Many brides vow to lose weight before the big day, but few are as successful as Haley Smith. The 24-year-old newlywed lost 110 pounds in just over a year by gradually making small lifestyle changes.
She says she finally felt motivated to shed the pounds after seeing her engagement photos last year.
“I saw them and didn’t even recognize myself,” Smith tells People. “I cried because this was one of the happiest moments of my life, but I was just so ashamed. I didn’t understand how Matt could want to be with someone like me. After seeing those, I knew I needed to change.”
Right then and there, the psychology grad student decided to make “slow habit changes,” rather than try a fad diet like she had done (and failed) so many times before.
“I had tried drastic diets or workouts in the past and always failed after a matter of weeks,” says Smith. “With the small changes, I would just pick two habits and after about a week or two of sticking to it, I’d pick two more.”
First, she cut back on eating out to just twice a week and stopped eating after 8 p.m. Next, she began logging her food and water intake.
“Tackling those small, feasible changes made snowballing into running three times a week and adding strength training so much more doable,” she says.
In just over a year, the Texas native lost about 110 lbs — though she admits that the journey hasn’t always been easy.
“Motivation has been such a tricky thing,” explains Smith. “Even with the small habit changes, I go through so many cycles of being bored or discouraged. When I am, I really try to find different ways of staying motivated. For example, I have decorated my scale, I hang motivational quotes and signs all over my house, I love daily goal charts that I can physically check off having completed a task, I bought a Fitbit, and one of my biggest motivations has been starting my fitness Instagram account. It really helps to keep me mindful of all of this while being held accountable.”
And indeed, her Instagram page, which serves motivational tool, has amassed more than 54,000 followers. Smith posts everything from her healthy meals to her workouts and even — drumroll please — her stunning wedding photos.
That’s right. After all her hard work, Smith married her high school sweetheart wearing her dream wedding dress last week, and she says she felt more confident than ever walking down the aisle.
“It is so surreal,” she says. “I thought for sure I would get married in a long-sleeve ball gown dress to hide my whole body, but I ended up picking a strapless mermaid dress. I felt so beautiful in it! Instead of being self-conscious and hiding or sweating the whole time, I was able to feel confident, relax, enjoy my family and friends.”
Looking back at her incredible weight loss journey, Smith is amazed at what she’s accomplished and has advice for other women out there who are trying to lose weight.
“It’s a weird feeling, but I’m proud of how far I’ve come. I’m not at goal weight or goal size, but I’m going to keep pushing!” she says. “Don’t quit just because you are starting to feel comfortable with your body! Keep pushing, there’s always room for improvement and always new goals to crush!”
She also encourages patience and self love. “When you are feeling discouraged because there is no progress on the scale, give it time,” she says. “It’s not all about numbers. Cheat meals aren’t the answer of course, but trust in the process, keep working and be patient.”