BEFORE 220 lbs
AFTER 139 lbs
Chips, sugary drinks, cookouts stocked with potato salad—that's how Donesha Bolden, now 34, describes life as a kid. In high school, she chased softball games with burgers, and any attempt at dieting was brief: "I would try not to eat all day, but I'd get home and let loose," she says. When Donesha, who is 5'3", moved from North Carolina to Atlanta for a teaching job in 2010, she weighed over 200 pounds and wore a size 24.
Settled in Atlanta, Donesha joined a workout group led by a trainer but admittedly used it as an excuse to indulge. Then, in late 2011, the phone rang: Donesha's 35-year-old cousin had passed away, and the cause of death was high blood pressure due to obesity. "I realized I had lost my cousin to something that was very controllable," she says. "And I knew these things were in my blood."
Donesha buckled down. She started waking up early to run three extra miles before work, then hit the gym or the track—instead of happy hour—again in the evening. She really began to shrink when she learned to cook instead of eating out, whipping up tilapia and steamed broccoli and nibbling baked sweet potatoes instead of salty bagged snacks. In two months, she lost 30 pounds. When she quit skipping breakfast and started each day with oatmeal and fruit instead (research shows a healthy breakfast can rev your metabolism), Donesha hit 160 pounds by November 2012. She bought a portion-control plate to keep an eye on volume and lifted ever-heavier weights during workouts. "By the time I got to 160, I just didn't want to stop," she says. By September 2013, she weighed 139.
Donesha's new silhouette has made her a fitness fashionista: "I get so excited to buy a new pair of running shoes—and it used to be a new pair of heels!" she says. She's also become an Instagram junkie. She uses the site (catch her at @trainingformylife) to show off her bod and to inspire others to follow suit. "When a person tells me they want to look out for their health because they saw me do it, that's reward enough," she says.