05/17/2016 10:35 EDT | Updated 05/17/2016 10:59 EDT

Weight Lost: How A Young Teacher Lost Almost 80 Pounds

Who: Layal Semaan

Occupation: Teacher

Age: 26

City: Toronto

Total weight lost: 78 pounds and counting.

What was your weight like growing up as a kid?

I always carried a few extra pounds around. I was never the athletic type.

When and how did the weight gain start?

I guess the better question would be, when did my weight become a problem. I would say that I really started to care or take notice in my weight when I was 14 right around when high school started.

layal semaan

Did you try any diets at that point?

I was a teenager, and cared a lot about my body image and did everything under the sun to try and get some results.

The Final Straw:

After yo-yoing between healthy weights and not so healthy weights, I decided that after I had finished university that there were no more excuses for me. I couldn’t say that I didn’t have time to work out anymore because of a huge presentation, an exam or all the other overbearing parts that come along with being a student.

Do you have any anecdotes or stories when you knew you had to change your life around?

A few years ago, a picture was taken of me and my friends before going out. I never saw that there was a problem with my weight. I mean sure I had trouble fitting into clothes, I never worked out, but I felt good, I was confident and I was so comfortable with who I was. Until I really looked at the picture. I finally decided that it was probably a good time to make a change.

Story continues below.

Check out more of our inspiring weight loss stories:

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When was the 'final straw'?

Seeing that picture and not looking as great as I felt inside made me want to really make a change. I took some time reflect on how I truly felt.

Why did you decide to drop the weight?

It wasn’t only about the physical for me. Of course it started with that, but after I really thought about it, I realized how unhealthy and unsustainable my awful habits were.

layal semaan

Plan of Attack:

How did you start losing the weight?

I was dabbling in a little bit of everything. I initially started off with some weight training and 40 mins of cardio four to five times a week. When I began to see some results, I would veer off my plan, and did a little bit of yo-yo-ing. I also joined the P90X craze, and saw some results, but I never stuck to anything long enough to reap in the benefits.

How long did it take and how much weight did you lose in the first year?

I lost about 40-50 pounds in my first year, but could not find a good way to keep it off.

Food Element:

What did you start eating?

I would typically have 50 per cent of my plate be veggies, 25 per cent carbs, 25 per cent protein. I would only be consistent with how I ate months at a time. I would always go hard for a certain amount of time before I’d let loose again.

What did you give up ?

Processed foods and a few hours a week to work out!

What was the hardest adjustment?

The hardest adjustment for me was figuring out a way to stop munching when I didn’t have to and replace old habits with new ones.

Did you focus on calories?

Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. I was never very consistent.

Did you cut out foods completely?

Yes, I stayed away from processed foods, until it was time for a well deserved cheat meal.

Did you diet (food wise)?

I did diet. I did see what I was doing as a lifestyle change so it definitely felt like a diet.

layal semaan


Did you join a gym or hire a trainer?

I did both.

What was your fitness like?

As someone who never worked out and was never very athletic, I don’t really have to paint a picture of what my fitness was like. I was very unable, I think that's the best way to put it.

Did you have fitness goals (how much weight did you want to lose?)

My fitness goals when I first started to work out were only based around weight. I started off with small goals, like losing 20 pounds, but had an overall goal to lose anywhere from 50-60 pounds.

What do you do currently in terms of fitness?

I never really saw myself of being capable of doing the things I am currently able to do. I can run long distances without wanting to die, I can pump out burpees no problem, I can do pushups off my knees, and I can probably squat more than some guys out there.

"Having the ability to self-reflect to see where you have come from and to really think about what has worked and what hasn’t really helps me to keep looking forward."


What are your days like today?

My days have become much more active. In the past, I would dread going to the gym mostly due to lack of confidence. Now, I want to try new things, I push myself and I'm not worried if I fail at my first attempt. This year I signed up for my first Spartan race. This is something that the old me would never have considered. If it weren't for the changes I've made in my life and my homegirls at my second home Go Girl Body Transformations, I'm not sure that I'd be quite where I am today.

How do you maintain the weight?

I maintain and I’m continuing to lose weight with the help of my friends at Go Girl! The girls and trainers here are motivating and are always willing to help. For the first time of my life, I have fear of missing out when I don’t go to the gym. You miss your girls that you work out with. You miss that sense of community that is built there. For the hour (or more should you choose to hang out for a bit) that you’re there, you really get to leave the rest of the world behind and enjoy your workout and time spent here.

Also, I stick to what has been working. If I have learned anything, it’s that consistency is key. It’s taken a while to get to where I am, and there are still many goals that I’d like to reach. Having the ability to self-reflect to see where you have come from and to really think about what has worked and what hasn’t really helps me to keep looking forward.

layal semaan

Looking back now, what are you most proud of?

There have been so many ups and downs, so the fact that I have never given up is what I am most proud of. It’s so much easier, especially when you are not seeing results, to scrap your plans, and give up.

Do you have any regrets?

I could never regret positive changes I’ve made in my life. I guess the only thing I could say here is that I regret not starting earlier.

What's your advice for people struggling with weight?

  • Stay positive and don’t worry about how long it will take.
  • Chances are that you are not where you currently are because of bad choices you made overnight, so don’t expect overnight results. It’s just not going to happen. If you work hard enough and put in the effort and hard work, it will pay off.
  • If you half-ass something, then don’t expect to receive anything less than half-ass results.
  • Make sure that you are working towards goals that you have put in place for yourself, not goals that someone else has put in for you.
  • Trust and learn to enjoy the process!