How this 28-year-old woman lost 171 pounds: 'Losing the weight changed my life completely'

Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.

Michelle Sorlea is 28, 5-foot-3, and weighs 155 pounds. In 2010, after struggling with her weight for most of her life, she decided she needed to change for the sake of her future. This is her weight-loss story.

The Turning Point

I was a young girl when I realized my weight was an issue. When I was 9, I was playing at recess, and I noticed I didn’t look like the other kids. I glanced around at the other children and their knees and legs looked different from mine. I compared myself to them, not fully understanding why I looked different. As I grew older, my weight also continued to grow, until it brought me to my turning point 12 years later.

On Nov. 1, 2010, I was a 21-year-old college student. I was lying in bed and felt as if I had this huge elephant on my chest — just from the weight of my body. I felt ashamed of what I had become. I thought about the path I was going down and processed some fears I had about losing weight. I told myself, I’m either going to get worse, or I can change things in my life for the better. Keeping that in mind, I contemplated how to even start, and wondered if it was even possible for me to get my dream body. I feared the changes my body would go through while trying to achieve this “dream body” I had imagined.

“I feared the changes my body would go through.” (Photo: Courtesy of Michelle Sorlea)

The Changes

I knew the major key to my weight loss would be physical activity, so I signed myself up for a gym membership at 24 Hour Fitness and made the gym my No. 1 focus. It was the first thing I thought of when I woke up, and the last thing I thought of when I went to bed. I focused on my weight-loss journey and told myself that I wasn’t going to turn back to my previous ways. My first workout routine was walking on the treadmill for 1 to 2 miles. I finished my day with swimming for an hour, and pushed myself to do just one more lap each week. Changing my eating habits and the food I consumed was the most difficult part, so I started small. I took out any form of bread, sugar, and soda from my diet.

The changes in my appearance were slow in the beginning, but I kept telling myself to take it one day at a time. I was excited and proud to lose the first 5 pounds, but I still needed to tackle losing weight day by day, because I knew it was not going to be easy. My first step was to get myself more motivated, and that motivation came to me by watching other inspiring stories.

After making these changes in my lifestyle and seeing the numbers on the scale drop below 300 pounds, I finally looked in the mirror and smiled at myself! I felt amazing and even more motivated than before. I continued to push through each day and refused to give up. Each pound I lost was my motivation, and as I got closer to 250 pounds, I felt that I could do anything. I was determined to not let that go.

“Losing the weight changed my life completely.” (Photo: Courtesy of Michelle Sorlea)

The After

Losing the weight changed my life completely. Physically, I felt better than I had in my entire life. It became easier for me to try different workouts, purchase clothing, and I even started to get noticed by men I thought were out of my league. Walking through doors, I no longer felt ashamed of the person I was. Losing the weight changed how I felt as a person, and I wanted nothing more than to help others achieve their weight-loss goals and inspire them.

An amazing trainer I worked with helped me, likely without even meaning to, when she shared my story with some of her friends. A friend of hers, who is a plastic surgeon, offered to remove my excess skin pro bono! I paid for some small hospital bills associated with the surgery, along with the anesthesiologist’s fee, but that was it.  This surgery left me humbled and determined. I wanted to pay it forward any way that I could.

Humbled and determined. (Photo: Courtesy of Michelle Sorlea)

The Maintenance

Today I keep myself very active, by going to the gym five days a week. I have a passion for the gym, not just to lose weight or get strong but to put my health first. I’m going on five years now since I started eating a paleo-based diet, and I do my best to stay away from heavy carbs and sugar, even though at times it is inevitable. I watch my portions when eating things that are not the best for me, and I try not to punish myself for having an occasional unhealthy meal or snack.

I love having daily habits or practices that help me maintain my lifestyle. When my alarm goes off in the morning, I have it display my favorite motivational quote: “I can, I will, I must.” As I drink my morning coffee, I take the time to write five things I’m grateful for and five things I could work on to benefit me long-term.

Taking a moment to sit back and think helps keep me motivated today. My perspective on life inspires me to push forward and focus on the positive things life can offer. Each day I remind myself what is most important to me and how I can achieve it. I tell myself that if I want to achieve something great, I need to be in good mental and physical health.

“I can, I will, I must.” (Photo: Courtesy of Michelle Sorlea)

The Struggles

Having loose skin even after my skin removal surgery is a struggle of mine to this day. I practice telling myself that it is not important, and that I could always find something to be unhappy about. Instead of being a bully to myself, I look to things that make me happy. I write as a way to work through my struggles. It helps gives me time to think about all that is important to me.

Photo: Courtesy of Michelle Sorlea


Don’t give up! Don’t tell yourself you can’t do it. Be honest with yourself, and anything is possible. It’s all a matter of what you really want. Make sure to always believe in yourself. Tell yourself you can do this! Once you start the ball rolling, the feeling of accomplishment is truly amazing. I think about what my life could have been like today if I had not woken up in 2010 with the hope to change. I am very grateful for where I am now and all the support and kindness that has been shown to me along the way. Thinking back and seeing how heavy I was, in comparison to where I am now, showed me that anything can be within reach. It’s just about how badly you want it.

Need more inspiration? Read about our other weight-loss winners!

Weight-Loss Win is authored by Andie Mitchell, who underwent a transformative, 135-pound weight loss of her own.

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