Lobke Meulemeester
Courtesy Lobke Meulemeester
November 30, 2016 05:28 AM

Lobke Meulemeester had always struggled with her weight, but she really began putting on extra pounds after her mother died in October 2013.

“I stopped caring about myself and my diet and health,” Meulemeester, 35, tells PEOPLE. “That why in January 2015 I reached my highest weight of 233 lbs.”

The U.K.-based professional translator says she didn’t think twice about eating unhealthy foods, and her diet consisted of bread with butter, cookies, chips, pizza and chocolate.

She knew she had to make a change when doing day-to-day tasks became difficult.

“I couldn’t walk a small distance without having back pain,” says Meulemeester. “Going up the stairs got me out of breath. Doing up shoe laces was impossible unless I would hold my breath due to my big growing stomach.”

In March 2015, Meulemeester joined Weight Watchers and bought a Fitbit to track her activity. She started out going for walks, and eventually started taking Zumba classes. She also completely overhauled her diet.

“I learned to control my food, made wiser choices, and ate more fruit and vegetables, but still had the occasional treat worked into my plan,” she says. “That way I never felt as if I was missing out on something.”

WATCH: Oprah Says Weight Watchers ‘Felt Like an Intervention From On High’

Meulemeester shared her progress on Instagram and credits encouragement from her followers with helping her stay on track.

“I really couldn’t have done it without the support of these people,” says Meulemeester, who now has 85.7k followers. “I have tried so many times to lose weight, but never succeeded like I have now. There have been many days when I felt like giving up but the support I have received has been so immense that it’s kept me going.”

She has now dropped 72 lbs. and still follows a Weight Watchers plan to stay on track. Along the way, Meulemeester has found a new appreciation for herself and her body.

“I have found more respect for myself, and I no longer beat myself up for how I look,” she says. “I like what I see in the mirror, and I am so proud of myself for accomplishing what I have so far. I enjoy clothes shopping, I am no longer paranoid when I walk on the streets thinking everyone is looking at me. I feel happier within myself and I am enjoying life again.”

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