A woman who packed on pounds after falling in love and was often mistaken for an expectant mother has transformed into a super-fit bodybuilder.
Helen Costa-Giles, 38, from San Antonio, Texas tipped the scales at 220lbs, which at just 5ft 2 was classified as morbidly obese, after spending date nights with her husband gorging on snacks and watching movies.
Strangers often mistook Helen for being pregnant and asked ‘how far along’ she was, making her feel ashamed of her fuller frame.
Helen lost 90lbs (6.4 stone) after a health test showed she was headed for a path of chronic disease, and fearing for her kids, she snapped.
Along with her husband Gary, who was also overweight, Helen purged their pantry of junk food and ate clean for 30 days to kick start a new life.
Now Helen, who has since picked up weight lifting, runs her own boot camp and fitness programme online
Helen, an auto parts distribution company supervisor, said: ‘I would eat at fast food drive thru everyday.
‘When I met my husband 14 years ago, we fell in love around food. We would watch movies and eat junk.
‘People would ask if I was pregnant and how far long I was because I carried the weight in my belly.’
Growing up, Helen had been fit and healthy, and was an athlete in high school.
She said: ‘When I got to the age of alcohol and parties that when the struggle began.
‘I was eating more and being less physical. Pretty much every meal was a drive thru.
‘I was eating over 3000 calories a day on burgers, fries, and pizzas every day.’
Her weight gain affected her health and she started to feel guilty as a mum for not being able to keep up with her sons.
She said: ‘I was miserable, burned out, tired, exhausted. I would come home and be unable to play with my boys.
‘Instead, I would put a movie on for them because if I got on the floor, I’d not be able to stand up again.
‘I went on yo-yo diets and would always gain the weight back and more.
‘When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see me. It was as if I was wearing the saddest costume.’
It was during a health check-up at work in 2014 that something finally snapped.
She said: ‘For ten years I had been told I was obese, sometimes morbidly obese.
‘But this time the doctor called me back. I was headed down a road of chronic disease.
‘That scared the crap out of me. I thought of my two little boys. I couldn’t leave them.
‘I came home and slammed the results on the kitchen table, enough was enough.
Helen would take a picture of herself every Sunday to document her weight loss
‘My husband was unhealthy as well. We had two little boys – I didn’t want my boys to live an unhealthy life.’
The determined couple purged their house of junk food and to their surprise were left with empty shelves.
For the next 30 days they only ate clean, healthy foods that Helen spent eight hours prepping on Sundays for the week ahead.
Helen took photos every Sunday to document her weight loss.
When she had reached 175lbs (12.5 stone), she joined a gym and picked up weight lifting to drop to 130lbs (9.2 stone) and tone up.
She said: ‘I’ve never been this much in love with myself. I don’t think I ever knew how much I didn’t take care of myself.’
Her new physical fitness has also improved her relationship with her husband and her kids.
She said: ‘My kids see a happier mum. Now we go hiking, I can chase them around. My kids love coming to obstacles races with me.
‘My husband and I have had to learn to live together again, working out who is going to the gym and when.
‘Ultimately, it has strengthened our relationship as we are less miserable and irritable.’
Now she has launched her own fitness initiative NME Rise N Grind and a website that helps other women and men get healthy.
She said: ‘It started with a few friends meeting at my garage at 4am – now we’ve had to move to parking lot and I hope to make it a global movement.’