Photo: Jasmine Parent / Instagram
This story originally appeared on Health.com by Samantha Lauriello.
Jasmine Parent had always struggled with her weight. But during her senior year of college in 2012, she thought she was finally getting it under control. She was lighter than she had been in years, and she loved how she felt. But the next year her dad passed away, and eating quickly became an outlet to ease her grief.
Related: 8 Best Foods to Eat for Weight Loss
"I began emotionally eating without even really realizing it," Parent, who is from Canada, tells Health. "For the three years after my dad passed away, I was just gaining, gaining, gaining." In 2016, she gave birth to her first daughter, causing her weight to go up to 250 pounds. A second pregnancy resulted in more weight gain, and the number on the scale passed 300.
It wasn't until December 2017 that she had her ah-ha moment. She was at an annual Christmas get-together with her closest friends, and as they do every year, they took a group photo. "I had this moment where I saw myself in the photo, and I just hadn't realized how different I looked and how much weight I had gained," she says. "That photo was the end of me not coming to terms with it."
Not long after, she was on Instagram searching for inspiration when she came across something called the 21-Day Meal Plan. It was only $20. "That's probably how much I spent on McDonald's last week," Parent recalled thinking at the time, and signed up. She asked her partner, Jeremy Crawley, to do it with her, and they "dove in head first."
Parent says she knew she wanted a plan that gave her some structure but wasn't crazy restrictive, which is what made her effort ultimately successful. The diet she tried simply provides a list of foods users are allowed to eat. There's no strict timing or portion sizes; it's all about eating whole foods.
It's called the 21-Day Meal Plan because experts believe if you can do something for 21 days, you can likely stick to it. That's what's happened for Parent. "I'm on month 13 of the plan," she says. "We've been able to make it just our regular way of eating."
At age 29, she's now down to 174 pounds, lighter than she was in 2012, when she weighed about 198.
Parent says the biggest difference she notices now that she's lost so much weight is her "overall patience as a partner, as a mother, as a friend, as everything." She also says she's dealt with anxiety her whole life, but losing weight has helped her take control of those emotions. "I always say I no longer sweat the small stuff... Now, things just kind of roll right off of my back. I'm so much more relaxed. Life itself feels less stressful because my overall mood has improved."
Basically, everything just feels better, she says. Plus, she loves what she sees when she looks in the mirror.
What advice would she give to others looking to lose weight and get healthy? Parent says it's all about finding a weight-loss plan that fits your lifestyle. Everyone is different; some people will succeed with a plan that allows flexibility, while others do better having every meal mapped out for them. If you're looking to drop pounds, take some time and really think about what will work for you.
"You want to start something you're going to be able to finish," she says. "You want it to be something you can do for life, not something that sounds like a quick fix. It has to be something sustainable, for you, for your life, for your everyday."
This article originally appeared on Health.com