IN the grips of an abusive relationship, Regan Patterson turned to food in a desperate bid to heal her misery.
The 26-year-old, from Orlando, Florida, had begun gorging on Domino's, Burger King and McDonald's to cope with the turmoil her partner was putting her through.
And before Regan knew it, her weight was spiralling out of control and she had stopped exercising all together.
Determined to turn her life around, Regan finally ditched her abusive boyfriend and set out to lose weight.
She has since shed almost six stone by heading to the gym and picking healthy options – without giving up her favourite sweet treats.
Regan said: "Feeling confident in my skin has felt amazing. I used to miss out on stuff because of being so insecure.
"Many missed beach trips and outings because of my body. Now I don’t have that problem anymore."
Regan first realised the toll her bad relationship was having on her body when she was at college in 2011.
She turned to emotional eating to cope with the strain she was under and started eating pizza, burgers, McDonald's and sugary drinks as her main meals and also snacked very often.
Regan said: "Once I started college, I started putting on weight.
"It took a couple years to put it all on.
"I started eating fast food every single day, and stopped being active all together.
"Domino’s pizza, Burger King, McDonald’s, lots of burgers and fries, quesadillas and iced coffee from the cafeteria.
"I was having two to three meals a day but was also snacking."
As the weight piled on, Regan also began feeling more and more miserable.
She added: "I was tired of feeling like a failure to myself.
Feeling confident in my skin has felt amazing. I used to miss out on stuff because of being so insecure
"I grew up active and in shape, and after going to college, I stopped exercising and neglected my nutrition and put on a lot of weight.
“I kept the weight on for years, and was so ready to take my life back."
After years of feeling depressed because of her weight, Regan decided to make a change by swapping out junk food for healthier options and began walking regularly.
She then began incorporating strength training and now works out five to six times a week, training different muscle groups each time.
Over two years, Regan lost a total of 5.7 stone and now maintains a "flexible" dieting approach.
She now eats mainly nutrient dense foods but doesn't deprive herself from occasional sweet treats.
She said: "At first, I just started to reach for healthier options and started walking a lot.
"Once I got the hang of that, I started strength training.
"I love lifting weights. And my diet definitely has a flexible approach.
"I find it so important to have balance.
"My diet is very flexible. I focus on whole, nutrient dense foods 80% of the time and treats and foods I love 20% of the time.
"Lots of lean meats, vegetables, whole grains. But if I really want a burger or ice cream or doughnut, I enjoy it in moderation and move on."
Regan is now determined to maintain her weight loss in the long term.
She said: "I was determined I didn’t care how long it was going to take, I just knew I wasn’t going to quit this time. Flexibility and patience are important.
"A lot of people are very rigid when it comes to weight loss, and they feel like they can’t sustain that so they end up quitting.
"By being flexible and finding your balance, people feel it’s more doable and sustainable long term.
"Weight loss is a long term process so finding sustainability is important.
"And patience, you can’t lose weight without it! It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint."
She added: "It took me a total of 2 years to lose 80lbs (5.7 stone). But I always say this is a lifelong journey.
"You don’t stop doing the things it took to get you there once you lose all the weight. That’s why creating new habits is so important."
Regan began to develop a passion for health and fitness and has since become a qualified personal trainer, hoping to spread positivity and inspire others who struggle with weight loss.
It took putting in the work for years, and it made me feel like I can do anything I put my mind to
Receiving ongoing support from her family, Regan said it was important for her to constantly encourage herself to believe in her own abilities during her weight loss journey.
She said: "Honestly, I had so much support from friends and family.
"But if I didn’t learn how to believe in myself and give myself the encouragement I deserved everyday, it wouldn’t have mattered who believed in me. I needed to believe in me.
"I have the best family and friends. They are so proud of me, and their love and support means so much to me.
"I set out to get healthier and I did it! There’s no feeling like it.
"It took putting in the work for years, and it made me feel like I can do anything I put my mind to."
Regan has since started her own Instagram page @regan_patterson where she posts pictures of her weight loss transformation, workout videos and diet tips to over 30,000 followers.
Speaking about her page, she said: "It was my personal Instagram page. I never intended to make it into a fitness one.
"I was just posting milestones and I guess people gravitated towards that.
"So I eventually just transitioned into posting about health/weight loss.
“The support has been amazing. Honestly, it’s mind blowing that people who have never met me are so kind and so supportive.
"I have the nicest followers and they are like my friends now."
In a final word of advice, Regan advises people to be patient and kind to themselves on their weight loss journey.
And she urges slimmers not to overthink too much if they skip a workout or make an unhealthy meal choice from time to time.
She said: "Be patient and kind to yourself.
"Just because you 'mess up' doesn’t mean you failed. Just keep going.
“It’s going to take longer than you want it to, but be patient and the results will come. You’re worth the wait."
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