01/02/2018 10:13 EST | Updated 03/26/2018 13:24 EDT

Her Father's Alzheimer's Motivated This Ottawa Woman To Kickstart A Healthier Lifestyle

Rachel Lalonde eventually quit her job as a travel agent to become a personal trainer.

HuffPost Canada's Lost It series chronicles the stories of everyday Canadians who have struggled with their weight — and won. We talk to people about what they eat, how they exercise and generally, what their healthy lifestyle is to maintain their weight now that they've lost it.

You can read more stories from Lost It here.

Name: Rachel Lalonde

Occupation: Personal trainer, former travel agent

Age: 48

City: Ottawa

The story:

As a child, I was an average weight. I am quite short and have a bigger build so I looked a bit stocky.

The weight gain started in my later 20's. I broke my spine and had major surgery to fuse it back together again. This took years to recover from and the weight really started to pile on. My husband and I had a very busy household so I didn't take the time to take care of myself.

I tried a few diets without success. I'm not a believer in fad diets so I didn't really lose any weight. I knew that diets don't tend to be a permanent solution.

Rachel Lalonde
Rachel before she lost weight.

The final straw:

My final straw moment was seeing the scale getting so close to 200lbs. Clothes were tight, I had no energy, and my dad was in the end stages of Alzheimer's due to diabetes and several strokes — it scared me so much.

The plan of attack:

In February 2016, my sons belonged to GoodLife Fitness and they enjoyed going to the gym so I decided to join too and try to get back in shape. I went a few times and had no real plan and was overwhelmed by what I needed to do to get to a manageable weight.

After a few weeks I decided to get a personal trainer so that I could stay focused on what had to be done. It was a slow start but I knew that I had to keep at it. I started losing about 1lb per week and stayed that way for most of the entire journey.

I also used an app on my phone to track my food intake.

Story continues below.

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The food element:

I ate fairly clean before my transformation, just not the right foods or portions.

When I started changing the way I eat, I used my food app to help me figure out what to eat, how much to eat, etc. It was calorie-based counting but I focused on my macronutrients mostly. I needed help with how much protein, carbs and fats I was consuming.

I have basically cut out bread, sugars (sweets), and most dairy. This has made me feel better internally. Not to say that I don't indulge once in a while.

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The exercise factor:

My first trainer got me started on a program, but she left the field about four months later and I was connected with Adrian. He gracefully took over and started me on a program that really boosted my metabolism, my energy, and my fitness.

Before I started on this journey, I was very out of shape, got winded very easy, not very balanced, and very easily tired. I had no energy at all. It really sucked to always be so tired.

Currently, I work out six days a week. I do resistance training at least four times a week, cardio training five to six days a week and I also do kickboxing every week. My workouts are approximately 1.5 hours long.

Rachel Lalonde.

I prevented plateaus by training smart: I didn't diet, and I didn't go crazy in my workout routines. I changed up my program every few weeks and I took pictures all along the way so that I could stay focused and see the slightest changes.

How I stay motivated:

Honestly, my ailing father keeps me motivated to stick to it. I don't want to fall into the same path and have my family be burdened by a nasty disease.

The day-to-day:

These days I have so much energy. During my journey I was approached by a few people at the gym to maybe look into joining the team as a trainer. At first I thought they were crazy and brushed it off, but then I mentioned this to some family members and close friends and they said why not? So I talked with my trainer about it and he also said, "Why not?"

I really enjoy being at the gym, so I decided to leave my full time job as a travel agent and I wanted to pay it forward by helping others. I took the personal trainer course, and a nutrition course and became a personal trainer.

Rachel Lalonde.

So today my days are in the gym helping others reach their goals and I'm excited I can motivate others by sharing my story.

How I maintain my lifestyle:

I continue to work out, live an active lifestyle, and watch how I eat. I eat whole foods — nothing "low cal" or "diet." If I want to cheat I plan for it and allow myself to enjoy my cheat. I know I will recover from it and get back on track the next day.

What I'm most proud of:

I'm most proud of being strong, healthy and in the best shape of my life. There were so many things I could not do before and now I can perform at such a high level of fitness. I am extremely proud of how I look.

The only regret I may have would be that I did not do it earlier in my life. I lost a few years of "energy" by not being healthy.

Final thoughts:

I think the best advice I would give is never give up — don't focus on the "I can't do it" mentality and just do what you can one step at a time. Every small success is a step in the right direction and eventually all the little steps merge together and form a giant leap in the right direction.

I tell people that changing only one thing at a time makes the burden of losing weight easier — you don't get overwhelmed when it is only one change at a time.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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