When Ashley O'Reilly stepped on the doctor's scale and it climbed toward 250, she realized it was time for a change.
She'd recently been diagnosed with an under-active thyroid, but she knew her poor eating habits were a major culprit, too.
O'Reilly remembered a co-worker who lost around 80 pounds using Nutrisystem. Not knowing where else to turn, she decided to place her own order in April 2015.
"The night before I got my shipment, I ordered Applebee's for pickup—an appetizer, entrée, and dessert—and I couldn't even make it the three-mile drive home before tearing into it. I pulled into a Burger King parking lot and ate it all," she told Women's Health. "After, I told myself that was the last time I'd ever eat like that. And it was."
O'Reilly utilized Nutrisystem's Core Plan to take the guesswork out of her diet. She received a monthly shipment of breakfast, lunch dinner and three snacks, which she used to lose 15 pounds in the first month. Eating meals like three-cheese chicken and lasagna—and double chocolate muffins—she dropped 135 pounds by June 2016.
Once she hit her goal using prepped meals, O'Reilly moved into Nutrisystem's training program, which taught her how to portion her own food for health and weight maintenance.
Now, a typical day of dieting looks like this:
Breakfast: cereal with milk and a hot tea
Snack: Two tablespoons peanut butter with an apple
Lunch: Velvet cheese cup with veggies
Snack: Celery and 1/4 cup hummus
Dinner: Salad with grilled chicken and veggies
Instead of restricting foods from her diet, O'Reilly says she focuses mainly on portion control. "If I want to have chips, I will, I just get a small bag that's under 150 calories. And if I go out for a cheat meal, I plan to eat lighter throughout the rest of the day," she said.
Her dedication to making healthy choices led O'Reilly to enter Nutrisystem's Nutristar giveaway, a contest which she won the $40,000 grand prize. Throughout her weight loss journey, she says she used the contest as a motivator. Now that she's won, she she wants to pay the inspiration forward.
"I want to motivate others to follow the steps I did and know that they can achieve their goals, especially as a student. It can be a tough time to try to lose weight, but my story shows that it's possible," she said. "Now, I have a much better outlook on life because I'm happy and healthy."
O'Reilly even works health and fitness into her relationship; she and her fiancé go on gym dates to spend time together.
"We hit the gym abut three times a week for an hour or two. Our workouts mostly consist of free weights, but I'll occasionally mix things up with some cardio on the treadmill," she said.
If you're ready to start your own fitness journey, O'Reilly says the key is to just jump right in. "If you take that first step now, you'd be amazed by what you can achieve and you won't look back," she said. "Just trust the process and move forward."