Joanne Raymond is no stranger to losing large amounts of weight.
The Allentown, Pennsylvania-based real estate agent, 49, had lost over 100 lbs. twice before in her adult life — but this time she’s determined to make the weight loss stick.
“The first time I lost over 100 lbs. I was 27. It took me 13 months to get to my goal weight, and I literally started going up the next week,” Raymond, who weighed 249 lbs. at her highest weight, tells PEOPLE. “The second time was when I was 35. I lost 122 lbs. that I kept off for two months.”
Each time she gained the weight back, she felt a sense of shame.
“The worst part about gaining it back is that you see people who saw you thin and you know what they’re thinking, so you feel like you’re a disappointment to everybody and not just yourself,” she says.
In 2013 at age 47, Raymond started feeling sick all the time — she had constant headaches, trouble sleeping and pain in her knees. She went to the doctor to find out if something was wrong with her, but the only thing unhealthy about her was her weight.
“I felt like an 80-year-old woman and I couldn’t take it any more,” she says. “Now it wasn’t just, ‘I want to look good,’ now it was, ‘I feel like garbage all day every day.’ This time my motivation is so much more about health. It’s not about what size jeans I wear anymore, it’s about, will I live long enough to actually see my grandchildren.”
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Raymond decided to overhaul her unhealthy eating habits, which included being able to eat an entire bag of chips in one sitting.
“This time I thought from day one I have to eat right,” she says. “This isn’t just until I hit my goal weight, this is a lifetime, and if I don’t commit to that I’m not even going to start. I researched all the healthy things to eat and geared it towards things I like to eat anyways.”
Raymond replaced pasta with spiralized zucchini squash and Chinese takeout with healthy homemade chicken and broccoli. She also began exploring different spices to add flavor to her high-protein, low-carb meals.
“I start putting spices in, and suddenly it’s this flavor town! I just love healthy food now,” she says. “I don’t feel deprived, where before I would just be so strict and deny myself everything.”
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In addition to tracking her food and making healthy choices, Raymond stays active with walks outside with her husband and occasional elliptical workouts.
“But I don’t make the focus about working out because honestly I don’t really like to do it!” she admits.
While Raymond initially began her latest weight loss journey to feel better, it’s been an added bonus that she looks better too.
“Even though I’ll be 50 in May, my body is the best it has been in my entire adult life,” she says. “I’m so proud.”