After a lifetime of battling obesity, Kiah Twisselman resigned herself to thinking that being overweight was her destiny.

“I believed for a really long time that it was just my genetics, that I just got dealt a bad hand and there was nothing I could do about it,” Twisselman told PEOPLE.

For years she tried to lose weight, but none of her attempts were ever successful.

I really battled with obesity for my entire life.

“I went through a lot of fad diets, and it was just this terrible cycle where I would lose weight, but then go off the diet and gain it all back and then some.”

Two years ago, Twisselman was living with her now fiance in Kentucky, working as the Director of Consumer Affairs at the Kentucky Beef Council, and had reached her heaviest weight of 285 pounds.

Her job changed her mind

Eventually, it was her job that inspired her to shift her perspective on weight loss and she quickly realized she was capable of change.

As part of her role with the Kentucky Beef Council, Kiah was responsible for their nutrition program, which meant advocating for the health benefits of beef, and it wasn’t sitting well with her.

“I had to stand up in front of a group of registered dieticians, a group of influencers, a group of teachers, and I had to tell them about the nutritional benefits of beef, and it made me so uncomfortable,” she remembered. 

I felt so hypocritical up there sharing about the amazing benefits of beef and not looking like an image of health. And I was like, ‘I want to walk the talk.’

And then, a wake-up call on the plane

While on a flight to a work conference, which was a constant “reminder that I don’t fit in society physically,” because she didn’t fit in airplane seats and needed a belt extender, Kiah read a book by motivational speaker Rachel Hollis.

“That book was kind of my wake-up call to me that if you want to change your life, or live a better life, or create this life that you always dream about, then it is 100 percent in your control and nobody else’s,” said Kiah.

She started following Hollis on social media and decided to try her Five To Thrive plan, which challenged her to adopt five simple habits and commit to practicing them every day for 90 days.

She implemented a new routine

Feeling ready to take charge of her life, Kiah started waking up earlier, worked out for 30 minutes a day, began journaling each day, drank half her body weight in ounces of water and practiced intuitive eating.

I wasn’t going to completely overhaul my entire lifestyle. I was going to make baby steps and see what happens.

In just a few months, she lost 25 lbs which fueled her to keep going, even when she hit a plateau. Building on her success, she set a new goal: to lose 100 pounds by October 2019.

“It was about continuing to make those baby step changes forward and not getting too comfortable in my routine,” she said.

She challenged her negative self-talk

To switch things up, Kiah started trying out harder workout videos on Youtube and different kinds of foods.

When I tried to diet before, if I messed up, I would say, ‘See, you failed, you always fail.’ But this time, I started from a place of self-love.

“I had to love myself enough to show up and do the hard things each day, and when I failed I was more willing to forgive myself and say, ‘What can I learn from this? How can I use this experience to continue moving forward?’”

Over the next year, Kiah reached her goal and lost 103 pounds.

A new vocation

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When you’ve lost 125 pounds, basically an entire person, there’s a lot of baggage left behind – loose skin baggage. I’ve built muscle and lost weight, but even though I’m fairly young, the elasticity in my skin hasn’t kept up. My arms have loose skin, my tummy has loose skin, my legs have loose skin, heck even my neck has loose skin. I’m not going to lie, I’ve struggled with some self-shame around it. It feels more noble to me to have stretch marks and loose skin because you’ve birthed a child, not because you were obese. While I don’t always love this loose skin, I can appreciate it as a reminder of the progress I’ve made. I accept it as part of me and part of this journey. And when I find myself thinking crappy thoughts about my body, I remind myself just how freakin’ INCREDIBLE this body is. This body gets me out of bed in the morning. This body heals itself, embraces the people I love most, and let’s me explore the world. This body is the only body I get, and it is such a gift. Do I struggle to find love for my loose skin? Yep, and I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t. BUT, I’m committed to learning to love my body through all its changes as I continue my health journey, as I train for a marathon, and hopefully one day if I’m lucky enough to become a mom. Our journeys to health are never really over and neither are our journeys to self-love. Even on days when it feels hard, I choose to be kind to this body, to respect this body, and to treat it with the love and appreciation it deserves. Because dammit this body is BEAUTIFUL, loose skin and all.

A post shared by Kiah Twisselman – Coach Kiah (@kiah_twisselman) on

Today, she’s back living on her family’s seven-generation ranch in California with her fiance, and works as a weight loss and life coach.

The physical transformation might be the most apparent, but through her health journey, Kiah is most grateful for having learned to cultivate self-love.

“It’s less about hitting a number or a goal weight and more about showing up and loving myself today.”

Transforming yourself starts from within

Kiah’s incredible transformation is also a testament to shifting your perspective. Yes, for Kiah, the journey started with wanting a physical change but as she went along, she discovered self-love also needs training. It requires conscious efforts on a daily basis but once it is implemented, there is no stopping it.

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