Courtesy Shonda Wagner
April 29, 2016 01:00 PM

Shonda Wagner just wanted to drop her baby weight after having her first child, but she unintentionally found herself on a much longer and more fulfilling weight loss journey.

“When I was heavier, I never thought, ‘I’m going to set out to lose this many pounds,’ ” Shonda – who was 203 lbs. at her heaviest – tells PEOPLE. “That was never my goal. My goal was to get off the baby weight and to get healthier, but once I started the journey and started seeing results, then it became fun.”

Shonda, 39, grew up eating biscuits with gravy and fried chicken, but started cleaning up her diet and researching the most effective exercises. And she started seeing results.

“Once you have worked so hard to get it and keep it off, the motivation is just that,” she says. “Nobody wants to repeat that again. You become very committed.”

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Now, the mom of two does cardio five to six days a week and lifts five days a week.

“When I get up, I do cardio first thing in the morning,” says Shonda, who is a fan of the elliptical and arc trainer machines. “Then after work I try to get to the gym before the kids are home, and that’s when I lift.”

As for her diet, Shonda sticks to a low-carb, high-protein diet, making sure she has a protein and a fruit or vegetable at every meal.

“I have a food sensitivity to eggs, so breakfast is usually fish or chicken and a carb – oatmeal, grapefruit, cantaloupe,” she says. “Then the rest of the meals are usually chicken or fish, a vegetable, and I’ll rotate carbs in. It’s very basic. If I deviate off that, I can really tell a difference so I have to stay very strict with my diet.”

Shonda has shared her transformation from overweight to super-fit mom on social media, and has amassed 2.7 million Instagram followers. She shares videos of her workouts, some of her favorite recipes, and photos of her progress on her page.

“There’s an accountability there that is far greater than the scale, because sometimes the scale doesn’t move, but you can see a huge difference – good or bad – in those pictures,” she says.

Shonda believes she’s been able to attract so many followers to her page because “it’s real,” she says. “I’m not super fabulous. What I am is attainable. They can do my workouts, [and they do]. That is very rewarding.”

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