12 Women’s Stories of the Most Important Factor in Their Weight-Loss Journeys

Erica Lugo weight loss
Photo: Erica Lugo/Instagram

Weight loss doesn't happen just by amping up your cardio and turning down dessert. After deciding to kickstart a weight-loss journey and become healthier than ever before, these women say there was one motivating factor that helped them reach their weight loss goals. Here, each of these women (including "The Biggest Loser" Season 18 trainer Erica Lugo) share their personal weight loss success stories. They also offer the simple changes they made to achieve their long-term health goals. Find weight loss inspiration — and some bigger lessons — in their stories.

Potentially Triggering Language

While the intention of this article is to be a source of inspiration for those who are embarking on or continuing a weight-loss journey, some readers may find the topics discussed and the language used triggering.

01 of 12

Alyssa Greene

Alyssa Greene weight loss
Alyssa Greene/Instagram

The stress of starting college, perpetual late nights and heavy drinking caused Alyssa Greene to develop an unhealthy relationship with her body. Though she exercised, she didn't pay much attention to what she was eating and her overall health until she realized a change had to be made. Over the next 2.5 years, she self-educated about nutrition and learned what and how much to eat to get the results she wanted.

Motivating Factor: Self-Discipline

As a result, Greene lost 25 pounds and relies on self-discipline as her key motivator. "I do what I want for me, no one else," she says. "For people who have a hard time making a lifestyle change because of family or friends or a significant other, it really boils down to discipline. How bad do you really want to make a lifestyle change?"

02 of 12

Tanisha Commodore

Tanisha Commodore

For years, Tanisha Commodore left no stone unturned when it came to weight loss tactics. After trying countless workout programs, and weight-loss plans like WW and Medifast, she became desperate. The influencer began entertaining the idea of going to Mexico for weight-loss surgery when her friend happened to recommend the keto diet. Intrigued, she tried it and saw immediate results. Over eight months, Commodore lost 80 pounds and has been able to maintain her weight loss ever since.

Motivating Factor: Be Patient

Tanisha documents her journey on Instagram and uses her platform to provide weight loss inspiration and resources to those looking to try the keto diet themselves. "You didn't put it on overnight, so don't expect to lose it overnight," she tells Shape. "Just be patient with yourself."

03 of 12

Maggie Fierro

Maggie Fierro weight loss
Maggie Fierro/Instagram

After having her third child, fitness blogger Maggie Fierro began to feel disconnected from her body. "I was 4 months postpartum and completely frightened to actually look at myself in the mirror," she says.

So, she decided to start Kayla Itsines BBG (Bikini Body Guide) program to help kick-start her weight-loss journey. The convenience of being able to work out at home, combined with following a regimented healthy eating routine, helped Fierro figure out a lifestyle change that worked for her — and she couldn't have done it without the BBG community.

Motivating Factor: Find a Community

"The community made all the difference when I was starting my journey...[it's] been an incredible source of inspiration and support," she says. "You can't always rely on motivation. You need to develop discipline and commitment for the moments when you don't feel like it."

04 of 12

Cookie Miller

Cookie Miller weight loss
Cookie Miller/Instagram

Now a certified personal trainer, Cookie Miller spent years struggling with her weight. At 230 pounds, she was diagnosed with acanthosis nigricans — a skin condition that causes dark, velvety patches to appear in the armpits, groin, and neck of people who are overweight. At that point, she realized her health had to become a priority.

Motivating Factor: Take Progress Photos

Over the course of the next 18 months, Miller lost 100 pounds by following a regimented food and exercise plan. What helped her stay accountable was the progress photos that she shared with her Instagram followers. "I posted my first before-and-after picture on Instagram at the one year mark of my fitness journey," she says. "There was no going back after that picture and it has helped hold me accountable ever since."

05 of 12


Irvy weight loss

At her heaviest, fitness blogger Irvy weighed 310 pounds. In 2015, after yo-yoing with her weight for years, she finally decided to make a change once and for all. That said, it took a while for her to figure out that to make a long-lasting lifestyle change, the desire had to come from within.

Motivating Factor: Do It For Yourself

"You have to be self-motivated; you need to do it for your own reasons and strictly for yourself," she says. Now, she goes to the gym six times a week and meal plans, which has helped her lose 132 pounds.

06 of 12

Denita Elizabeth

Denita Elizabeth

At one point, Denita Elizabeth weighed over 250 pounds and couldn't remember what it felt like to be healthy. "I was tired of feeling tired," she tells Shape. "High blood pressure and diabetes run in my family and I knew that if I didn't choose health, I wouldn't make it to 30." Determined to make a change, Elizabeth signed up for a SoulCycle membership and immediately fell in love. "I finally found an exercise program that I loved and I continue to do it today," she says. Today, Elizabeth is not only a personal trainer but is also an instructor at SLT.

Fitness aside, Elizabeth also switched up her food intake. "I stopped eating unfulfilling diet foods and learned to cook more nutritious meals," she says.

Motivating Factor: Improved Overall Health

Even though she's lost 100 pounds, Elizabeth says the scale is the least of her worries. "Losing weight is great," she shares, "but finding overall health is what really changed my life."

