These Weight Loss Before and After Photos Are Just the Motivation We Need

Updated: Feb. 02, 2021

Making any kind of change is hard—and it's even harder when results aren't immediate. Check out these amazing weight loss before and after pictures to give you just the motivation you need to take the first step to a new and healthier you.

Ashleigh Smith Weight Loss
Courtesy Ashleigh Smith

Stop procrastinating

Ashleigh Smith, 26, suddenly began gaining weight her senior year of high school. By the time she turned 23, she was up to 224 pounds. Following the birth of her daughter, she developed type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease that her doctors told her could improve with weight loss. Armed with determination, she decided to make healthy dietary changes and stick to them. The change in diet paid off for Smith; she lost a total of 98 pounds.

She tells Reader’s Digest, “I think the best feeling is crying happy tears in the dressing room because you can fit in a smaller size.” She wants others to know they don’t need to wait for a special occasion to make better choices for their lives. She advises, “Just do it. Stop waiting for the new year, or a Monday, or the beginning of the month or even a new day. Start now.” Here are short inspirational quotes to help you get going.

Eli W. Weight Loss
Courtesy Eli W.

Do it for yourself

The struggle with weight became more than an inconvenience for Eli, when he went to college. “Once I was on my own, I gained the freshman 15 and kept gaining 15 pounds for the last 12 years,” he tells Reader’s Digest. “Adding to that, I also gained ‘baby weight’ by competitive eating with my wife during her two pregnancies.”

Eventually Eli, now 32, realized that in order to lose the weight he had to want it for himself and no one else. Only then did the pounds begin to melt away. “I saw a picture of myself and it suddenly struck me that that was not the person that I wanted to be anymore,” he explains. “In that moment of clarity, I realized that I tried for so long to diet for other people, when really, I needed to diet for me. When I saw that picture, I said to myself, ‘I will never be that person again.’ I haven’t looked back.”

Eli says the motto that helped him become a weight loss before and after success story—and lose a grand total of 170 pounds—was, “You will thank yourself tomorrow for the choices you make today.” He says, “A healthy lifestyle isn’t learning to enjoy healthy foods more, but rather building up your resistance to eating food that will hurt you in the long run.” Here are 15 more weight-loss mantras to add to your daily routine if you’re goal is long-term dieting success.

Rich Bracken Weight Loss
Courtesy Rich Bracken

Focus on the person you want to be

When his parents decided that a childhood asthma diagnosis could not coexist with the year-round sports Rich Bracken loved to play, more than just his athletic aspirations were side-lined. Days spent running on the field were replaced with afternoons at home with fast food and video games, and Bracken, now 41, quickly gained weight. Though he played football his freshman year in college, he did not stick with it.

“The breaking point for me was toward the end of my sophomore year,” he tells Reader’s Digest. “I remember being constantly uncomfortable in my own skin and the feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem of being overweight as a child came back, when the identity that I had through football was gone.” He continues, “I remember getting dressed one morning and looking in the mirror at someone I didn’t want to be anymore.”

Once he made better food choices and started working out again, the weight began to budge. Bracken lost a total of 110 pounds, and he’s kept it off for 20 years, making him a true weight loss before and after story success. He says of his life change before and after weight loss, “I truly believe I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. Not just in the year and a half of weight loss, but also in the 20 years of keeping it off, I have made it a priority to maintain my health to be an example, to myself and others, that anything is possible when you set your mind to it.”

De Bolton Weight Loss
Courtesy De Bolton

Consistency is key

After gaining almost 100 pounds with each of her three pregnancies, De Bolton, 35, wanted to stop the pattern of weight gain. She began lifting weights at home before transitioning to working out at a gym, where she set her sights on competitive bodybuilding. She became so inspired by her own weight loss, she wanted to do more; halfway through her journey, she went back to school to get her associate degree in fitness and exercise science, and she also got certified in personal training and senior fitness.

“My weight loss journey fueled a passion in me to help others, especially seniors, live their best life. Previously, I was more self-absorbed wallowing in my own self-doubt,” De Bolton shares. “Now, my confidence has empowered me to look outward and help others.”

De Bolton credits consistency as a main contributing factor to success stories. She advises, “I always tell people that there are fads, diets, and tricks, and they will only give you a temporary fix. I know, because I’ve tried them all. Consistency works, and you have to keep on going, even when you don’t want to, because everything you do today will show up later.” Need some workout motivation? Check out the 10 positive things that happen to your body after just one workout.

Raven Weight Loss
Courtesy Raven

Accept your vulnerability

Slightly overweight since childhood, Raven never considered her weight to be a hindrance in her life. Then in her senior year of high school, the numbers on the scale began rising rapidly. Weighing 191 pounds after graduation, she got a breast reduction surgery that summer to help with the back pain. After that, “I had a complete identity crisis, I didn’t recognize who I was in the mirror,” she tells Reader’s Digest.

