01/02/2018 10:13 EST | Updated 01/03/2018 10:49 EST

Her Father's Alzheimer's Motivated This Ottawa Woman To Kickstart A Healthier Lifestyle

Rachel Lalonde eventually quit her job as a travel agent to become a personal trainer.

Name: Rachel Lalonde

Occupation: Personal trainer, former travel agent

Age: 48

City: Ottawa

The story:

As a child, I was an average weight. I am quite short and have a bigger build so I looked a bit stocky.

The weight gain started in my later 20's. I broke my spine and had major surgery to fuse it back together again. This took years to recover from and the weight really started to pile on. My husband and I had a very busy household so I didn't take the time to take care of myself.

I tried a few diets without success. I'm not a believer in fad diets so I didn't really lose any weight. I knew that diets don't tend to be a permanent solution.

Rachel Lalonde
Rachel before she lost weight.

The final straw:

My final straw moment was seeing the scale getting so close to 200lbs. Clothes were tight, I had no energy, and my dad was in the end stages of Alzheimer's due to diabetes and several strokes — it scared me so much.

The plan of attack:

In February 2016, my sons belonged to GoodLife Fitness and they enjoyed going to the gym so I decided to join too and try to get back in shape. I went a few times and had no real plan and was overwhelmed by what I needed to do to get to a manageable weight.

After a few weeks I decided to get a personal trainer so that I could stay focused on what had to be done. It was a slow start but I knew that I had to keep at it. I started losing about 1lb per week and stayed that way for most of the entire journey.

I also used an app on my phone to track my food intake.

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The food element:

I ate fairly clean before my transformation, just not the right foods or portions.

When I started changing the way I eat, I used my food app to help me figure out what to eat, how much to eat, etc. It was calorie-based counting but I focused on my macronutrients mostly. I needed help with how much protein, carbs and fats I was consuming.

I have basically cut out bread, sugars (sweets), and most dairy. This has made me feel better internally. Not to say that I don't indulge once in a while.

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The exercise factor:

My first trainer got me started on a program, but she left the field about four months later and I was connected with Adrian. He gracefully took over and started me on a program that really boosted my metabolism, my energy, and my fitness.

Before I started on this journey, I was very out of shape, got winded very easy, not very balanced, and very easily tired. I had no energy at all. It really sucked to always be so tired.

Currently, I work out six days a week. I do resistance training at least four times a week, cardio training five to six days a week and I also do kickboxing every week. My workouts are approximately 1.5 hours long.

Rachel Lalonde.

I prevented plateaus by training smart: I didn't diet, and I didn't go crazy in my workout routines. I changed up my program every few weeks and I took pictures all along the way so that I could stay focused and see the slightest changes.

How I stay motivated:

Honestly, my ailing father keeps me motivated to stick to it. I don't want to fall into the same path and have my family be burdened by a nasty disease.

The day-to-day:

These days I have so much energy. During my journey I was approached by a few people at the gym to maybe look into joining the team as a trainer. At first I thought they were crazy and brushed it off, but then I mentioned this to some family members and close friends and they said why not? So I talked with my trainer about it and he also said, "Why not?"

I really enjoy being at the gym, so I decided to leave my full time job as a travel agent and I wanted to pay it forward by helping others. I took the personal trainer course, and a nutrition course and became a personal trainer.

Rachel Lalonde.

So today my days are in the gym helping others reach their goals and I'm excited I can motivate others by sharing my story.

How I maintain my lifestyle:

I continue to work out, live an active lifestyle, and watch how I eat. I eat whole foods — nothing "low cal" or "diet." If I want to cheat I plan for it and allow myself to enjoy my cheat. I know I will recover from it and get back on track the next day.

What I'm most proud of:

I'm most proud of being strong, healthy and in the best shape of my life. There were so many things I could not do before and now I can perform at such a high level of fitness. I am extremely proud of how I look.

The only regret I may have would be that I did not do it earlier in my life. I lost a few years of "energy" by not being healthy.

Final thoughts:

I think the best advice I would give is never give up — don't focus on the "I can't do it" mentality and just do what you can one step at a time. Every small success is a step in the right direction and eventually all the little steps merge together and form a giant leap in the right direction.

I tell people that changing only one thing at a time makes the burden of losing weight easier — you don't get overwhelmed when it is only one change at a time.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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