07 of 12

Erica Lugo

Erica Lugo weight loss
Erica Lugo/Instagram

Being a mother comes with a plethora of responsibilities. And Erica Lugo knew something had to change when she couldn't uphold them because of her weight. She could no longer play with her son, because at 322 pounds, she simply didn't have the energy. That's when she decided to lose weight by sticking to a simple plan. She signed up for a Planet Fitness membership and focused on reducing her calorie intake and increasing her activity level. When she began to see results, she realized that her greatest motivator was herself. "The hardest workout you'll ever do is in your head. Not with a trainer or fitness guru," she wrote on Instagram. "It'll be with yourself. It'll be that moment your head and heart say give up and that passion and want inside of you fights back."

In just a year, Lugo had lost 122 pounds, but it took her another two years to reach her 150-pound weight-loss goal. Lugo (a fitness trainer and wellness coach) helped people kickstart their own fitness journeys — following the same back-to-basics approach she used — as a trainer on Season 18 of The Biggest Loser.

Motivating Factor: You're Stronger Than You Think

"Today, working out and eating healthy isn't about how awesome I look," she told Shape. "It's about inspiring people to realize that neither illness nor your weight define you and that you're so much stronger than you think."

08 of 12

Alice Fields

Alice Fields weight loss
Alice Fields/Instagram

Alice Fields spent years focusing on cardio, thinking it would help her lose weight. She also maintained a strict eating plan, but still wasn't seeing the results she wanted. It wasn't until she switched to powerlifting and started consuming a more wholesome diet that she began losing weight and reaching her goals.

Motivating Factor: How You Feel Is Most Important

She realized that it wasn't the numbers on the scale, but how she felt that truly mattered. "I definitely thought doing only weights would just make me heavier," she says, "but I quickly realized, the more muscle I had, the faster my body burned fat. Not just that, but having more muscle gives you that 'toned look' a lot of women want."

09 of 12

Kassidy Riekens

Kassidy Riekens weight loss
Kassidy Riekens/Instagram

At age 25, Kassidy Riekens weighed 260 pounds and started to struggle with her self-confidence. While she was determined to take back control of her life, she knew she had to fix her bad habits first. For workouts, she did cardio three to five times and week and it helped to have support from her friends and family.

Motivating Factor: Find Creative Ways to Stay on Track

With time, she's learned to do things in moderation and found creative ways to stay motivated. She also took progress pictures. "I don't think people realize how important it is to take pictures of yourself while you're literally transforming your body," she says. "In doing this I came to the realization that it was the 'old' me motivating the 'new' me."

10 of 12

Katie Bolden

Katie Bolden

Despite trying multiple diets and exercise programs, Katie Bolden couldn't move the needle on the scale. Even after being diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in 2010, she struggled to make a change. It wasn't until she went partially blind and was diagnosed with early symptoms of multiple sclerosis, a chronic neurological disease, that she was forced to reevaluate her lifestyle. "I wanted to start taking better care of myself once I began getting sick and experiencing neurological symptoms," she tells Shape. "I also wanted to start a family after dealing with PCOS and infertility."

So, Bolden started using the weight-loss app MyFitnessPal to track her nutrition intake and began adopting healthier eating habits. Simultaneously, she started swimming and hiking and eventually felt comfortable running and lifting weights.

Motivating Factor: A Supportive Family

In three and a half years, Bolden lost 150 pounds and credits her family for her weight loss motivation. "My husband and our kids — who didn't even exist at the time — inspired me to change not only my health but my entire life," she shares.

11 of 12

Misty Mitchell

Misty Mitchell weight loss
Misty Mitchell/Instagram

After suffering from a herniated disk in her lower back, Misty Mitchell's life fell apart. She lost her job and home and coped by drinking a lot of alcohol. It wasn't until Mitchell stepped on the scale that she realized how much her health was suffering. "On February 19, 2015, I stepped on the scale and weighed almost 300 pounds, was most likely an alcoholic, and I smoked," she says on her website.

Motivating Factor: Documenting Weight-Loss on Social Media

"I didn't like where my life was going and I was sick of being unhappy so I decided to change everything." Overnight, she quit drinking and traded in junk food for fish and veggies. In just over a year she lost 137 pounds and now weighs a healthy 159 pounds. Documenting her weight-loss on Instagram was her biggest motivator and encouraged her to continue on her journey.

12 of 12

Rebecca Grafton Bardwell

Rebecca Grafton Bardwell weight loss
Rebecca Grafton Bardwell/Instagram

After being overweight her whole life, Rebecca Grafton Bardwell decided to make a change once and for all. Of course, that isn't always as easy as it seems. Over two years, Grafton Bardwell learned how to portion her food and exercise at a gym without caring what others thought of her. Her 100-pound weight loss made her feel healthier and happier than ever.

Motivating Factor: Stick to a Healthy Living Plan

Rebecca explains that there is no secret formula to losing weight. The key is to eat right and exercise. It may not happen super fast, but if consistency is key.

Weight-Loss Resources

Shape is an inclusive community of wellness for all. If you're looking for tips or strategies for exercising or improving motivation for weight loss, you've come to the right place.

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