After fad diets and starving herself didn’t work and her weight reached its peak of 255 pounds, Raven turned to tried and true weight loss methods: diet, exercise, and tracking her calories. She says of her experience, “As I was losing weight, along with each and every pound I lost, I shed all of those bottled up emotions: anger, frustration, fear, anxiety, and insecurity.” She continues, “It terrified me at first because losing weight makes you feel vulnerable, it makes you look different in the mirror—but I knew that as my exterior got smaller, my soul was flourishing and extending out to touch the world like it never had before.” Raven has since lost a total of 111 pounds and kept her health in check.

Scott Schmaren Weight Loss
Courtesy Scott Schmaren/Baltimore Photo Social

Change your mind

Weight loss is no stranger to Scott Schmaren, 55, who has lost and regained the same 100 pounds repeatedly. The boomerang weight gain pattern finally took its toll when he decided to end his life after gaining back a total of 160 pounds. He tells Reader’s Digest of the moment that changed it all, “I felt hopeless and depressed. I weighed 360 pounds and I had a 56-inch waist.” In his desperation, Schmaren took a bottle of sleeping pills and pain medication. He recalls, “I took enough pills to kill an elephant. I passed out in my chair, the one I used to hide from the world, eat, and watch TV. I should have died.”

He didn’t. “I remember opening my eyes in that chair as the sun was shining through the window and I felt a sense of peace I had never experienced before. In that moment, I got clarity and took responsibility for my life. I made a decision to change, find out how my mind worked, and to transform every area of my life.”

Now 185 pounds lighter, Schmaren, says he’s made it his goal to help others achieve weight loss success stories of their own. He advises others not to depend on diet and exercise solely for weight loss, though they are important tools. He explains, “The key is to change the picture or vision you have of yourself in your mind-body conscious and subconscious. Once you change that picture, eating, health, and getting good exercise become natural and logical choices to support that picture in your mind.” Ready to get started? Read up on these 13 things experts won’t tell you about weight loss first.

Kay Koziol Weight Loss
Courtesy Kay Koziol

Own your behavior

A two-time cancer survivor with multiple other health concerns, Kay Koziol, was overweight and on track to become the unhealthiest version of herself she had ever been. It was after a trip to celebrate her in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary that she finally understood she needed to take action. “Of course there were lots of pictures taken, and every picture I saw of myself, I couldn’t believe it was me,” she tells Reader’s Digest. “I started to listen to myself talk to other people and I was making excuses about my weight. I blamed it on my thyroid and other medical issues, while stuffing my face full of junk food.” When Koziol returned home, she made a commitment to change her health for the better and signed up for an exercise boot camp. It was then that her health turned a corner.

Through the changes she made in diet and exercise, Koziol, now 44, lost a total of 60 pounds and gained a healthier lifestyle. “I am no longer on any medication, I’m pain free, and I am stronger and healthier than I have ever been in my life,” she says. As a result of her life change before and after weight loss, Koziol is now opening three exercise boot camps of her own to help others. She says, “I feel the best gift I could ever give to anyone is the gift of a better version of themselves and to give them their life back.”

Nick Wolny Weight Loss
Courtesy Nick Wolny

Learn to enjoy the process

Nick Wolny battled his weight constantly as a child, but when the effects of being heavy became too much to ignore, he decided to do something—anything—to change his life for the better. The 30-year-old tells Reader’s Digest, “I was 270 pounds and developing stretch marks around my nipples. In the high school locker room, the other boys would ask when I was due; it was excruciating.” He continues, “One summer, I began walking at a nearby school track. I had no plan and no resources, other than to just walk or jog each day more than I had the previous day. I think that’s how it starts for most people—you don’t have a perfect plan, you just get obsessed and start taking action and then your habits begin to change.”

As the changes to Wolny’s life grew, the number on the scale shrunk. He lost a total of 105 pounds, which he’s kept off for more than a decade, and the benefits from those changes had a ripple effect through his life. “I developed much more confidence and energy and took career risks throughout my 20s that I never would have considered,” he says. “I also came out of the closet, and I’m not sure that would have happened otherwise, because I wasn’t confident in myself. It felt like life really began when I took charge of my health.”

He encourages others to make small changes today. “It’s easy to slip into the trap of focusing on quick results without learning good healthy habits,” he says. “Instead, focus on being better today than you were yesterday, and the results will come.” Pump up your motivation with these  diet secrets of 12 people who have maintained their weight loss.

