This Woman Dropped 175 Lbs. and Gained Confidence Along the Way: 'I'm a Completely Different Person'
Jessica Beniquez, 21, documented her weight loss journey on social media
After being overweight for her entire life, Jessica Beniquez had some bad habits to break to lose 175 lbs.
“I was a very picky eater. I didn’t stick a vegetable in my mouth. I ate fast food every day, and would pretty much only eat chicken nuggets, pasta and fries,” the 21-year-old tells PEOPLE. And her lifestyle had turned sedentary, despite having played sports in high school. “I laid in bed watching series after series on Netflix. All I did was eat, go to work and watch my shows.”
At over 320 lbs., her weight took a toll on her body. “I didn’t feel comfortable,” says the Spring Hill, Florida resident. “Getting out of bed was hard. I felt miserable. I knew I needed to lose weight because I had high blood pressure, but it took me over a year to realize how dangerous that is — and to do something about it.”
At the end of February 2016, Beniquez finally committed to her health.
“I was about to start a whole other series on Netflix, and I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ I didn’t want to sit in bed and do nothing. I felt so lazy. I didn’t even hang out with my friends.”
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She added: “At the moment I [decided] to do it, I ordered Herbalife shakes that day. If I didn’t, I honestly don’t think I’d be where I am right now. I got the shakes and never looked back.”
Beniquez was “strict” about sticking to her new diet. “I was consuming about 1200-1500 calories per day,” she says. After three months of having two shakes a day and one meal with some snacks in between, and an additional five months of consuming one shake a day and two meals with snacks, she eventually “quit the [Herbalife] shakes all together” in October 2016.
Her go-to foods included lunch meats, carrots and hummus, yogurt, cottage cheese and grilled chicken salads. And two months ago, she started drinking a different kind of protein shake, adding fruit, oatmeal or a flaxseed, for breakfast. “I opened my tastebuds up to new things,” she says.
From the beginning of her weight loss journey, Beniquez also became active.
“The day after I ordered the shakes I was walking. I walked a mile and a half to two miles a night,” she then joined a gym a month later, which was not an easy thing for her to do.
“I procrastinated because I was nervous what to do in the gym. I didn’t want people to look at me. It’s embarrassing when you’re young and really big. Walking through a gym, you see a lot of fit people and I was super intimated by that,” says Beniquez, who started by working with a trainer and doing exercises she saw on YouTube. “But once I got the gym membership I exercised every single day for an hour, then eventually it turned into an hour and a half, and now I’m at two hours maybe more.”
And she got plenty of support along the way. “People would come up to me at the gym and say, ‘Wow, congratulations — you’ve come such a long way,’ ” says Beniquez, who now works at the front desk at the gym and hopes to become a certified trainer.
Documenting her journey on social media was also a big help. “It kept me accountable when people would be like, ‘You can do it,’ ” says Beniquez who boasts 186,000 followers on Instagram and hopes to inspire others. “I wanted to show them that I could do it, and they can, too.”
It took 19 months to get down to 145 lbs., and Beniquez hopes to lose a little more weight and eventually have skin removal surgery. For now, though, she couldn’t be happier with her new lifestyle.
“I never expected to be where I am today. I was shy, but now I have so much more confidence, I have so much more energy,” says Beniquez. “Before it took me 20 minutes to walk a mile and now I can run 5 miles in under 50 minutes…It’s crazy the things I can do now that I couldn’t do before.”