(CNN) — Rebecca Privitera desperately wanted to lose the excess weight she had carried around her entire life. In 2010, she had the opportunity to do it when her employer organized a company weight loss challenge.
But when she lined up to weigh in, Privitera realized the scale wouldn’t hold her 381-pound frame.
“They wanted me to go down to shipping and receiving and get on the shipping scale,” she says.
However embarrassing this moment was, it wasn’t enough to prompt Privitera to change. A couple of months later, in early 2011, the Cabot, Arkansas, native was put on bed rest because her blood pressure was too high. Doctors gave her three blood pressure medications and an anti-depressant.
“I was out of work for about four weeks,” Privitera remembers. “They were afraid I was going to have a stroke.”
Before going on bed rest, she had bought a wedding dress. By the time the dress came in, it was too tight to wear. Privitera had to have a second dress specially made overseas.
Instead of a dream night, Privitera’s wedding in April 2011 felt like a nightmare.
“I was hot and a sweaty mess,” she says. “I was so overweight and so uncomfortable. I was miserable. I couldn’t stand it.”
A few weeks after her wedding, Privitera’s new mother-in-law asked her to join her in a 5-kilometer run. It took her an hour and 14 minutes to complete.
“My body was physically hurting; I didn’t want to do it anymore,” she says. “I hit rock bottom.”
After the race, Privitera and her husband, Justin, had an honest conversation. He told her they couldn’t afford weight loss surgery or food supplement programs, and she would have to lose weight the old-fashioned way.
(After – Courtesy: Rebecca Privitera/CNN iReport)
(After – Courtesy: Rebecca Privitera/CNN iReport)
She agreed and embarked on a journey to lose more than 200 pounds in just over two years.
Her first step was to get active. Privitera invested in cardio DVDs and started working out at home. She felt too embarrassed to go to a gym and felt that personal training was too expensive.
“The videos showed results that gave me hope, so I gave it a shot,” she says.
In the beginning, she was losing 10 to 12 pounds a month. She posted her results on Facebook and the overwhelming response from her friends and family pushed her to continue exercising.
After losing about 65 pounds, Privitera started to modify her eating habits.
She started looking up calorie counts for meals before going out to eat in order to make smarter choices at restaurants. She also began to create healthier versions of meals at home using better ingredients.
Privitera was obese her entire life. Her parents divorced when she was 12 years old. Her mother worked two jobs and struggled to make ends meet.
“A lot of our food choices came out of a paper bag — I lived on fast food,” she remembers.
There were days during her high school years when she would eat McDonalds for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She recalls being able to eat an entire half-gallon of mint chocolate-chip ice cream in one night.
She was a 16-year-old who weighed more than 300 pounds and developed a blood clot in her leg. Even with this serious medical issue, she still made poor nutrition choices and her weight continued to balloon into adulthood.
Now, more than two years into her weight-loss journey, Privitera is incorporating new foods into her diet.
“I’ve followed meal plans with food like quinoa and asparagus,” she says. “Until recently, I had never had Brussels sprouts before.”
Privitera approaches this journey as exactly that — a journey. She allows herself to indulge once in a while, reminding herself if she wants something she can eat it, just not all the time.
Instead of focusing on calorie restriction, she focuses on eating reasonable portions of healthy foods.
“You have to balance it out,” she says. “You can’t extreme diet for the rest of your life.”
She credits her success to the support of her husband and family, but also to the community of people around her. The majority of her 211-pound loss has come from exercise done right inside her home. She has used programs such as TurboFire and Beachbody, and is now on her fourth round of P90X. She’s developed friendships and found accountability partners in the people who use the online message boards for these at-home programs.
Privitera works out six days a week, taking Sunday off, and spends anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours a day exercising. She has been able to avoid any physical setbacks by training safely and not over-exerting herself.
She has continued to use home videos because it keeps her from making excuses to miss workouts. “I hate being pressed for time,” she says. “Working out at home, I get up and get started.”
She has faced a lot of mental road blocks that nearly made her give up. During these times she has had to rely on people like her mother-in-law to tell her that she has what it takes to keep going and accomplish her goals.
Her motivators have inspired Privitera to become a motivator for others. Privitera says she has helped other women lose a combined 200 pounds by motivating them on Facebook, Instagram and through online communities like the ones she uses. She also regularly teaches a cardio-kickboxing class at a local community center.
About a month ago, she spoke to a class of high school students. She told them that overweight teenagers can make small choices now that will make a world of a difference in their lives.
“One young lady shared that she eats two double cheeseburgers, medium fries, a medium Sprite and three cookies from McDonalds every single night,” Privitera recalls. “She had no idea how many calories and how much fat there was in it.”
Her weight loss success has inspired the people closest to her. Privitera’s husband has started his own program and lost 35 pounds. She says this experience has brought them closer together.
“My husband sees that I have a real passion,” she says.
Justin says he’s mostly surprised by her new attitude. “She is more positive, upbeat and always looking on the bright side of things,” he says. “It inspires me every day to do better. I’m very lucky to have a wife like her.”
Privitera set out to complete 13 races in 2013, including three 10Ks. Her 13th race of the year was in late October and it was a big one: her first half-marathon.
She completed the race with her mother-in-law by her side the entire time. Unlike their first race together, this time she wanted to do it and not give up.
“I cried after I finished this half-marathon,” she says. “You look for that moment when you cry and think, ‘I’ve done something that some people cannot do.’ “