Dave Conley Weight Loss
Courtesy Dave Conley

Learn to love yourself

Dave Conley had a life-long battle with his weight, and it was only when tragedy struck that he became serious about becoming healthy. “I was working at a job I hated and smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, and I weighed 330 pounds,” he shares. “The one thing that brought me joy was my amazing wife, Carole. One day she caught a cold. Sixty hours later, I switch off her life support.” It was the tragedy of losing his wife that shifted something in Conley. “I resolved to live a life worth living,” the 45-year-old says.

“I spent years telling myself I’d lose weight tomorrow, I’d start a new diet next week, or that I’d have more time the next month.” After the loss of his beloved wife, Conley quit smoking, left the job he hated, and lost 150 pounds. Sticking with it is what matters the most when trying to achieve a weight loss goal, according to Conley. “Giving up happens a lot. What matters is your resilience of going back to it.”

Deb Thompson Weight Loss
Courtesy Deb Thompson

Reclaim your health

Deb Thompson, PhD, tried to lose weight unsuccessfully for 20 years before making a vow on her 40th birthday to try again. As a psychologist, she knew that her issues with weight were about more than just food. Thompson tells Reader’s Digest, “Doing fun things with my three kids like tobogganing were daunting, because I was so out of shape. The vicious cycle of lack of fitness, discouragement, overeating, and overworking had me absolutely stuck. Life had become a spectator sport.” She continues, “As a mom and a psychologist, I felt more and more uneasy about not walking the talk of good self-care and wellness. Finally, my health risks and feeling awful loomed large enough for me to try again, but from a different perspective: one of reclaiming and caring for myself and health.”

Once she focused on providing nourishment to her entire life through dietary and lifestyle changes, weight loss quickly followed. She recalls, “I committed to a nourished life, not just about how I fed my body with good food, but also how I fueled myself with good movement, play, rest, and belonging.”

Thompson, now 53, lost a total of 85 pounds through her lifestyle overhaul, and she continues to maintain her weight loss today. “I am fit and active with running, outdoor and indoor cycling, skiing, and hiking. I continue to work as a psychologist, and now also a personal coach, specializing in helping other women who struggle with weight.”

Natalie Wolff Weight Loss
Courtesy Natalie Wolff

Have no regrets

When Natalie Wolff’s second child was born with special needs requiring hospital stays and extended therapy sessions, her motivation to lose the 70 pounds she gained during pregnancy was not even on the radar. “Having three young children, a business, and a spouse who works a different schedule took a toll on my mind and my body,” she says. But the self-employed business owner knew she had to make a change. “I decided it was time to focus on me, just a little, so that I could be a better mother, wife, and business owner.” This decision led Wolff to start exercising in their garage, and she lost a total of 65 pounds.

Wolff tells Reader’s Digest her metamorphosis has been nothing short of life-changing. “I’m so much more confident now—I know I can do what I set my mind to.” She’s now a certified personal trainer and health coach and is studying to be a nutritionist. Her advice to others is simple: “You will never regret it. However, you will regret not doing it. Take small baby steps. Eat healthier. Eating healthier makes all the difference.” If you’re worried because you’ve been unsuccessful in the past, take some time to read up on these 15 things that are sabotaging your own weight loss.

Matt Pietro Weight Loss
Courtesy Matt Pietro

Face your fears

Marine Corps veteran Matt Pietro knows a thing or two about pushing past adversity to focus on a goal. Shortly before his first deployment to Iraq in 2007, Pietro’s wife lost their daughter in her sixth month of pregnancy. The loss was devastating to Pietro, who was forced to leave his wife in what was the most difficult moment of their lives together. His wife later filed for divorce, only compounding upon his feelings of loss and heartache. While deployed, Pietro was hit by shrapnel and given an honorable discharge from the military.

Upon returning home, Pietro suffered yet another loss: While riding his motorcycle, he was involved in a tragic accident that required the amputation of his right leg. Pietro had previously faced a life-long struggle with his weight and worked hard to maintain the stringent requirements of the military. Now confined to a wheelchair, his weight sky-rocketed and became another hindrance to living a life that now felt unrecognizable.

“I became depressed over the loss of my leg, my PTSD related to my service, and the loss of my daughter all at once,” he tells Reader’s Digest. “I knew if I didn’t do anything, I would die in my apartment from fear. I realized that even though I encountered immeasurable amounts of loss before the age of 29, that I could turn it around for the better and use it to motivate and help others.” Pietro began training daily at a gym, sometimes working out more than once a day. The result was a stunning 150 pound weight loss and a renewed zest for life.

Now 33, Pietro has words of encouragement for others hoping to lose weight against the odds: “I truly understand the fear of getting out of your comfort zone to lose weight. The fear of not fitting in a gym or fitness facility, because you feel people will look down on you because you’re not the skinniest or tallest, or you might be handicapped, like I am. I encourage you to look fear in the eyes and to push through it.”

If these true tales have motivated you to finally get fit, get started with these 11 bizarre weight loss tricks that really work.