Believe it or not, a year and a half ago, 21-year-old Jessica Beniquez weighed over 320 pounds—and she was miserable.
‘I didn’t feel comfortable,’ she told People. ‘Getting out of bed was hard… I knew I needed to lose weight because I had high blood pressure, but it took me over a year to realize how dangerous that is—and to do something about it.’
A few bad habits had brought her to that point. A self-described ‘picky eater,’ the Florida resident ate fast food every day, and chicken nuggets, pasta, and fries were staples in her diet. She also routinely binge-watched TV shows on Netflix. “All I did was eat, go to work, and watch my shows,’ Beniquez said. (Don’t miss the most jaw-dropping weight transformations on Instagram.)
When Beniquez finally committed to making a change in the beginning of 2016, the first challenge she tackled was her diet. Soon, her meals and snacks took on a completely different color (literally!) Foods such as carrots and hummus, yogurt, cottage cheese, HerbaLife shakes, and grilled chicken salads made regular appearances on her plate. ‘I opened my tastebuds up to new things,’ she said.
Beniquez also started taking walks every night and doing exercises she saw on YouTube. Later on, she joined a gym, and has worked her way up to two-hour sessions every day.
Beniquez documented her entire weight loss journey on Instagram. In addition to receiving support in person and online, she says it kept her accountable. ‘People would come up to me at the gym and say, ‘Wow, congratulations—you’ve come such a long way,’’ Beniquez said. Now, she works at the front desk at the gym and hopes to become a certified trainer.
Today, Beniquez weighs in at 145 pounds—an incredible 175-pound difference. She hopes that her story will encourage others to take control of their health, as well. ‘I wanted to show them that I could do it, and they can, too,’ Beniquez said. ‘I never expected to be where I am today. I was shy, but now I have so much more confidence, I have so much more energy.’
Read more: The key to lose weight? Eat more!