This article originally appeared on People.com.
At 311 lbs. and 5’8″, Brenda Bennett could no longer do some of the things she loved, like being active outdoors. “I remember hiking with my family in June 2014 and I was exhausted and couldn’t do the full hike,” says the Elko, Nevada mom of three. “I was so upset about it. I was really mad at myself. I thought, ‘I can’t be like this anymore.’ ”
Around the same time, her husband Nathan was struggling with his weight. The 6’4″ former college athlete found himself at 405 lbs., despite lifting weights and doing Crossfit. “We weren’t eating healthy at home, so it didn’t translate into weight loss success,” says Brenda.
They decided to start making some lifestyle changes together. “We cut our sugar and started eating more vegetables — raw vegetables in salads and roasted vegetables,” says Brenda. “Whenever I could, I would take out a starch.” The couple also focused on clean eating.
Then came portion control. They tracked all meals and exercise on the app My Fitness Pal. “It helped us rein in the calorie consumption and beef up the exercise and energy we were burning so we could create the deficit necessary for weight loss,” Brenda explains. They also found motivation in social media, first following fitspiration accounts on Instagram and then creating their own — @brengetsfit and @nategetsfit — to share their struggles and successes.
Once they got serious about dropping pounds, it took between 14-18 months for Brenda, 42, and Nathan, 45, to each lose about 130 lbs. naturally. Since then they have managed to keep it off through healthy eating and exercise. “Because of our schedules we don’t get to work out together very often, but we make sure one of us has the time to make it happen six days a week,” says Brenda. “We do have a little friendly competition, but as long as we’re both getting healthier, we’re both winning!”
She credits the joint effort for their success. “It was a big help to cheer each other on and not let the other person run down to the convenience store and cheat with whatever you can get your hands on,” she says, laughing. “We keep each other strong.”
And the Bennetts’ slow-and-steady approach has definitely paid off. “It’s fun to walk by a mirror and do a double take, like, whoa, that’s me!” says Brenda. But the aesthetics are only half of it.
“I love being able to do whatever I want physically, to be able to challenge myself and know that I will be able to do it and get better every single day. It’s so great to have the energy to keep up with teenagers and do all of the fun family stuff together.”