Haley Smith was overjoyed when her now-husband Matt popped the question last year – until she saw photos of the proposal.
“I saw them and didn’t even recognize myself,” Smith, 24, 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.”
The graduate student in psychology decided to make “slow habit changes” to effectively lose weight.
“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.”
Source: Hayley Smith/Instagram
#tbt to my proposal size vs two days before the wedding. It's been a long 15 months of some hard work. There's about 110lbs difference in these two pictures. Sometimes I can't believe the picture on the left was actually me. And sometimes I can't believe that the picture on the right is me. 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! 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! #throwbackthursday #transformationtuesday #transformation #weightlosstransformation #beforeandafterweightloss #beforeandafter #weightloss #sweatingforthewedding #fitbride #BOD
The Amarillo, Texas-based newlywed started with not eating after 8 p.m. and only eating out twice a week. Then she began logging her food and tracking her 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.
WATCH: Carrie Underwood on Her Past Weight Loss: I Didn’t Always Do It the Best Way
In just over a year, Smith lost about 110 lbs. – but it definitely wasn’t easy for her to always stay on track.
“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.”
#transformationtuesday I've been asked to post my story a couple of times, so here goes. The left picture was on my proposal day on July 18, 2015, and the right was my bridal shower on August 6, 2016. When Matt proposed last year, I saw my pictures and didn't even recognize myself. My whole adult life, I have struggled with my weight, but this was my highest. I had let myself go and didn't even realize how far I had gotten. On that day, I made up my mind to make a change. I was tired of hiding in pictures, getting winded walking across a parking lot, skipping out on activities, feeling lazy, and most of all being embarrassed of myself. No ONE thing made me how I am today. It was a combination of about every health and fitness option I could find. So don't think there's some magic pill, wrap, gym membership, meal, vitamin, app, surgery, diet, workout, waist trainer, book, hypnosis, shake, powder or anything else that will just do it for you. It's finding your own way and using the tools that work for you. It's making the right healthy choices for your body. In the last year, I've made some big life choices and huge lifestyle changes, and I couldn't be more happy with myself. I still have a long way to go on this journey, and I'm not giving up. #beforeandafter #motivation #weightloss #weightlossjourney #proposal #bridalshower
Her hard work paid off – last week, Smith got married in the wedding dress of her dreams and felt more confident than ever.
“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.”
“I honestly never thought I would feel so happy and carefree about myself on my wedding day,” Smith adds.