Janice “JJ” Jobity was always fit growing up, but when she was mistreated in a relationship, she turned to food to cope.
“I stopped caring for myself as much as I should have,” the Toronto-based finance project analyst, 36, tells PEOPLE. “I was depressed. I just kind of tuned out of the world, and food became my everything. I would eat pizza, hamburgers, any type of junk food. I would eat cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and eventually I was gaining 10 lbs. each year. I racked up 120 lbs. in the course of eight years.”
By 2015, Jobity had hit her highest weight of 260 lbs. and started feeling excruciating stomach pain.
“When I went to my doctor they explained I had a stomach ulcer, and that all those years of soda had damaged my stomach,” she says.
Learning that the way she ate had medical consequences came as a shock to Jobity, who resolved to start taking boot camp classes soon after her diagnosis.
And it wasn’t easy. “The first day of the workout, I broke a toenail,” she says. “My shins were hurting, I was in all types of pain. But I thought, ‘I’m not stopping.’ ”
In addition to working out six days a week, Jobity overhauled her diet. “The only time I’d ever had pineapple was on pizza, and now I love fruit,” she says.
“I cut out fried food — that was the number one thing I did and it made a big difference,” she says. “I cut out soda… I decided to eat more vegetables, fruits, more chicken.”
She describes her weight loss meal plan as “simple,” and she often eats the same thing for lunch and dinner. “I love salad and chicken,” she says. “Salad and chicken are my everything!”
She also documented her journey on her Instagram, @beautifuljlj, and now has more than 17,000 followers. “The love that I get is beautiful. I get people messaging me from Africa, like around the world. They’re inspired and they want to get healthy. It’s a gift and I love it.”
Jobity admits that sometimes it was hard to stay motivated to stick to her changes during her weight loss journey, and credits counseling with helping her stay on track.
“You have to fix what’s going on inside before you can fix the outside,” she says. “The mind is a powerful thing through the weight loss journey, more than anything else. A lot of weight loss is mental.”
For more inspiring weight loss stories, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.
Now Jobity is down 148 lbs. and finally feels at peace with herself.
“I’m just coming to a place of, I’m healthy, I can run up stairs, I exercise, I’m happy,” she says. “I’m reaching a point of peace, and that’s pretty much what I wanted from this journey — just peace.”