Samantha Call’s weight loss journey began as the result of a tragic loss.
Call – who said she was “always the big girl” growing up and reached 265 lbs. by her senior year of high school – lost her father to heart disease in 2008. Her dad, who had struggled with obesity, was just 48-years-old.
“I’ll never forget sitting with my [12-year-old] brother after my dad had passed, when he told me ‘Samantha, I don’t want you to die like daddy did,’ Call, now 33, told PEOPLE. “That broke my heart but gave me the drive that I needed to start my journey.”
First, the Callis, Maine resident consulted with her doctor. “My blood pressure was through the roof,” says Call. “I had wanted to get gastric bypass [surgery] because I felt like I had failed so many times on diets. I couldn’t stick with it. But, my doctor pushed me to lose the weight for myself and on my own. It lit a fire under me.”
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In early 2009, Call found success with Atkins. And after a year and a half got down to 132 lbs. Call has maintained her weight loss for about seven years.
“I’ve always been someone who loved bacon and loved eggs, that was easy to me,” Call said of her new low carb program. “How many diets can you do that you get to eat bacon and eggs every morning?”
She also learned to love lean meats and vegetables, and now enjoys making her own healthy meals. “My fiancé is very supportive with what I cook us for dinner,” she says. “He’s always been a physically fit guy so it helps. He’s a huge support.”
While losing weight, Call gradually added in exercise, and now works out for an hour in the morning before work. “It’s part of my daily routine,” says Call, who switches between fitness DVDs, a Pilates ball and at-home gym equipment. She even ran a half-marathon two years ago, and hopes to do more in the future.
Still on Atkins, she also allows herself a cheat day once a week, but doesn’t go overboard. “I have my mind fixated on one thing that I’m going to have,” she says. For example, instead of the three large plates of fried, carb-heavy food she used to get a Chinese buffet, Call now has a small plate and maybe half an egg roll. “It’s all about portion control.”
Another big change? Her confidence. Call, who was married once before, felt uncomfortable wearing her wedding dress at her previous size.
“I look at those photos and it was unflattering,” she says. “I’m excited for the fact that I’ll be able to pick out a beautiful dress and feel good about myself because I was very self-conscious about myself the first time around. I’m happy that I’ll look and feel good.”