Lindsey Awad weighed nearly 300 lbs. when she decided she needed to change her life and get healthy.
“I hit rock bottom,” the radiologic technician, 25, tells PEOPLE. “I was down, I wasn’t happy. I could feel it affecting my life, and I just needed to do something about it. I made a New Year’s resolution, and I was like, ‘I’ve really just got to do it this time.'”
Before making her resolution in January 2015, Awad had never made healthy eating a priority.
“I really wasn’t a big breakfast eater, and I wasn’t snacker, but at meals I was overeating,” she says. “I had pasta a lot — I could have pasta for lunch and then dinner. I was always eating takeout, I wasn’t cooking a lot.”
“I followed the plan in that book to a T, and in the first two or three weeks I lost 15 lbs.,” she says — but it wasn’t easy.
“The whole thing is totally mental,” says Awad. “It was hard. You really have to have in your mind that you’re going to do this, and you just stick with it and see what happens. The first time I got on a scale and saw the progress, I was like, ‘I’m definitely not going to stop.'”
She also began slowly incorporating physical exercise into her routine with 30-minute walks around the block. To keep herself on track, Awad began chronicling her progress on Instagram.
“It helped me to not fail, especially when I was getting down,” says Awad, who now has over 4,000 followers. “People were watching me so I thought, ‘I can’t falter now.’ It definitely helped me stay motivated.”
Now down 120 lbs., Awad has fully embraced a healthy lifestyle.
“I usually work out four or five times a week,” she says. “I lift weights and I do cardio, and I’m an avid runner now. I just ran my first half marathon a couple of weekends ago.”
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While she is no longer vegan, Awad sticks to a clean diet consisting of lean protein and vegetables.
“I just had to think about food in a different way,” she says. “I had to totally rework my life and how I ate. It doesn’t seem like I’m on a diet, it’s just a better, healthy lifestyle.”
And she says the changes have greatly improved her overall quality of life.
“I just have so much more energy now,” she says. “I like going shopping now. Everything is totally different. I remember what I felt like — I never wanted to do anything. I just wanted to sit and watch TV. Now I’m constantly go, go, go.”
And while she still allows herself to eat pasta on occasion, it’s a treat rather than a daily occurrence.
“I will still have a cheat meal on the weekends, but I don’t do that all the time!”