After Gaining 180 Lbs. in 1 Year, This Woman Lost Half Her Size: ‘My Whole Life Has Changed’

Lexlee Hudson was always an athlete, playing on her high school basketball team and easily working off any junk food she would eat once she left the court. But during her junior year, the San Antonio native tore her ACL, MCL and meniscus, ending her high school basketball career earlier than expected.

“From that point forward, my weight started fluctuating,” Hudson, 24, tells PEOPLE for the 2021 Half Their Size issue. “And when I went to college I was stressed, working multiple jobs, and I didn’t know what I should be eating.”

Instead, Hudson was eating what was easy and convenient on a college budget — which meant a ton of pizza and any food she could get during breaks from her waitressing job. And within about a year, she had gained 180 lbs.

“I started having a lot of health issues,” she says. “My back was hurting all the time. I had PCOS and I was on the spectrum for pre-diabetes and high blood pressure. I love to ride horses — I have my entire life — and I couldn’t anymore. I became super insecure and withdrawn, and I stopped going out with my friends.”

“I felt like a grandma, and I was only 22 at the time,” she continues. “I was like, ‘Something’s got to change here.’ ”

For more on Lexlee and four more women who changed their lives to get healthy, pick up a copy of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Meanwhile, Hudson’s actual grandma was a weight loss success story, having lost 75 lbs. using Optavia. And Hudson's mom lost 80 lbs. on the same program. The two tried to get Hudson to join Optavia, but being a “rebellious child,” she resisted for years. Finally, after several failed “yo-yo diets,” Hudson decided she was ready.

“I was tired, I was exhausted, and I just decided it was time to put me first,” she says.

Hudson started on Optavia in Jan. 2018, with her mom and grandma as her coaches, and started to learn how to properly fuel her body. Before, she would try to counteract her pizza-heavy days by skipping meals, which would just make her binge again the next day. Hudson instead started setting alarms for every 2½-3 hours to remind herself to eat healthy snacks, and swapped out the pizza for ones with cauliflower crust or made Taco Tuesdays with lettuce wraps instead of tortillas.

“I learned to be more mindful about what I was putting in my body, which led me to be more mindful of every other aspect of my life,” she says.

The first few days on the program made her a bit “cranky,” Hudson admits, but after just a few days she started to feel better.

“You start seeing the pound go off, and then you realize that you don’t feel as swollen and you’re sleeping better,” she says. “And I just reminded myself, ‘You get to do this for you. You get to be healthy today. It's not something that you have to do. It's something that you get to do, and you're doing it for you.’ I just kind of talked myself into it every single day.”

Hudson dropped about 30 lbs. in her first month, and consistently lost weight from there, eventually losing 187 lbs. She’s still working on losing weight, but she doesn’t have a specific number in mind. “I just want to be the best version of myself,” she says.

Now, Hudson feels “so free.”

“I tell people that before I felt like I had a mental cloud over my head. I didn't always put me first,” she says. “My whole life has changed.”

Hudson is now back to riding horses, and she made a career switch, becoming a health coach herself.

“I get to help people get healthy,” she says. “I love helping people find that confidence and seeing their smile again.”

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