As a kid, Victoria Brady got an unwelcome nickname from her family — “Butterball.”
“I was wide and round,” Brady, 31, tells PEOPLE for the 2019 “How I Lost 100 Lbs.” feature. “That’s just my genetics.”
Plus, her family “love the good ol’ country cooking and frying everything.” Dinners would be filled with fried chicken, pork chops, mac and cheese and cornbread.
“Being healthy is taboo in my family,” she says.
By her freshman year of college, Brady was 252 lbs., and because of her weight, she was also having health issues. She was pre-diabetic and has polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, which stopped her from having a regular menstrual cycle — a problem when she wanted to get pregnant a few years later in 2014. Brady started on medication to combat her high blood sugar and get her body to ovulate, and she was able to get pregnant and have her first son in 2015.
But her weight gain only continued from there. Brady had trouble with her milk production and ate tons of lactation cookies and drank Gatorade in the hopes of upping her supply, but it “ultimately made me gain more weight.”
“When I went for my six-week check-up, the doctor said, ‘You’re heavier than when you left the hospital, what happened?’ ” she recalls. “All I could do was actually just break down in tears and cry in front of him when he said that.”
And two months later, Brady found out she was pregnant again. “I never got a chance to really bounce back from the first pregnancy so it was adding more weight on top of the weight I had gained,” she says.
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Her second son arrived 11 months after her first, and by that time Brady “was very insecure and very down on myself.” Plus, she was now 275 lbs. and was struggling to take care of her kids.
“It was really hard to walk up the stairs to get my sons,” she says. “If the baby was crying I would always send my husband to do it. And I didn’t want to go out much. I tried to start with baby steps, just pushing them in the stroller around the area, but I just wasn’t comfortable walking down the street — I was always thinking someone was watching me. So I just hid in a bubble.”
Then, at her older son’s 1-year check-up, Brady got a big wake-up call. The doctor said he was in the 95th percentile for his weight, and was concerned about how big he was.
“He was just really heavy, and that gave me flashbacks to when I was growing up and how my family would tease me,” she says. “It made me feel like the black sheep, and I didn’t want the same thing for him. That was the moment where I was just determined to just do something for my kids because I wanted them to live a happier and healthier life than I did.”
Brady knew that she needed to revamp her family’s entire diet, and started by cutting out white carbs and sugar. It worked initially, but when her weight loss slowed, she decided to try a 10-day juice cleanse.
“I lost about 13 lbs. in the 10 days of that cleanse, but it wasn’t the weight that I lost, it was discipline that I got from it,” she says. “I used it as a way to not only reset my body, but reset my mind and so that for me was really the turning point and it helped me get more vegetables in my diet.”
The cleanse, along with joining a weight loss group on Facebook with healthy meal ideas, helped Brady completely change her eating habits. She also started going on regular walks to get her body moving again, and eventually got into group fitness classes and circuit training.
In six months, Brady dropped 100 lbs., and kept working her way down to her current weight, 150 lbs. She’s now a certified personal trainer, and got her first client after spotting a woman in one of her fitness classes who was starting her own weight loss journey, much like Brady was two years earlier.
“I’ve been there before and I know how hard it is,” she says.
Now, Brady feels like a renewed person.
“I’m much more confident in myself and my capabilities,” she says. “I’m not worried about what others think anymore.”
And she’s “much more active” with her two young sons.
“I do workout videos with them sometimes,” she says. “They’ll mimic what I’m doing, and it’s so cute. I know it’ll keep them active.”