Betsy Ayala had struggled with her weight her whole life, weighing between 90 and 95 kgs throughout her 20s.
After giving birth to her daughter in June 2013, Ayala, now 34, had reached 118 kgs. Even though her weight had reached a new high, Ayala wasn’t too concerned about her physical appearance at the time, as she began struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety.
“My brother suggested that I try to eat better to feel better,” the Houston, Texas-based mom tells PEOPLE. “I had a newborn, and I didn’t have the will to cook, so I learned about Herbalife shakes and I gave it a shot. Slowly I started to feel better and I started losing weight even though that wasn’t my intention — my intention was to feel better overall through good nutrition.”
Ayala had lost 13.6kgs lbs. when she discovered that her husband — whom she had been dating since she was 17 — was cheating on her.
“At that point, my whole world fell apart,” she says. “For a couple of months we were trying to figure out if we could make this work, and it ended up not working out. At that moment, I thought, ‘This is not going to define who I am. I don’t want to be the way I have been all these years.’ That drove me to make a permanent change in my life.”
Ayala wanted to move on with her life in a healthy way to not only feel better about herself, but to be a good example for her daughter.
“I wanted her to be proud of me and have an example of a strong mom that perseveres despite whatever happens, and have a happy life,” she says. “That moment was when I decided that I wasn’t going to be the same person I was before.”
So in early 2014, Ayala began making positive changes. She started working out despite never being active before and cleaned up her diet.
Now Ayala is down 47kgs, and is committed to her healthy lifestyle, which includes a clean diet free of soda, junk food and processed food — with the exception of a cheat meal once a week — and six days of exercise every week.
“At the beginning it was hard, but it’s honestly not as hard as you think it is,” says Ayala of making major lifestyle changes while balancing being a mother. “Once you feel good and you make that change and you see how amazing it feels to feel good, it just becomes part of your life. For me, it’s second nature. I don’t question going to the gym — it’s part of what I do. And even eating right, it’s not, ‘Oh I have to eat healthy today.’ It’s part of my life now. I enjoy it.”
“I gave up certain things in my life that weren’t positive for myself, and replaced them with things like going to the gym,” she continues.
Ayala, who now works as an Herbalife wellness coach, says the best part of losing weight has been obtaining a more positive outlook on life.
“When you feel good and you’re good with yourself both mentally and physically, it changes your perspective on life,” she says. “When I go to the gym, I push myself to do things I couldn’t do before. It shifts your mindset — you become fearless because this one thing you thought you never could accomplish, now you’re able to do.”
Another rewarding aspect is being able to help others through her job as a wellness coach.
“Through my results, I’m able to help other people do the same thing,” says Ayala. “People come to me and say I’m inspiring, and I can’t even describe how rewarding that is for me.”
This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.