Weight-Loss Journey: How One Woman Dropped 10 Dress Sizes Through Diet and Exercise

Fitness instructor Dawn Estelle Archer, 31, of Richmond, Va., reveals how she lost the weight and turned her life around.

1 of 3

Her Inspiration & Strategy


What inspired you to begin your weight loss journey?
I was depressed. I felt like my life was spiraling out of control, but realized I could control what I did for myself. In 2012, I started to control my eating and physical activity. I stopped weighing myself about a week into my journey, but I went from a size 16 to a size 6.

Related: How One Woman Lost 350 Pounds Through Diet and Exercise—No Surgery

What was your weight loss strategy? 
I stopped tracking my weight loss and I started focusing on consistency. I made sure that I was consistently eating healthy and exercising. I try to eat every three hours and within an hour of waking up unless I’m fasting (then I start eating at noon and stop at 6pm). My guidelines for food are pretty simple: I don't eat any meat, only wild caught seafood sparingly. I eat mostly vegetables, fruit and nuts. I exercise every day, which is not a chore, but more like my therapy.

Also see: Common Weight Loss Myths Busted

What’s the number one weight loss mistake that people make? 
People track their results and I think this can be a hindrance because even though you are doing the right thing, you may not see results as fast as others. So often I see where people don't see results in a week and they stop. Stick with it. It took me TWO MONTHS before I saw any results.

2 of 3

Her Weight Loss-Turned-Business


How did you turn your fitness journey into a business? 
I left my job to move home and reconnect with myself. I knew that I needed to continue exercising so I thought I’d invite others to join. I charged just $5 and I had no idea that everyone would enjoy it as much as I did and that it would grow as fast as it did—truly a blessing. Now I teach five classes each week and they cost $10 as a drop-in or even less with a membership. A five-class pass is $4 per class and ten-class pass is $3.50. 

What are your classes like? 
They’re more intense than they look, but I encourage everyone to take as many breaks as they need until they build up their endurance. We do a combination of cardio and strength training. I choreograph all of the songs and we have over 80 that we shuffle though each week. I recently had a member say my class is where she “finds her joy.”

Also see: The Best Workouts for Your Body


3 of 3

How She Resisted Cravings


What advice would you give to other women who want to shed pounds? 
Take a before picture in a bikini or shorts and a sports bra. Print this picture and post it around your home, on the fridge, in the car or in your wallet. This was my constant motivation to want to do better for myself. I also had a small sheet of paper with reasons why I didn’t want to give up—my "Healthy Why" list. A few things on the list: to confidently be in a relationship, to have more mental clarity, to not have to wear camisoles under shirts to hide my belly and to avoid diabetes (I was pre-diabetic at the time).

Related: 8 Ways to Beat Diabetes and Eat to Beat Diabetes

What was the toughest part of your weight-loss journey? 
The biggest obstacle was resisting cravings. Being around my family and going to events was difficult—it definitely challenged my willpower. The majority of my family and friends have done really well with understanding my new lifestyle, but the beginning was quite rocky. I do my best to not offend anyone while sticking to my guidelines. If anyone asked about why I wasn't eating what they cooked, I would politely explain how upset my stomach would be if I ate it. If they were strangers, I'd say I was allergic. You have to do what is best for you and your body. A strong support system is important because you will have someone holding you accountable. It is possible to succeed without it, but it is definitely easier with supportive people surrounding you and leading you away from temptations. It's nice to have someone invite you to hang out at the park instead of always going out to eat.

To read more about Dawn’s journey check out dawn-archer.com or follow her on Instagram for lots of healthy recipes.