02/11/2014 11:34 EST | Updated 02/11/2014 12:59 EST

Weight Lost: How This 23-Year-Old Dropped 135 Pounds

Hailey Hechtman

WHO: Hailey Hechtman

AGE: 23

CITY: Whitehorse, YT

By The Numbers: 287 at my heaviest, and currently 152, total weight loss of 135 pounds

The Weight Gain: As a young girl I was always heavy and always the biggest girl in the class. I remember growing up with parents who were constantly swinging from diet to diet with binging stages in between. Our house was filled with processed foods, quick meals and snacks galore, which for someone who found the need to eat to deal with emotions was a home of temptations.

The height of my heaviness was my second year of university, where I had free-range of buying groceries, and I partied and slept-in quite a lot.

The Final Straw: I finally decided to change my life around at the end of my second year of university. This was right after a break up with my boyfriend at the time and more importantly after seeing some very unflattering images of myself at my cousin's wedding. The moment that I stumbled across that image, in the purple dress facing the side, I finally saw it. I saw what I had been shying away from admitting all those years, the extent of how big I had really become.

I knew that I was going to want more out of life. I was a vivacious, passionate person trapped in a limiting body. I had dreams of finding an exciting path, travelling the world and most importantly helping others. For as long I as I remember I had wanted to go into the social services field, particularly in counselling. How would I be able to assist others going through crisis, mental health challenges, relationship issues, if I did not feel complete and confident in myself?

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The Plan Of Attack: I started losing weight by changing my portion sizes and attempting to work out. At first it was very challenging because I had never been an athlete. I began with walks and eventually built up to slowly jogging. I also attempted squats and other bodyweight exercise that would help bring my heart rate up.

In total, it took about three and a half years to get to where I am now. In the first year I lost about 80 pounds and from there continued to focus on an improved healthy and active lifestyle. In the second and third year, my fitness regime started to become much more strength building-focused as I began using free-weights and practicing pilates.

The Food Element: I started eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. I had always enjoyed fresh foods, but it wasn't until I began losing weight that I began including them in all aspects of my diet. I gave up fast food, snack foods such as chips, and cookies and began to think about the ingredients that I was putting into my body. At this point it is about consuming natural products that energized my body, not processed ones that pulled down my enthusiasm and made me feel lethargic.

I would say that portion control was the biggest adjustment, as I had previously had a compulsion to eat what was in front of me to the finish. Today I really focus on healthy eating. Every morning I have a smoothie for breakfast, followed by a snack of fruit and nuts, a wrap with a spinach salad for lunch and a dinner filled with vegetables, proteins and a whole grain. Desserts are usually made up of mangoes and yogurt.

The Exercise Factor: As I was going to school at the time, I began using the university's facilities as means of getting into working out. I started slowly with the elliptical, moving eventually to weight training and some classes. I relied on workout videos as means of discovering how to target certain body parts and how to get the best results.

Before I started working out, my fitness regime did not exist. These days, my partner and I do not have a car, so we spend most of our weekends being quite active in our new home of Whitehorse. In addition to the errand running, I strength train four to five days a week. This typically consists of butt, leg and arm exercises using free-weights, as well a pretty intense pilates-inspired ab routine.

The Current Day-To-Day: Having spent my whole adolescence collecting fashion magazines and drawing pictures in my notebooks of beautiful gowns , my goal was to look good in clothes. Since becoming a teen, I could never find the clothes I wanted and at the height of my weight issues, I had to shop for plus-sized outfits that I hated. I figured that any weight that would give me a well-dressed body, self-confidence and the ability to dance would be the one that I was aiming for.

My advice? You deserve the life that you want and to be the person that you love. Take the time to think about the dreams that you have for yourself, picture that person filled with pride and excitement and move towards them.

I am most proud of taking the steps it took to get where I am today. A few years ago, I was always putting myself and my dreams on the backburner to be the support system for everyone else. It wasn't until I realized I was worth making the effort that I started to have the confidence to go for what I wanted. At this point in my life, with a job that inspires me, a man who I adore and a list of accomplishments behind me, I thank the past Hailey for having the strength she did to open up and let things go.

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