When Kelsey Byers was in high school, she was active on the dance, basketball, and volleyball teams and felt she was at a healthy weight for her 5’10” frame. But once college hit, the mom-of-one gained 50 pounds in her first two years after taking advantage of student happy hour specials and indulging in fast food a few times per week. On top of that, she racked up a whopping $8,000 credit card debt from trying to find the perfect outfit to flatter her body. Still, it wasn’t until Kelsey overheard one guy call her a “whale” that she hit a breaking point.
“I was so unhappy with the woman I saw in the mirror,” Kelsey told Yahoo! Health. “Instead of getting depressed, I decided to use it as motivation and make a change for me.”
Kelsey began limiting herself to one happy hour every week and hitting the gym frequently for half-hour elliptical sessions. She says it was difficult at first, because her other friends weren’t really into working out.
“I didn’t really have a cheerleader or gym partner. My family was supportive but they didn’t understand,” Kelsey remembered. “My group of friends at school were still living the happy hour lifestyle and going out to eat all the time.”
To make things even harder, Kelsey wasn’t really losing much weight, despite the fact that she felt like she was giving it her all.
“I wanted to see results immediately,” she said. “I kept weighing myself and got more and more discouraged because the number wasn’t really changing even though I was cutting back on fast food and was working out a ton. I had gained the weight so fast that I wanted it gone quickly, too.”
Things took a turn for the better though when she transferred to a different college after her sophomore year and found a new group of friends who were into staying fit. It was then she got introduced to weightlifting by the man who would turn out to be her husband.
“That’s when I first really started to see my body change and get the results I wanted,” she said.
Inspired by her then hubby-to-be, she decided to swear off alcohol for one month and instantly lost eight pounds. After seeing the number drop on the scale, Kelsey was officially convinced that her diet had to get better, too. So she hired a nutritionist.
“I started feeding my body actual fuel and it worked! Turns out, that was what I really needed to take my fitness to the next level. In the beginning, I didn’t know what exercises would work, what muscle groups, and how important nutrition—not just cutting out foods—was for getting the results I wanted. I know now that it’s about everything—cardio, weightlifting, and eating right,” she says.
Fast forward to now and Kelsey is much happier with her new body. On average, she lost a total of 10 pounds every year (roughly a pound per month) since she began working with a nutritionist in 2010. Now she’s 40 pounds lighter and eats roughly 2,000 calories per day, which is about 800 calories more than she did when she was at her heaviest.
She says her secret is eating every three hours for a total of five meals per day, always making sure she’s getting in 20-25 grams of complex carbs and lean protein. Kelsey will have half a cup of oatmeal with five egg whites for breakfast; four ounces of chicken, a serving of broccoli, and a sweet potato for lunch; a lean beef hamburger with a whole wheat bun and avocado for dinner; and two protein meal-replacement shakes whenever she gets hungry in between.
That diet, combined with strength training and cardio, turned out to be the magic formula for Kelsey.
“When you lift weights and put on muscle, the muscle helps you burn even more calories,” the now-fitness coach said. “When you combine the two, basically you’re a fat-burning machine. Specifically, I do high-intensity interval sprints for cardio and jump rope in between weight sets. That works for me.”
Today, Kelsey continues her love of all things fitness through her popular blog and Facebook page in between running after her 2-year-old daughter. Her number one piece of advice for women looking to lose weight? Get over mommy guilt and make your health a priority—zero excuses.
“I might get up before my baby wakes up and do 20 to 30 minutes of cardio in the morning or afternoon. My husband works out on his way home, so we can work out in shifts,” she said. “Whatever you do, don’t feel bad for going to the gym and not being with your kids all the time. Kids are going to follow your example, not your advice. By you making nutrition a priority, you are instilling those values at an early age. In the long run, you being healthy and happy will benefit your kids, not just you.”