At just 34 years old, Maggie Wells found herself weighing more than 300 pounds. Her health was suffering, but what scared her most might surprise you. “I wasn’t afraid I was going to die because of my weight, but I was afraid that just if something happened, my kids would have no pictures to remember me,” Wells told Good Morning America. “My son was 6 at the time and I think we had two pictures together.”

For years, Wells was too embarrassed to be in family photos, which ended up being the push she needed to make a major lifestyle change. In January of 2018, she made the decision to cut out all added sugars from her diet and start reducing her carbohydrate intake. Within a month, she had already lost 24 pounds. From there, she took her weight-loss journey one day at a time.

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Rather than focusing on losing “200 pounds or even 20 pounds, I would just focus on 24 hours,” she told GMA. “I would tell myself, ‘I only have to get through the next 24 hours. If I want [a specific food or drink] at this time tomorrow, I’ll allow myself to have it.”

After gaining discipline around food, Wells eventually switched to the ketogenic diet, a high-fat, low-carb diet that has led to many weight-loss transformations. Not having the resources to buy expensive and hard-to-find cooking ingredients and substitutes, she made meat, vegetables, and eggs key components to most of her meals. “I found that this diet can be done by anybody on any budget,” she said. (Related: The Keto Meal Plan for Beginners)

Today, Wells is down 185 pounds, which she credits to simply being more mindful of what she puts in her body. Now that she’s at a more comfortable weight, she’s taken the next step in her health journey by starting to incorporate exercise into her routine. (Inspired? Check out our 30-Day Shape Up Your Plate Challenge for Easy, Healthy Meal Planning)

“I feel like I’m 15 years younger,” she said. “I don’t know how to describe it other than I feel like a brand-new person. I have mental clarity and literally a whole new lease on life.”

And yes, she’s also gained the confidence to be in photos—and recently created a Facebook page to document her journey. She prides herself on sharing real and raw photos of herself that are completely unedited. Her goal of putting herself out there? To show people that losing extreme weight is not as glamorous as you may think, but empowering nonetheless.

She’s also open about the impact of not getting skin removal surgery. “Surgery is not an option for me, financially, so my body isn’t altered,” she said. “People are seeing [the] real deal of your body when you lose a lot of weight.” (Related: This Weight-Loss Influencer Had 7 Pounds of Excess Skin Removed)

Most importantly, she’s happy that her weight loss has allowed her to be more present for her family—and especially her kids. “I could have lived the rest of my life being a bystander,” she said. “Now I get to be a participant in my life and my children’s lives.”

This article originally appeared on Shape.

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