"I think it was a little bit mental with me," says the Dance Moms star of her slim-down
Credit: Austin Hargrave

Dance MomsAbby Lee Miller recently dropped from a size 24 to a size 16, but she did it without a gimmicky diet, crazy exercise routine or weight-loss surgery.

“That would have been easy,” the outspoken reality star, 49, told PEOPLE of claims that she had dropped the weight with a lap-band procedure.

In fact, Miller never intentionally set out to lose weight – it happened as the result of a series of unfortunate occurrences, beginning with her mom being hospitalized while battling colon cancer.

“When you’re in and out of the hospital, that hospital food just makes you sick,” Miller said. “I think it was a little bit mental with me.”

Shortly after her mother’s death in February 2014, the Lifetime personality was back on set filming Dance Moms in a Los Angeles-area studio – with no air conditioning.

“It was hot as hell, so nobody was eating a lot,” she explained.

At the same time her mother was sick with cancer, Miller had been diagnosed with the onset of diabetes and was put on prescription medication. While filming an Australian special for the show last summer, she ran out of her pills.

“I had to get a prescription refilled – lo and behold, there’s something different about that prescription in Australia,” says Miller. “I would take this medicine and within an hour, I was vomiting like I was in fourth grade and had the flu or like I had food poisoning. It was awful. After I would throw up, I couldn’t even look at food for the rest of the day.”

“So that is how I lost the weight,” she continued. “There’s no diet, there’s no exercise, there’s no this, there’s no that.”

While her path to losing the weight has been unconventional, she appreciates the positive response she has gotten, especially from her Dance Moms costars.

“Melissa [Gisoni] and Jill [Vertes] are friends so they’re very happy, mainly health-wise for me,” says Miller.

Still, she knows her weight loss journey isn’t over yet.

“I’m not slim by any means,” says Miller. “I have a long, long way to go.”

Dance Moms returns to Lifetime June 9.

For more of Miller’s candid interview about her weight loss, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday