01/14/2014 06:59 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:56 EST

Weight Lost: How This 54-Year-Old Woman Lost 120 Pounds

CJ Betston

WHO: CJ Betson

AGE: 54

CITY: Vancouver, B.C.

By The Numbers: 360 at my heaviest, and currently 240, total weight loss of 120 pounds.

The Weight Gain: When I was a young girl, weight loss was never a concern. Years after having two kids, I had to have knee surgery and spend the year on crutches and a knee brace. Swimming (something I enjoyed with the kids) was not easily done with a full leg cast. I think it was during that time when all my toned muscle began to turn to flab.

I had also been an emotional eater for most of my life. The more weight I gained, the more depressed I got, the more depressed I got the more I ate. As time went on, I had a total of six knee surgeries, including a total knee replacement at 49. I got to the point that I used my knee as an excuse for my inability to lose weight.

The Final Straw: In April 2012, my blood pressure began to run slightly high and I did not want to have to go on medication. After monitoring it for a couple of months, I made up my mind that enough is enough! I had to bring my blood pressure back down to what is normal for my age and I had to do it without medication. I did NOT want to do some fad diet, just to lose the weight and gain it back again.

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The Plan Of Attack: I began doing a lot of research to determine how many calories, grams of fat, sodium, carbs, sugar, fibre, and protein I needed each day to achieve a desired weight in a certain amount of time. In June 2012, I stepped on the scale and was saddened to see that I had ballooned to over 350 pounds. The very same day I also stepped on a borrowed treadmill for the first time. It took me 20 minutes just to walk a quarter-mile and I thought I was dying by the time I completed it.

The Food Element: I went to the store and blew my budget spending $54 on fruits and vegetables. We typically wouldn't spend $100 a month on groceries and what I bought that day would only last us a week. How would I ever be able to afford to eat healthy? Suddenly, I found that I was having money left over after grocery shopping, even though I was spending more. How could that be? It dawned on me that we were spending a minimum of $300 eating out, most likely more than that.

I gave up eating pizza and all other fast foods and the hardest thing to do was to eat on schedule. I focused on calories only to the point of being sure I was getting the right amount of calories I needed each day.

The Exercise Factor: Fitness wise, I got a personal trainer. Before making the decision to get healthy my fitness was non-existent. I didn't know how much weight I wanted to lose, so my goal was to wear a size 12.

These days, I spend an hour per week at the gym with my personal trainer and I also work out on my own in the comfort of my home with the use of various inexpensive equipment like resistance bands, an exercise bike, hand weights and boxing gloves. When the weather permits I go for long walks and hikes.

The Current Day-To-Day: I had set my next weight loss goal to have a total weight loss of 150 pounds by the time we took a cruise to Bermuda in October 2013. By June 1 of last year, I'd hit a wall. After having lost a total of 115 pounds, I wasn't losing anything. Rather than a weight goal, my new goal was to be a true size 16 by cruise time — and I did it!

At my last visit to my doctor, my blood pressure was 120/70 (which is a good thing). I have now lost 120 pounds and over 100 inches from my body. Although the purpose of this journey was not so much to lose weight but to have a healthy body and soul again, the weight loss is a huge part of making that a reality. We now treat ourselves to a meal out maybe twice a month and I do allow myself to cheat a couple of times with an ice cream. I've also begun to use the website Calorie Countto log my food and workouts. This keeps me accountable.

I have far more energy then I've had in many years. I am most proud of my decision to finally do something about my health and weight.

My advice? Don't do a fad diet, it has to be lifestyle changes — otherwise as soon as you stop your diet and return to your old ways, the weight will return. Make sure when ready to take that step toward weight loss to get and track your measurements, not just your weight.

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