Over six years, Diana Arvie has lost more than 150 pounds — and she's kept it off.
The 52-year-old Baton Rouge grandmother shed the weight without surgery or spending a fortune on a diet plan.
She did something much more difficult. She changed her mind.
"It has to be a mindset," Arvie says. "You can't do it without changing the way you think. There are some mornings I don't want to do it. You still need to do it."
Arvie is living the tough advice that doctors regularly give patients: You have to change your lifestyle. There are no gimmicks or shortcuts to maintaining a healthy weight.
It's spring, so it's time to get in shape, and, in these parts, you can run or walk and help…
At her heaviest, Arvie weighed 330 pounds.
When her mother's health began deteriorating, Arvie brought her to her home to care for her full time.
"I was just eating, eating, eating," she says. "It looked like somebody blew me up."
After her mother died, Arvie began walking around her neighborhood and quickly lost weight. She dropped about 100 pounds, but the weight slowly crept back up because she didn't change her eating habits.
In 2009, Arvie was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery to remove a tumor. After 36 rounds of radiation, she says, the doctors pronounced her cancer-free. They also gave her advice: Regular exercise and eating a nutritious diet may help keep the cancer from returning.
The warning didn't sink in, Arvie says, and her weight led to new health problems. Her leg and back ached, and she took medicine to treat those pains. Because of sleep apnea, she never received enough rest and would fall asleep while driving.
After two years of escalating medical problems, she committed to change. She began walking again.
Feeling unhappy with your appearance is nothing new.
Then she started going to the gym, watching what the trainers taught other clients and then mimicking the workouts. Now she hits a local Planet Fitness for two hours every morning.
The weight came off slowly as Arvie changed her diet. She cut out bread and other carbohydrates and focused on eating nuts, yogurt, fruits and vegetables. Eventually she stopped eating meat, choosing to get protein through eggs and other sources.
Although this diet works for her, she understands others will find success with different eating habits.
"People are going to do this the way they want," she says. "They can eat meat, the baked chicken and fish and things. I prefer not to because I do better without meat."
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Arvie's still losing weight slowly. She now wears a size 8, down from a 24 or 26 at her largest.
"She looks amazing," says Zetta Nganga, Arvie's longtime friend who has been touting Arvie's success to anyone who will listen.
Arvie's most important tip to others wanting to keep weight off is to stay focused and be consistent.
"You have to be persistent," she says. "Even when you meet your goal, you still have to continue. It's a journey for life."
Today, Arvie doesn't take any medications, just a vitamin every morning.
Every weekday, she keeps her four grandchildren, caring for a 2- and a 3-year-old and two others who are in elementary school. Before losing weight, she couldn't chase after them without getting short of breath.
Arvie says she is proud of her new life and hopes to inspire others.
For the next nine weeks, Wanda Mayeux will be thinking about her muscles nearly every minute.
The 51-year-old grandmother is preparing for her next professional bikini fitness competition where she will compete against women in their 20s and 30s.
"People give up too easy, and some are not willing to try," Arvie says. "You have to be willing to fight for what you want."