sharing my story with other women that have found themselves where I once was, I want them to know that they can do it too. You deserve to walk in confidence and love the skin you’re in. You deserve to be happy with who you are.