Paula J. Burch, 47, of Decatur, lost 37 pounds

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Former weight: 182 pounds

Current weight: 145 pounds

Pounds lost: 37 pounds

Height: 5 feet 5 inches

Age: 47 years

How long she's kept it off: She started her journey in March 2012. "Got serious in October 2013 and reached my initial goal by February 2013," says Burch.

Personal life: "I live in Decatur, Georgia with my son, Tray Burch, and daughter, Reshena Burch. I am a widow of seven years," she says. Burch is a management officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "I am a certified life coach and founder of True Essence, LLC."

Turning point: "I lost my husband due to complications from high blood pressure and he was only 39 years old," she says. "Right before his death, I too was diagnosed with high blood pressure, but it was not nearly as out of control as my husband's so I took my medication to control it. After Robert died in 2006, the stress of widowhood, an extremely stressful job and the cares of life really began to take its toll on me. I was sick and tired all the time. I battled with depression … I was nearly 50 pounds overweight, my blood pressure was no longer controlled and to make matters worse I began to experience asthmatic systems and often struggled to breathe … Motivated by my best friend, Mr. E. Jackson, I decided to try the Joanna Ward Fitness program in March 2012."

Diet plan: A typical day begins with a protein smoothie that includes oatmeal, spinach, kale, frozen fruit and soy protein powder. Lunch is a green salad with chicken or fish. Dinner is chicken, fish or lean steak with a baked sweet potato or brown rice and green veggies such as spinach, cabbage or kale.

Exercise routine: "I work out six days a week," she says. "We do a little of everything; [including] aerobics, cardio and weights…"

Biggest challenge: "My biggest challenge was not quitting on me. I've started fitness program and weight loss programs since 1992, but I never stuck to it."

How life has changed: "I can handle stress better, my blood pressure is normal. I'm enjoying every moment of life," she says. "In the words of Mary J Blige, 'I like what I see when I'm looking at me; when I'm walking past the mirror.' Above all, I want to live. Losing my husband at the age of 39 was a reality check. Being diagnosed with high blood pressure, I realized that I had to do something different. Within seven months of joining Joanna's program, I lost forty pounds of fat and gained fifteen pounds of muscle and went from a size fourteen to a size six/eight. Not only that, my blood pressure has been normal for the last four months and my lungs find breathing much easier."