May 10, 2017 03:30 PM

After having four children, Jeanine McDonald found herself weighing 208 lbs., and admits she had been neglecting herself and her diet.

“You just get into a routine and it’s hard to get out of,” the Limerick, Pennsylvania-based event designer, 39, tells PEOPLE. “My eating habits were terrible. I made dinner for the boys and ate what they ate. I did not take the time to prepare healthy dinners, as it’s very hard when you’re a full-time employee and mother of four.”

It wasn’t until one of McDonald’s sons told her she looked “really fat” that she decided she needed to make her health a priority.

Jeanine McDonald

“Kids are honest and he wasn’t being hurtful at all, but hearing that was just a wake up call to get started,” she says. “I did this for myself. I want my kids to see the positive changes in my life so they can make better decisions in their lives.”

In December 2015, McDonald started Isagenix’s diet and supplement-based weight loss program and lost 30 lbs. By March 2016, she felt confident enough to hit the gym and started strength training.

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“I have always been an ‘active’ person, but I didn’t exercise before March 2016,” she says. “I have four kids, so exercising was the last thing on my mind. But I am always on the go with the four boys [ages 9, 7, 6 and 3] and keeping up with house work.”

And since three of McDonald’s children have autism, finding time to exercise was “very challenging” for her.

Jeanine McDonald

“Having three boys with special needs is tough because there’s a lot of doctor appointments, therapy, etc.” she says. “When I started going to the gym, I made a promise to myself: ‘If I’m not happy and healthy, my kids won’t be either.’ I have a babysitter who watches my boys at night, and on nights I do not have my sitter, I follow a lot of routines I can easily do here while they are asleep.”

Thanks to her dedication, McDonald has lost 77 lbs. since beginning her weight loss journey. In addition to being a positive role model for her kids, McDonald says the best part about losing the weight has been a major boost in self-confidence.

Jeanine McDonald

“I want to help others now,” says McDonald, who started a Facebook and Instagram page with a friend called Living Fit at 40 with the hopes to motivate others to get healthy as well. “I want everyone to know it’s possible with hard work and dedication.”

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