The Exact Steps That Helped Me Lose 80 Pounds (2024)

Once Elisha Villanueva realized what DIDN’T work, she dropped the extra weight for good.

by Elisha Villanueva as told to Ashley Oerman
The Exact Steps That Helped Me Lose 80 Pounds (1)

Before: 220

After: 138

The Lifestyle
Growing up, I was always a chubby kid, but my whole family was on the heavy side, so I didn't worry much about it until college. During my first year out of high school, a friend and I found this weight-loss clinic in our area. The staff there told us to start taking vitamin B12 shots, gave us some weight-loss pills, and advised us to stop eating all carbohydrates. Sosince I had no knowledge of how to cook or what to do with a vegetable, I became super malnourished. I was basically eating meat and cheese. After losing 20 pounds over the course of two months, my mom took me to the doctor because I was shaky, sweaty, and had horrible stomach cramps. The doctor told me that I had to eat normally again.I went back to noshing on leftover pasta and breadsticks from the restaurant where I worked. I gained back those 20 pounds I had lost—and then some.

After that, I gave up on losing weight. I got married, became pregnant with my first son, and gained 50 pounds. Not long after, I got pregnant with my second son. At that time, I weighed 200 pounds.

Six weeks after giving birth to my second kid, I stepped on the scale at my doctor's office and realized that I hadn't lost any weight since having him. I was shocked that I was 220 pounds. Since I grew up overweight, I didn't want my children to go to school and be the chubby kid. In addition to that, I couldn't believe that I was still wearing my maternity jeans. It was time to do something.

The Exact Steps That Helped Me Lose 80 Pounds (2)

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The Change
I told myself that I was done buying jeans until I got to a smaller size. The first thing I did was talk to my mom, who was on Weight Watchers,about how to count calories. Then, I started using the My Fitness Pal app to track what I was eating.

I started to substitute my unhealthy calories for healthy ones: I wouldmaketacos with ground turkey instead of beef, wrapmy burgers in lettuce, and make homemade sweet potato fries.

After losing about 10 pounds, I felt really good. One of my friends convinced me to join the gym with her, and we began taking step aerobics classes. I loved it. I was shocked that exercising actually helped boost my weight loss. I thought, "Why haven't I tried this exercise thing before?"

As I continued to lose weight, I started running and really enjoyed it. I heard about this charity that supports African families in need of clean water and decided to run a half-marathon to support it. It was hard to train for, but I pushed through and finished it in less than two hours!

A little more than a year after starting out, I'd lost 82 pounds and weighed 138 pounds.

RELATED:These Weight-Loss Transformation Photos Are Like None You've Ever Seen Before

The Reward
When my first son was 1 year old, he wanted to go down a tube slide at the park, but I couldn't do it because I didn't fit in it. Now, I don't have any problems like that. I can run around with them without getting winded, and it feels really good. Losing weight also inspired me to start my company Flex It Pink, an online support network for women who are trying to lose weight. It's rewarding to know that by changing my life, I'm inspiring others.

RELATED:6 Women Share How They Got Back on Track After Gaining Weight

Elisha's Tips
Don't let gaining weight back get you down. Six months after hitting my goal weight, my family and I moved to another state. The move totally messed with my routine, and I gained 20 pounds. It was hard to get back on track, but I knew that I shouldn’t give up on my health. I found a fresh routine that worked for my new life and lost all the weight I gained.

Surround yourself with supportive people. Having the support of my friend who kept me company at the gym was key to my success. She encouraged me to keep working outand pushing myself.

Try not to focus on the scale alone. When I started losing weight, my step aerobics instructor always commented on how I kept getting smaller every time he saw me. Though I didn't really see a huge difference on the scale, that positive feedback, along with how much better I felt, motivated me to keep going.

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The Exact Steps That Helped Me Lose 80 Pounds (2024)


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