The mental trick that helped one woman lose 140 pounds: It 'kept me motivated'

Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.

Kayla Cody is 26, 5-foot-2, and currently weighs 140 pounds. In 2013, after struggling with her weight for most of her life, she decided to get healthier to prepare for weight-loss surgery. Once she started losing weight, she realized she could do it on her own. This is her weight-loss story.

The Turning Point

Since I was about 9 or 10 years old, my weight has been an issue. I have been struggling with dieting and trying to lose weight from a very young age.

When I was 20 years old and a senior in college, I was very depressed, overweight, and unmotivated. I was drinking a lot, smoking cigarettes, and eating a poor diet. I knew if I didn’t make a serious life change, I was going to end up with major health issues or even dead. At my heaviest, I weighed 280 pounds and I was considering gastric bypass surgery.

“At my heaviest, I weighed 280 pounds.” (Photo: Courtesy of Kayla Cody)

The Changes

I was able to tackle my weight loss one step at a time. My first motivation was to get gastric bypass surgery. I went to a seminar to get educated about the surgery, and then I quit drinking alcohol, smoking, and eating bad foods immediately. I didn’t want anything in my life more than I wanted that surgery and to be skinny. Before you can get approved for the surgery, though, you must go through different health evaluations as well as see a nutritionist for six months, to prove to doctors you can maintain a healthy diet. After three months of learning about nutrition, I started to lose weight without even trying very hard. After that, I decided that I didn’t want the surgery and I could just put a little extra work into it and lose the weight on my own. I also didn’t want the extra health issues that would have come from the surgery, especially since I now felt like I had another option. That other option for me was exercising and eating healthy in order to lose the weight.

I started out by eating healthy foods that I already knew I liked. I enjoyed things like chicken, broccoli, green beans, eggs, and oatmeal. I found healthier substitutes for foods that I would normally eat. I didn’t make it feel like I was on a diet. If I wanted chicken fingers, I would make my own out of chicken breast and seasonings. I would bake my food instead of frying it — I made little changes like this to my diet so I could enjoy what I was eating. It doesn’t make sense to go on a diet with foods you hate because the diet isn’t going to last if you don’t like it. To this day, I still don’t like salad, so I don’t eat it. I get my greens from spinach and other substitutes that I like.

When I began exercising, I started by walking on a treadmill. I wasn’t going that fast and after 10-20 minutes I would be short of breath and sweating, but I kept working at it until I got better. Every day I would be able to last longer or increase the speed. After working out in the gym regularly, I started to get to know some of the other regulars at the gym, and they taught me how to use weights. I just kept progressing from there.

I felt discouraged at first because most of the people at the gym were more athletic than I was. Even with these thoughts, I stuck to it and the weight kept falling off. Every time I was able to see my weight go down on the scale or I was able to fit into a smaller pair of pants, I would get a rush of excitement. I began to just set little goals for myself. At first my goal was to get to 250 pounds, then 220, then 200. Every time I would reach a goal, I would set a new one.

Because I set small goals, they were easier for me to reach, and I got less discouraged. If I started off saying I wanted to lose 140 pounds, I would have never stuck with it. Because I set small, manageable goals, they were easier to reach and kept me motivated.

“I feel amazing.” (Photo: Courtesy of Kayla Cody)

The After

Physically and emotionally, I feel amazing. I am more confident in myself, and I push myself in every aspect of my life. If I can lose the weight, why can’t I reach other goals? I chose to go back to school to get my paralegal certification. I am currently working full time as a litigation assistant, while also working part time as a server. I am saving money and working part time so I can pay for skin removal surgery. I am in a completely different mindset than I was years ago because I’ve realized that there is no goal or dream that I cannot achieve if I am willing to work for it.

I am not sure if it is that I have more confidence in myself, or if I am more approachable, but I have found that many people are nicer and treat me differently now that I am skinnier. I have also found that just because I am skinnier, that doesn’t mean I can give up on my routine. I have to watch my diet every day and keep working out to maintain the body I have worked so hard for. It truly is a lifestyle change, not just a diet.

My ultimate goal is to be able to inspire other people to do the things I’ve done because there is nothing special about me. If I can do it, anyone can.

Kayla now works out five days a week. (Photo: Courtesy of Kayla Cody)

The Maintenance

These days, I work out an hour to an hour and a half a day, five days a week. I do about 20 minutes of cardio and the rest is weight training. I work out a different muscle group every day so I can get stronger and keep losing weight.

I prepare my meals every day before I go to work. I eat about 1,500 calories a day and eat foods that are low in calories and rounded between healthy fats, proteins, and carbs. If I do decide to have a “cheat meal” or eat something that is outside of my diet plan, I do it and don’t let it discourage me. I just make sure not to have too many cheat meals and I make up for them by exercising regularly. I have found that when I used to go off my diet I would get discouraged and mad at myself. I don’t do that anymore because that only adds negativity and causes me to lose my motivation.

My daily habits include waking up every morning and going to the gym before work. I find that working out is the perfect way to start my day and better than any cup of coffee. Some mornings I don’t want to get out of bed, but I push myself and go anyway. It makes it easier if I get my gym clothes ready the night before, so I don’t give myself time to make up excuses for why I can’t go.

What is motivating me right now is the dream of skin removal surgery. I never thought I would be as small as I am now. The fact that I have been able to lose 140 pounds is a dream I never thought I would reach, however because of how much weight I lost, I have a lot of extra skin that will not go away without surgery.

‘What is motivating me right now is the dream of skin removal surgery.” (Photo: Courtesy of Kayla Cody)

The Struggles

One thing I struggle with today is keeping myself motivated. When I hit a point in my workout where I do not see any progress being made, it is very easy to become discouraged. I will sometimes hit a plateau and be unsure of how to continue to lose weight or build muscle. I’ve learned that the best thing to do is to stick with it and even with baby steps, I will improve.

“Every time you reach a new goal, set another.” (Photo: Courtesy of Kayla Cody)


My advice is to make the small decisions and choices. You don’t have to aim to lose 100 pounds. Aim to lose five or 10. Every time you reach a new goal, set another. It’s a lot easier to complete a task if you break it up into smaller, more manageable pieces. Consistency is the key, so don’t give up.

Visit GoFundMe to help Kayla with the cost of her skin removal surgery.

Need more inspiration? Read about our other weight-loss winners!

Weight-Loss Win is authored by Andie Mitchell, who underwent a transformative, 135-pound weight loss of her own.

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