07/12/2016 02:53 EDT | Updated 02/08/2017 03:49 EST

Weight Lost: How One Toronto Woman Dropped 130 Pounds

Who: Melissa Kesselring

Occupation: Office manager

City: Toronto

Age: 37

By The Numbers: 285 pounds at my heaviest, currently at 155 pounds, for a total weight loss of 130 pounds.

The Weight Gain: I have been struggling with my weight since I was a child. My grandmother used to tell me I was just big-boned, trying to make me feel better.

My weight starting getting out of control as a teenager. I didn’t eat proper meals throughout the day and instead snacked on junk food. My lunch would consist of a bag of chips and a couple of chocolate bars. By the time I reached my teens, I had a very low opinion of myself and I was probably depressed. I turned to food and ate to fill a hole.

I tried a few diets in my twenties and thirties, including Weight Watchers and the 14-Day Fix. I also tried joining a gym, but I would go a few times and then stop.

Final Straw: I started my journey in the fall of 2013, after hitting bottom that summer. By that point I was used to hating the way I looked. I was miserable and I didn’t want to go out or be seen at all.

"The hardest adjustment was learning how to fuel my body instead of eating to feed my emotions."

That summer, I went on vacation and got very mad at my friend for taking a picture of me in a swimsuit. At the grocery store, I heard a child ask his mom why my stomach was so big. I knew I had to do something because life had to be better. I wanted to finally be happy and look at myself with love.

I wrote the following that summer, describing my state of mind before I started:

I look in the mirror and I don’t see beauty

I look in the mirror and I don’t see me

I look in the mirror into the piercing green eyes of a stranger

I hope to myself that one day I will see beauty

That I will see me

That I will see love in those green eyes that no longer belong to a stranger

Story continues below.

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The Plan of Attack: A friend of mine pushed me to try GoodLife Fitness. I went in and realized that I had no idea what I was doing. My knees where weak from carrying so much extra weight and I was afraid I would hurt myself.

I signed up with personal trainer Deon Myers, who was able to teach me how to weight train, how to do cardio and how to eat well. Turns out when I removed junk food from the picture, I wasn’t eating much. I had to train my body to eat and my trainer held me accountable for my actions until I learned to be accountable to myself.

I started to lose weight right away, and shed 110 pounds in the first year. However, I gained back 45 pounds over the next six months and learned an important lesson: I had lost a lot of weight but I wasn’t happy and hadn’t actively changed the way I saw myself.

After spending so much of my life tearing myself down, I had to learn to build myself up. Over the last 10 months, I’ve lost the weight I had regained it, but most importantly, I’ve also learned to like myself.

The Exercise Factor: Before joining the gym, I walked my dog every day but then I would go home and eat junk food.

These days I weight train three times a week and I do an hour of cardio three to four times a week. I also walk the dog for an hour or two every day. During the week, I work out four to six times a week for one to two hours at a time.

"There is no right way or wrong way to do it – there’s only your way. You have to decide what you want, and what you are willing to give up in order to achieve it."

The Food Element: I started eating lean proteins, lots of vegetables and some fruits and complex carbs like sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa, and oats. I do five to seven “low carb” days followed by four days with small amounts of carbs at each meal.

We cut out sugar and artificial sweeteners. I also eat very little wheat and dairy and try not to eat pre-packaged foods.

melissa kesselring

The hardest adjustment was learning how to fuel my body instead of eating to feed my emotions. I also had to learn portion sizes — I had no idea what a portion consisted of, so I now weigh and measure my food.

At the beginning I made sure I was eating enough, [but] now I don’t worry as much. Instead, I focus on eating every two to four hours and controlling my portions.

The Current Day-to-Day: Three mornings a week are cardio days. I get up at 4:30 a.m. and walk the dog for an hour and head to the gym for an hour before work at 8:30 a.m. After work, I walk the dog again for an hour.

I continue to work out and I’m careful about what I eat. I know I can never go back to the way I previously ate. I do cheat every once in a while, just not every day. I am very proud that I didn’t quit after gaining back the 45 pounds I had previously lost. I had the strength to pull myself up and learn from it.

My advice? There is no right way or wrong way to do it – there’s only your way. You have to decide what you want, and what you are willing to give up in order to achieve it.

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Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.