Tanya lost 154 lbs*

*Results may vary from person to person

A bad relationship, the stress of caring for three autistic children, and a taste for greasy junk food all led to Tanya Phillips piling on the pounds.

“I didn’t let myself see how big I was becoming. I knew my clothes were getting tighter, but I just didn’t want to admit it.”

When Tanya’s marriage ended in 2006, she became a single mom to Jordan, 10, Natashja, 8 and Xzavaier, 6.

The marriage had not been a happy one, and Tanya began to eat for comfort and as a defense. “I used food as a shell to protect myself from guys,” she says.

It wasn’t the first time she had struggled with a warped attitude towards food. “I’ve been at both ends of the spectrum,” she says. “I’ve been anorexic as well.”

As she ballooned to a size 28, she refused to acknowledge that her weight was out of control.

“I could look in the mirror and see myself as smaller. I just didn’t want to know I was putting on all that weight.”

A typical day for Tanya would start without breakfast. “I’d just eat all throughout the rest of the day,” she says. Lunch would be two large bowls of pasta, leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, or three sandwiches.

“I’d snack on chips, and I loved uncooked instant noodles, so I’d eat about three packages of those during the day too.”

And dinner? “Everything was huge, and so greasy. I can’t eat it now. I picture how disgusting it looked around the edges, all greasy, and it makes me feel sick! But I used to love that grease. I’d use bread to soak it all up.”

Changing ways

Tanya’s startled realization that she had, in fact, become obese was her breakthrough moment.

Her brother had injured himself and was looking for a hobby while he recuperated. Tanya let him borrow her camera, and it was photographs he took of her that made her finally resolve to lose weight.

“I couldn’t believe I was SO big,” she says. “I’m usually the person on the other side of the camera.”

Tanya had tried other diets before, but never stuck to them. “I started one in 2009, and I lasted a week. Then I went to McDonald’s and ordered two Double Quarter Pounders. But not just the burgers — I bought the whole meal, so I had two large orders of fries and two large drinks, too!”

“I had bought some Biggest Loser products in 2009. In September 2010 I finally opened them, and in the box there was a free membership to The Biggest Loser Club. So I signed up, and I stayed. And the weight fell off, thank God!” she says.

By October 2011, Tanya’s weight had dropped to 154 lbs — half of what she’d weighed the year before.

“I’m still getting used to it. I have a lot more energy, so I can cope with my kids better. Sometimes I still go to the plus-size section when I’m shopping because I forget I’ve lost so much weight!”

“I went to buy some jeans the other day and the salesperson handed me a size 10 pair. I thought, ‘Those aren’t going to fit me!’ But they did!”

A pair of blue boardshorts that she wore on rare trips to the beach is now so large that her entire body fits in one of the legs. “I look at them and think, ‘These couldn’t possibly be mine,’” she says.

And there’s no proof that they ever were, because she wouldn’t allow anyone to take pictures of her at the beach. “I remember they were skin-tight on my thighs, and I couldn’t tie them at the waist.”

Another reason you’d never know those enormous shorts were Tanya’s? She’s now the picture of health as she poses for our photographer in her size 10 skinny jeans, her long hair in waves down her back. She’s a natural.

Tanya’s weight loss triggered another life-changing decision. “I’m studying to be a personal trainer,” she says. “Right now I can run group training sessions. When I’m finished, I’ll be qualified to do one-on-one personal training, too.”

“I want to show people that it is achievable. You don’t have to have gastric bypass surgery to lose weight. You can do it yourself with diet and exercise.”

Tanya says focusing on food has been the most important part of her weight loss. “I was so big that I couldn’t even exercise when I first started, because it hurt my knees so much.”

Once she becomes a certified personal trainer, she plans to study nutrition in order to provide people with a holistic weight loss plan.

These days she eats toast or cereal for breakfast, steamed chicken with vegetables for lunch, and more protein and vegetables for dinner. She snacks on fruits and nuts. And when she feels cravings coming on? “I have a lollipop for the sugar rush!”

Tanya’s tips for staying on track:

For Tanya, the best thing about losing weight isn’t fitting into size 10 jeans or dressing up for photo shoots. It’s regaining her health and knowing she’ll be around for her three children.

“They’ll grow up with a healthy mom, and I’ll be around much longer than I would have been. That hit home — I was gaining all this weight, which meant I was developing health problems. What would have happened to my kids if I passed away?”

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