Tiffany Howard, a 32-year-old mom of 6-year-old twins and a 10-year-old special-needs daughter, knew she had to make changes after gaining the weight back after gastric bypass. Read on to find out how she lost nearly 200 pounds, became a health coach, and found a new lease on life.

By Krystal Hagan

What other diets and routines you tried in the past?

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Howard

I have always struggled with my weight. My father was a wonderful cook, and we connected over food. I looked up to him, and our time was spent in the kitchen cooking for our family. Being from the South, our specialty was southern fried foods.

I started my first diet at the age of 10 and tried everything—pills, programs, groups, and books—becoming obsessed with losing weight. My mother had also battled with her weight and desperately never wanted me to feel the way she did. So, at the first sign of weight gain she put me on a diet. By age 18, I had lost 100 pounds, twice! Unfortunately, I gained it all back, plus more.

I got married when I was 18, and for the first time in my life I was able to make choices about my food. I no longer had to sneak around when it came to food and because of that, I quickly ballooned to 317 pounds. In 2005, I had gastric bypass surgery and lost 175 pounds. I ended up gaining 60 pounds back after the birth of our three children, one who is disabled. Between the full-time care it took to raise my children and the death of my parents and my sister, I knew I had to make a change.

What made you decide to finally commit to losing the weight for good?

New Year’s Eve 2016 was an important day for me. I remember sitting with my husband in the kitchen knowing I was ready for a change. I had little energy for our children, low self-esteem and was inactive. I felt our kids were adopting my bad habits and if we didn’t make a change, the cycle would continue. This reality was not far-fetched, as I lost my family at a young age due to their poor health choices. So I understandably thought I could be next, and my children deserved a mom who was present and healthy. I couldn’t bear the thought of dying young and my children being raised without a mom. This realization was my breaking point.

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Howard

How much weight have you lost and how did you do it?

I’ve lost 81 pounds through the OPTAVIA health and wellness program. After seeing a friend have success, I decided to sign up. She became my coach and guided and supported me throughout my health journey. In addition to having a coach, I became part of a community of thousands on the same journey as me – together we learned healthy habits and followed OPTAVIA’s plan, which taught me to eat six times a day, every two to three hours.  

What is your goal weight? Have you reached it?

The 81 pounds I lost over six months with OPTAVIA exceeded my initial goal of 60 pounds. I also sat on the low end of the BMI scale for the first time in my life! Now I continue to be healthy and am working daily to improve my strength through TRX and fitness classes.

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Howard

What has been the hardest part of your journey?

The hardest part of my journey was realizing my battle was not with my stomach, but with my mind. I was addicted to food, and I ate to satisfy every emotion, from stress or sadness to joy and celebration. I realized a “diet” wasn’t going to work; I needed a program that would help me overcome the battle of the mind and create new habits for life.

Who/what inspires you to keep going?

My children. I have lived a cycle of obesity for 30 years. I had to break the chains of food addiction or my children would repeat the cycle. I wanted to raise healthy and happy children and I know that started with me.

Also, my oldest daughter is dependent on me. I couldn’t live with the fact that if I remained selfish, it could negatively impact her. She requires total care, so she needs me to be strong for years and years to come. This is my new motivation to not only stay healthy but take my fitness and strength to the next level.  

The heartache of losing my parents at a young age was a wakeup call to me. I had to create a new legacy of health.

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Howard

What does your typical day look like?

I get up and have 16 ounces of water as I get my twins off to school. Our oldest is homebound and is home with us and her nurses all day. After the twins head to school, I sit down and have coffee and OPTAVIA golden chocolate chip pancakes while I read and plan out my day.

Structure and a plan are key for me to know where to focus. I head to either a dance fitness class or do 30 minutes of TRX at home. After, I have another OPTAVIA Fueling with more water, take a shower and start my workday, helping clients or coaches. (Follow her journey and get weight-loss tips on Facebook.)

Generally, I enjoy a healthy lunch out with a friend, my husband or fellow coach. I love people! I usually end up running errands before picking my twins up from school. From there, we head to ice skating lessons. We all eat a healthy snack in the car.

Once home, the twins and I cook a healthy family dinner that we enjoy together. I find when we cook together, my girls are more open to eating healthy. Creating healthy habits in my daughters and watching them enjoy healthy meals has been so rewarding!

The mom duties continue as I get everything ready for the next day. Once the girls are in bed, I may call a few clients to check on them before jumping in bed to relax with a decaf cup of coffee, an OPTAVIA brownie and a good book or podcast. Then it’s lights out, as a healthy habit I’m still working on is good sleep! I strive for seven hours but if I’m being honest, it’s still a work in progress!

Could you give us an example of what a typical healthy meal is for you?

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Howard
  • Egg white omelet with Ezekiel bread smeared with avocado for a healthy fat
  • Mexican broccoli coleslaw with sautéed shrimp
  • Grilled mahi-mahi with parmesan roasted butternut squash and mashed cauliflower

RELATED: 31 Seriously Delicious Mediterranean Meals

What are your go-to snacks?

Photo courtesy of OPTAVIA
  • Mini bell peppers and guacamole
  • Organic turkey and cheese rollups  
  • Raw cashews or other nuts
  • OPTAVIA Decadent Double Chocolate Brownie

RELATED: Dietitian-Approved Healthy Store-Bought Snacks

Do you have cheat meals/cheat snacks?

Not really. I have learned that “cheat” snacks and meals can be triggers for me. Therefore, I choose to stick to healthy options. I have also learned the word “cheat” makes me revert back to my old ways of all or nothing. If I “cheat,” my brain thinks that I have already messed up, so I might as well eat everything I want today because tomorrow I’ll be back on a diet. I choose to live life as balanced as possible. I’ll have a couple bites of someone else’s meal or dessert but choose mostly healthy options. There are still some foods that I stay away from completely, as I know they will send me down a dark path.

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Howard

Do you find yourself focusing more on diet or exercise? Or do you try to find a balance?

Initially, I didn’t work out while losing weight, and frankly I didn't have to. OPTAVIA understands that changing everything at once can be hard. So, I took it one healthy habit a time. I focused on my nutrition, and once I lost the weight and continued to be healthy, I decided to add to my routine. I now do three days of dance classes a week and do TRX (strength training) at home two to three days a week.

What is your favorite way to work out? How do you motivate yourself on the days you don’t want to exercise?

I have learned that if exercise is fun, I will do it. I LOVE to dance. I love the music and the community. Finding something fun to do half of the week has been a game-changer for me. I know that no one sticks to something they hate, so dancing is perfect for me. I look forward to my classes each week, which makes it easy to stick to. Strength training, however, is not fun. I found that if I started small (30 minutes, two to three times a week) and did it at home where it didn’t take up a lot of time out of my day, I’d be able to stay consistent. Also, I’m highly motivated because I need to be strong to lift my daughter.

How has your weight-loss journey affected your family?

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Howard

I’ve gained my life back! I have energy, joy, confidence; I am a better mom and wife. I'm setting a great example for my girls. I can now play with them. We even cook healthy meals together!

What advice do you have for others, especially moms of multiples and special-needs children, who are struggling with weight loss?

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Howard

Find a program that focuses on your mind, places you in a community, gives you someone to walk the journey with you and provides a rock solid, easy nutrition plan. Know your “why.” Why do you want to be healthy? Really think about that. If your “why” is big enough, it will drive you to reach your goals.