07/15/2014 10:37 EDT | Updated 07/16/2014 07:59 EDT

Weight Lost: How This Educator Dropped 52 Pounds

Kelly Armstrong

WHO: Kelly Arnold, early childhood educator, 5'2"

AGE: 27

CITY: Halifax

By The Numbers: 231 at my heaviest, currently 179, for a total weight loss of 52 pounds

The Weight Gain: As a kid I was always overweight. I can't remember a point in time or find a picture of myself where I would say I was a normal weight for my age. I significantly started putting on weight when I was in high school. After travelling in 2009 and going down in weight, I began to pack pounds on quickly, going from 190 to just over 230 pounds in a couple of years. I have tried several different "diets" in the past — the pills, the cleanses and point counting, but I was never able to stick with any of it. They were all just short-term fixes.

The Final Straw: My occupation is very physical and I spend the entire day on my feet. I was beginning to really notice how exhausted I was constantly at work and then during my personal time all I wanted to do was lay on the couch. I was embarrassed and did not want to take part in social activities because I wasn't happy with how I looked. I was constantly getting sick and my knees were always in pain from the weight I had been carrying for years.

The final straw was when I visited my doctor in September 2012 for test results and he told me that I had type 2 diabetes. I had just turned 25 and was devastated, angry, shocked and disgusted with myself that I had gotten to that point. I have seen family members in the past go through the complications of diabetes and did not want to get to that point. I did not want to it become my life. So I knew I had to do something.

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The Plan Of Attack: In the beginning I made a more conscious effort to eat healthier. I cooked at home more and ate out a lot less. Then through a friend I was introduced to Evolve Fitness. She mentioned an upcoming challenge and it sounded like it might be the kick in the ass I really needed.

Over the first year at Evolve I lost 48 pounds and 11 inches off my waist. After just over a year, I did not realized how much I had changed until I looked at my photos.

The Food Element: I started eating lots of vegetables, more lean meats, some fish, eggs, some high fibre carbs, nuts, fruit, healthy fats, protein supplements and a weekly cheat meal to satisfy my cravings. I cut out a lot of refined foods, anything processed including breads and pastas, sugar, anything in a package, simple carbohydrates (white rice, white potatoes, etc.) and only drank water. Although I still do enjoy the odd bowl of pasta or sugary snack from time to time, it's all about moderation.

Cutting out sugar was difficult. I found I was craving it in the mornings, especially when I would typically have a large glass of orange juice, which of course I viewed as healthy before. Another difficulty for me was family gatherings, which like many other families, are always based around food. Weddings, birthday parties, up to four turkey dinners over the holidays between my partner's family and my family. Even a simple Sunday afternoon BBQ was a challenge.

The Exercise Factor: In the beginning when I talked with Mat, my trainer, I set my eight-week goal at 15 pounds, and in the end I ended up down almost 25 pounds in that time. I was ecstatic and knew I wasn't finished. Currently I still go to boot camps two to three times a week as well as some cardio on my own.

Typically three days a week I get my workout in at Evolve early in the morning. One to two times a week I may fit in interval training in the evenings. It also takes time to plan. I have to know what my week looks like in advance (commitments, meetings, family events, etc.) and I plan my meals on the weekend.

The Current Day-To-Day: Looking back now I would say I am most proud of just starting my personal weight loss journey. The change in lifestyle was extremely difficult at first. Now meal planning and getting up early in the morning to exercise is just a part of my life. I look forward to it now and couldn't imagine going without it.

My advice? Stay away from the fads. Start small. Talk to professionals who understand weight loss and how the human body works. Do not weigh yourself every day, because it will drive you crazy. Write everything down that you eat, you'll be surprised. Everyone's journey is different and you will have ups and downs, you will hit plateaus, you will find yourself reverting back to old habits and you will feel terrible when you do — but don't let it get the best of you. One bad day doesn't have to turn into a bad week.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Kelly's last name as Armstrong. This version has been updated.

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