Shelly Hutchinson, 45, of Snellville lost 81 pounds

Shelly Hutchinson, 45, of Snellville lost 81 pounds

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In the photo on the left, taken in 2003, Shelly Hutchinson weighed 236 pounds. In the photo on the right, taken in November, she weighed 155 pounds.

SUCCESS STORY / Shelly Hutchinson, 45: From 236 pounds to 155 pounds

Former weight: 236 pounds

Current weight: 155 pounds

Pounds lost: 81 pounds

Height: 5 feet 7 inches

Age: 45 years

How long she’s kept it off: Hutchinson started November 2005 and reached her current weight in July 2013.

Personal life: “I am a wife and mom to both human and four-legged children. … My children are 14 and 17,” Hutchinson said. “I have been married to my husband, Eddie, for 21 years. I am a licensed clinical social worker, an owner/director at The Social Empowerment Center and an adjunct professor at the University of Georgia.”

Turning point: “I looked at pictures of myself at my son’s second birthday party. I was already unhappy with how I looked, but the pictures from that party inspired me,” she said. “I started November 2005, right before the holidays and the year my youngest child turned 2. … It was a very slow process that took many twists and turns. … I didn’t really try to gain or lose after I met my goal weight. I keep track of my weight to see what works and what needs to be tweaked.”

Diet plan: “The No. 1 rule for ‘Shelly’s Diet Plan’ is to listen to your body,” she said. “Now I eat because I am hungry and my body needs fuel. It can’t get fuel from crap, so I avoid eating crap. … I still go to fast food sometimes, but I can eat a baked potato or four grilled nuggets and be satisfied. Turns out I didn’t need an entire value meal after all. When I am full, I stop.”

Exercise routine: “I started with hard cardio and a personal trainer for two years, but I hit a plateau. I hated the hard cardio and personal trainer route. … I looked at it as a necessary evil, but then I discovered yoga. … The first yoga session I had, I spent an hour focusing just on me and my body, how it works, how it functions, how to be good to it. My self-awareness and relationship with food changed,” she said, adding that she practices yoga daily, often enjoying the headstand pose wherever she may travel, including New York, Peru and the Grand Canyon.

Biggest challenge: “Definitely my sweet tooth,” Hutchinson said. “If I could get rid of sweets, I could be a lot smaller, but I am fine with my weight — I need the sweets.”

How life has changed: “I am more active,” she said. “The more active I am, the less I think about food, the more calories I burn. … I looked for a secret for weight loss for far too long. I had to change my relationship with food. … I would suggest to turn within. I don’t think I was eating because I was hungry. I was eating because it was time for the kids to eat, or it was dinner time, snack time … and I finished my plate, the way I was taught.”

Share Your Success: Have you lost weight successfully with a healthy lifestyle change? If you would like to share your story with our readers, please include your email address, a daytime phone number, and before and after photos (by mail or JPEG), and contact us at: Success Stories, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 223 Perimeter Center Parkway, Atlanta, GA, 30346-1301; or email Michelle C. Brooks,

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