Courtesy Ashley Gold; Brad Ziegler Photography

"I feel amazing, I feel accomplished – and I feel like I'm not done," Gold tells PEOPLE

June 08, 2015 02:55 PM

Hardcore Pawn‘s Ashley Gold decided to make a lifestyle change following an eye-opening visit to her doctor.

“After the New Year I went in for my physical, and my physician looked at me and goes, ‘You are obese for your height’,” the reality star – who is 5’3″ and weighed 180 lbs. – tells PEOPLE. ” ‘You have to be really careful.’ ”

“That’s when it clicked for me,” she continues. “I took charge of myself because my kids are young. I have to live for my family and I have to live for me. I want to be healthy.”

The wakeup call inspired her to make some major improvements to her diet and exercise routines – eventually leading to a 35-lb. weight loss.

“I’ve been heavy a lot of life, and I had had enough,” she says. “I was sick and tired of seeing myself fat on camera. After the New Year, I revamped my life 180 degrees.”

Gold, 37, began by gradually eliminating unhealthy foods from her diet.

“I’ve been a yo-yo dieter my whole life, and I’m done being the yo-yo,” she says. “I started with cutting out Diet Coke. I cut out red meat next, and then I cut out desserts, and slowly I started seeing a pound, 2 lbs., 5 lbs. [coming off]. I was like, ‘Okay this is working.’ ”

While her go-to meals used to come from Taco Bell and McDonald’s, Gold’s typical diet now consists of three egg whites and half a cup of berries for breakfast; three egg whites with vegetables, feta and sliced tomatoes for lunch; a Quest protein bar or a piece of grilled chicken for a snack; and a chicken breast, large salad and a complex carb such as brown rice or half of a baked potato for dinner.

“I knew that if I called it a diet I would never succeed with it, so I had to make a lifestyle change,” she says of her new approach to food.

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Once the weight starting coming off, Gold eased herself into a regular exercise routine.

“I hadn’t worked out in a long time,” she says. “Slowly, when I started seeing the weight drop off I thought, ‘I can’t fail, I’m not going to fail,’ so then I started walking.”

Soon walking became running, and Gold now runs 3.1 miles four times a week, logs 17,000 steps each day on her Fitbit, and has completed a 5K with another coming up soon.

“I used to hate running,” she admits. “Now I crave it.”

One of the best parts of her weight loss – aside from dropping from a size 32 jean to a size 27 – is the energy she now has to play with her two kids, who are both under 10.

“I can play basketball with my son, and when my daughter practices her dance routine, I can dance with her,” says Gold. “I’m active again. I have that youth in me again.”

Gold feels like she has a new lease on life, and hopes to continue losing weight.

“I used to think enjoying life was going out to dinner with my family and enjoying dessert,” she says. “I used to revolve my life around food, and that’s not what it’s all about. I feel amazing, I feel accomplished, and I feel like I’m not done.”

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