Tonya Watkin's story is familiar for many who have struggled with their weight.
"I used food as a means to deal with happiness sadness and anger," the 44-year-old mom told POPSUGAR. "Food was my so called drug of choice." She grew up as an overweight kid with an Italian family that pushed food "constantly," she said. She loved bread, pasta, and lots of sweets.
She started to have a love of fitness in high school, but still didn't lose much weight. "I started teaching fitness classes; I was that fat instructor that when student walked in, I would see the smirks," she told POPSUGAR. "I was very fit but overweight. I continued my love of food throughout most of my adult life."
Tonya's Highest Weight
Tonya hit her highest weight when she got pregnant with her first son, who is now 14 years old. She weighed 250 pounds when she got pregnant and gained 100 pounds throughout her pregnancy. Even though she was gaining weight, Tonya was still teaching workout classes all throughout her pregnancy.
Her Lightbulb Moment
Once Tonya had her son, she decided to change her life for good. "Once I had my son, I decided it was time to watch food," she said. "No more overeating and [no more] fast food runs."
She also kicked her fitness routine up a notch when she started running. After she started running, she lost all of her pregnancy weight and then some within the first six months. Soon, she developed a passion for running and progressed on to marathons, then 50K races, then 50-mile races. She's even attempted to run 100 miles several times and has made it as far as 70 miles(!!!).
How She's Kept the Weight Off
After her weight loss, Tonya got her personal training certification and became the group exercise director for a gym in Cleveland. And even though she gained another 100 pounds with her second pregnancy, she knew what she needed to do lose the weight — she lost it all within four months.
Aside from her second pregnancy weight gain, she has maintained her weight, between 140 and 148 pounds, for 14 years. She uses the Lose It app to track her calories and wears a heart-rate monitor to track how many calories she's burned. And she eats what she likes, she just eats it in moderation.
In addition to running, Tonya teaches Spinning, weight training, yoga, and step aerobics at her gym. She also does about 200-300 kettlebell swings a day.
"I mentally tell myself every day I can do this and no one will stop me from goals," she said. "I hope to motivate others by saying if I can do it, anyone can. Don't give it up; take it day by day. If you fall, get back up. Believe in yourself."