The following is a guest post by Stacey Marshall.

As a child, I was always active. I was into competitive gymnastics for 10 years. I was into track and field, cheerleading, and basketball.

I never watched what I ate. Weight loss or weight gain or anything of that nature were never concerns.

Beginning in my late teens, when I met the man who became my husband, we began to go out to eat frequently. Often we would go to the movies and then go out to eat. As a result, we would be eating late, and then going to sleep soon after.

In my early 20s I began to realize I was putting on some weight, but it was not to the point where I felt I needed to do anything about it. I didn’t weight myself and in my mind I always thought I weighed about 150 pounds.

Then, one day, my mother-in-law was weighing her suitcase because she was traveling abroad and her suitcase needed to be no more than 50 pounds. We had an old suitcase-weighing device. She got on the scale with the suitcase and then deducted her weight to find out how much the suitcase weighed.

Everyone started doing it, like a game—going on the scale to see how much they weighed. But I didn’t.

Soon after, on a day when no one was home, I went on the scale to see how much I weighed. To my shock and horror I weighed over 200 pounds!

That was a big wake-up call for me. I don’t know how long I had been at that weight, but I knew I wanted to make some changes to get my weight down to a healthy number. Losing weight is difficult and I wasn’t mentally prepared for the massive challenge ahead of me: the need to change how I ate, drank, and exercised.

At first, I clearly wasn’t ready. I would go to the gym, but I didn’t change my eating habits. Or I would get on a kick of healthy eating (or what I thought was healthy), and then I wouldn’t be working out.

After a year of struggle, I was still over 200 lbs. I had a whole bunch of clothes in my closet, but I was always gravitating towards things that were baggy to hide my physique.

The turning point was when I contacted a close friend of mine who is a nutritionist and personal trainer and she put together a meal and exercise plan for me.

It took some time, but after implementing her plan, I lost the weight I wanted to, and I’ve been able to maintain my weight, while still living what I consider a normal life—I eat bad food every once in a while, but 90% of what I eat is clean.

Here are five things which have been the most impactful for me.

1: I drink lots of water. I no longer drink juice or alcohol. I buy bottled water and I also have a filtration system on my tap because water is my go-to drink. Sometimes if I want to flavor my water, I’ll squeeze a lemon in it or a lime.

2: I do not eat late at night, especially carbs. I generally eat three to four hours prior to bed time.

3: I exercise consistently. I go to the gym four to five times a week. It’s important to incorporate not only cardio, but also weight training.

4: I eat lean protein: turkey, chicken, and fish. I have protein shakes as well. Every once in a while, I’ll have a little piece of steak, but I generally stick to what I just listed. Also, greens are your best friend. I eat a lot of broccoli and spinach. I don’t eat a lot of carbs. I generally eat my carbs in the morning, usually oatmeal. Sometimes I’ll eat some brown rice.

5: I stay away from processed foods.

It’s also important to keep in mind you are only human, and it’s important to have cheat meals on occasion. Losing excess weight isn’t easy. And once you’re there, keeping it off isn’t easy unless you have developed good habits. If you eat clean, work out consistently, and drink a lot of water, I can almost guarantee you’re going to lose excess weight and become more toned.

Stacey Marshall’s personal journey inspired her to train to become a nutritionist and personal trainer. Stacey runs a weight loss blog.