Trae Patton/NBC
November 17, 2014 09:30 AM

Weighing in at 291 lbs., Jackie Pearson wasn’t the person or mother she wanted to be.

“I just felt like I was existing in the world. I was existing and hiding,” the 36-year-old mom of two tells PEOPLE. “My husband was the one who took my daughter to birthday parties and to play dates. I stayed in the house.”

But now that Pearson has become a contestant on season 16 of The Biggest Loser, she has lost 83 lbs. and started living the life she’s always wanted.

“My daughter [used to] call me ‘Inside Mommy.’ But now I feel like I am fully participating for the first time since both my girls were born,” says Pearson, who now enjoys playing outside with her 2-year-old and 6-year-old. “It s a huge thing within my family. I’ve noticed the happiness in my girls. They are a lot happier now with me participating in life with them.”

And although the clinical care coordinator was eliminated on Thursday’s episode of the NBC weight-loss competition show, Pearson is continuing to succeed at losing weight back home in Pacifica, California.

“I’m the type of person who took care of everybody else but me, from a very young age. But I’ve learned that it is okay to worry about me and that my happiness matters,” says Pearson, who is taking spin classes, as well as doing CrossFit training and boxing.

“I’ve been able to care better for the people that I love because I am happy and worrying about me – I’ve learned that s okay.”

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