Teresa Soileau fought a losing battle with weight for most of her 32 years. She tried fad diets. She tried starving herself. The lifelong Denham Springs resident said she even tried illegal drugs to suppress her appetite.

“The only thing I never tried was actually working for it,” Soileau said.

Until 18 months ago.

Since Sept. 17, 2019, Soileau has lost 117 pounds. It has changed everything.

“My biggest daydream used to be what it would be like to be smaller and healthy and normal,” she said. “I’m living that dream now. I just feel like a normal person.”

By normal, Soileau means being able to shop for clothes instead of wearing some of the same attire she’s had since she was 14.

It means having energy, feeling healthy and wanting to engage with other people instead of hiding out of embarrassment over her weight.

After the birth of her second daughter earlier in 2019, Soileau said she stepped on the scale and saw 268. That put her body mass index at 46; anything 30 or higher is considered obese, according to the National Institutes of Health.

When her husband suggested they take the girls to a Mardi Gras parade, she refused, not wanting to face people staring at her.

“In that moment, I knew I needed to change,” Soileau said. “I didn’t want my kids to suffer and miss out on life because of me. I wanted to be a good influence on my babies. I never wanted them to become as unhealthy as I was. I wanted them to love themselves, to never have to wake up and wish to be ‘normal.’ I know kids look up to their moms.

"That’s when I knew I had to change for them.”

After seeing some of her friends online post about using Beachbody on Demand, Soileau signed up, chose a 21-day program and began working out. It's an online program that offers instructor-led workouts and nutrition advice.

Soileau said she didn't follow all of the eating guidelines and admitted the physical activity — a combination of cardio, strength training, yoga and Pilates — was difficult at first. She said she had to modify the daily, half-hour exercises to keep up. But the dozen or so pounds she lost kept her motivated.

“Mentally, I felt better,” Soileau said. “Physically, I felt better. After spending so much of your life being miserable and overweight, I didn’t move around much. I sat around and ate all day. I just felt good and I wanted to keep going, and I kept doing it.”

Soileau tried different exercise programs, increasing the weights used in strength training as her body adapted, and eventually bought in to the nutritional advice when she saw it was easier than her own calorie counting.

She started eating more protein and a lot less sugar, she said, adding she eats more salads and grilled rather than fried food.

When her weight dropped to 151, Soileau took a month off and decided she no longer liked being sedentary.

“I have more energy whenever I exercise than when I don’t,” she said. “I’m setting a good example for my kids, for my family, for friends, for strangers. It’s really cool. It has changed everything about my life and how I feel about myself.”

Soileau said she has gotten tremendous support from friends and the online Beachbody community. More important has been the impact on her family.

“I wanted, just like every parent wants, to have the energy to play with my kids and do things with them,” she said. “But even more than that, I knew if I went back on the path I was on before, it would eventually kill me. When I look into my children’s eyes, I could never imagine leaving them alone in this world without me. I never want them to feel the way about themselves that I felt growing up. I knew I could make a change that could lead them to live healthier, happier lives.”

Email George Morris at gmorris@theadvocate.com.