Many of those who struggle with weight didn’t always struggle. For example, when she was younger, Liz Hronek was was very athletic and active. She even swam competitively and played soccer. But then a doctor put her on a diet anyway – and her life spiraled from there.

“It was traumatizing,”  Hronek told PEOPLE in the 2019 Half Their Size issue. “I didn’t value anything about myself. I just felt like a piece of crap.”

That diet actually had the opposite effect for the young Hronek, who then started to gain weight, and continued to for the next decade. By college, she was 300 lbs., and she had given up on herself, eating meals like creamy pastas and too much soda from the dining hall or drive-thru fast food.

But then an unexpected delivery happened… quite literally. She was sitting in class one day when she suddenly “thought I peed my pants.” Turned out her water broke, she gave birth to her daughter the next day.

“I had a belly, but I didn’t get a baby belly,” she explains. “They said that my daughter’s knees were tucked up under my ribs, and that’s why I probably didn’t feel any kicking or moving.”

The unexpected mom now had a life she was responsible for other than her own and moved in with her dad so he could help her out while she cared for her daughter.

“I had this little baby and I didn’t know how I was going to take care of her, so I would just go to food for comfort,” she says.

Finding Inspiration

But finally, Hronek realized she needed to be stronger and healthier so she could play with her daughter and chase after her when she needed to. This wasn’t like when she was forced into diets, but this time, she was doing it for herself.

“I got to the realization that I’m kind of important,” she says. “Everybody has a purpose, and so do I. And so being able to just switch my mindset from, I’m doing this because I hate myself, to I’m doing this because I have purpose. I wanted to make sure that I reached my full potential.”

Hronek started following a low-carb, high-protein diet in Jan. 2008 and lost 50 lbs. From there, she started working with a personal trainer, and dropped another 101 lbs. and even started to enter bodybuilding competitions and became certified as a personal trainer and now runs a coaching program called Miss Fit Boss in North Carolina that also includes nutrition planning.

“I felt inspired to go do more and make a massive impact,” she says. “I have one-on-one, face-to-face clients, but the coaching that I do is all online. We have a community where I share nutrition plans, workout plans, recipes and restaurant guides.”

Having lost over half her size herself, Hronek feels relatable to her clients.

“If there’s something that they’re struggling with, I’m right there, so we can talk it through,” she says.

Now she’s taking everything she learned to support her now-13-year-old daughter, and another daughter born four years ago, about appreciating their bodies and living healthfully.

“I think her seeing me committed to my health without obsessing over it helps her to realize that even though she sees some things that she doesn’t like in the mirror, it doesn’t mean that she’s any better or worse of a person,” Hronek says.

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