Growing up, it was Tara Kavanagh's obese family members that made her believe she was "destined to be fat."
The South Dakota mom-of-three weighed over 200 pounds before she had her first child. As pregnancy weight creeped on, Kavanagh soon weighed 304 pounds. After her second child was born, she knew something had to change. But how would she do that? She had tried workout after workout, but when she didn't notice any immediate change, she got bored and quit.
“I was a young mother of two little girls and in my early 20s when I decided I didn’t want to live the rest of my life obese and unhealthy anymore,” she tells PEOPLE. “I wanted to be an active mother and be able to play with my kids. I also wanted to live my life, not just exist. I wanted to experience new things and felt my size was holding me back.”
“For a long time I felt surgery was my only option for how big I was — there was no way I could lose so much weight on my own — but after seeing my relatives gain their weight back, I knew it wasn’t about the surgery,” she says. “It had to be about lifestyle, and I was determined to figure it out to prevent myself from spending all that money and going through all the pain of surgery for something that I never saw work long-term for anyone I knew who had it done.”
Her history of quickly quitting boring workouts stopped when Kavanagh discovered Jillian Michaels' workouts (which are available on her app or website). She also started watching what she ate. Knowing that if she tried to drastically change her diet, she would fall off the wagon, Kavanagh started slowly. Her first diet change was not to stop eating her favorite foods but to work on portion control. As the weight disappeared, she felt an innate desire to start eating healthier.
Today, Kavanagh has lost 145 pounds just the way she wanted to—without surgery. With her smaller frame, she has a whole new outlook on life.
“The best part of losing the weight has been gaining the confidence to really live my life and try new things,” she says. “I don’t let my body hold me back anymore.”
You rock, Tara!