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Teacher dances off 100 pounds

June 2012: "I remembered seeing this photo after it was taken and thinking people would look at it and wonder what my husband was doing with somebody that looked like me," said Roni Tarver.June 2012: “I remembered seeing this photo after it was taken and thinking people would look at it and wonder what my husband was doing with somebody that looked like me,” said Roni Tarver.
June 2012: Photos like this one from a wedding were a wake-up call for Tarver. "I couldn't believe how big I was from the side ... I was so uncomfortable throughout the ceremony because of how big I was compared to the other bridesmaids in the wedding party. I had specifically chosen that style of dress to hide my stomach." June 2012: Photos like this one from a wedding were a wake-up call for Tarver. “I couldn’t believe how big I was from the side … I was so uncomfortable throughout the ceremony because of how big I was compared to the other bridesmaids in the wedding party. I had specifically chosen that style of dress to hide my stomach.”
March 2013: Tarver, right, poses with Zumba instructor Catalina Salas a few months after starting classes. "An old roommate in college had given me that shirt ... and it was tight on me when I borrowed it. When I noticed how baggy it looked here, I knew I was really making headway in my weight loss journey."March 2013: Tarver, right, poses with Zumba instructor Catalina Salas a few months after starting classes. “An old roommate in college had given me that shirt … and it was tight on me when I borrowed it. When I noticed how baggy it looked here, I knew I was really making headway in my weight loss journey.”
July 2013: Tarver and her mom, Vicki Crow, who was a full-time teacher and aerobics instructor. "I had just started being able to purchase clothing in the women's section that was not plus sized. When I tried this shirt on and it fit, and it wasn't an XL, I cried." July 2013: Tarver and her mom, Vicki Crow, who was a full-time teacher and aerobics instructor. “I had just started being able to purchase clothing in the women’s section that was not plus sized. When I tried this shirt on and it fit, and it wasn’t an XL, I cried.”
August 2013: Tarver had lost 75 pounds by the time she and her husband Tom went to her 10-year high school reunion. "I felt so beautiful and confident in this picture," she said.August 2013: Tarver had lost 75 pounds by the time she and her husband Tom went to her 10-year high school reunion. “I felt so beautiful and confident in this picture,” she said.
December 2013: Two years after her wedding, Roni put on her dress to see just how much her body had changed. "I couldn't believe how big it was on me." December 2013: Two years after her wedding, Roni put on her dress to see just how much her body had changed. “I couldn’t believe how big it was on me.”
February 2014: Tarver poses with faculty head shots she found from 2011 and 2012. "The one on the right was taken right after I started working out and so I was feeling more driven to do my hair and wear makeup. The one on the left was my second year of teaching and it is clear I did not care how I looked."February 2014: Tarver poses with faculty head shots she found from 2011 and 2012. “The one on the right was taken right after I started working out and so I was feeling more driven to do my hair and wear makeup. The one on the left was my second year of teaching and it is clear I did not care how I looked.”
March 2014: "This was my first size 6 dress that I fit into since middle school. I was over the moon excited about being able to zip it up in the back without struggling."March 2014: “This was my first size 6 dress that I fit into since middle school. I was over the moon excited about being able to zip it up in the back without struggling.”
May 2014: Tarver kept taking classes with Salas, who pushed her to get her Zumba instructor license and is now a close friend.May 2014: Tarver kept taking classes with Salas, who pushed her to get her Zumba instructor license and is now a close friend.

  • Roni Tarver had never been a skinny girl
  • In 2012, she weighed 235 pounds
  • Losing 100 pounds was “way easier than I ever thought,” Tarver said

Editor’s note: Do you have a weight-loss success story to share? Tell us how you did it and you could be featured in our weekly weight-loss story on CNN.com.

(CNN) — In fall 2012, Roni Tarver was in a bad mood.

The 5-foot-6-inch teacher weighed 235 pounds and suffered back pain almost constantly. She was popping 10 to 15 ibuprofen daily, which took a toll on her stomach. It didn’t help that she was on her feet most of the day and dealing with the stress and exhaustion of being a relatively new teacher.

Her husband never once said anything about her weight, which made her feel worse about not taking care of herself. She had quit smoking, but knew she needed to get active because climbing stairs still left her winded.

“I really married the most sweet, wonderful, compassionate man in the world. He never made me feel bad about it, so I think I felt more guilty,” said Tarver, 29, a high-school agriculture teacher who lives in the Fort Worth, Texas, area. She remembers thinking, “Why aren’t you taking the initiative? This man loves you for who you are.”

She had never had the body she wanted. By that November, she had had enough. She was done being just the outgoing, funny girl. She was done being heavy.

“I found myself crying in bed one night over my weight, and my husband told me that he thought I was beautiful, but if I was so unhappy, I should do something about it,” Tarver wrote on CNN iReport. “This triggered something in me.”

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The very next day, she said, she began monitoring her calories and walking or riding the stationary bicycle six days a week. After two months, she was brave enough to step foot inside a gym. That was January 3, 2013.

Soon after, she signed up for her first Zumba class.

It was the beginning of her new life.

Tarver started sampling every available evening dance class. As the daughter of an aerobic dance instructor, the movements came easily. By the third week, she wanted to be there all the time, dancing to exhaustion under the club lights in the gym’s group fitness room. She supplemented classes with one to two nights working out on the elliptical machine and lifting weights.

“My instructors were amazing, and made me feel like they loved having me there,” she said. “I was having a blast exercising for the first time in my life.”

One of her instructors, now a close friend, found her on Facebook and would message her if Tarver missed a class. She also offered to make her CDs with music she noticed Tarver liked in class.

After 10 months, Tarver’s teacher encouraged her to get certified to teach her own classes. Tarver has been teaching Zumba and other classes that combine fitness and dance for the past four months, in addition to the classes she takes.

“You really feel like you’re in a club, dancing with people, but you don’t have a hangover in the morning. At the end of it, you feel awesome, you’re exhausted, and you can go back and do it tomorrow if you want. It’s good for your soul, if you ask me.”

Tarver knew exercise wasn’t enough to really get healthy. She had to change her eating habits, too. She didn’t follow a particular diet, but stuck to a few principles.

The first few months, she rarely ate out, if at all, and cut out fast food in favor of salmon or grilled chicken with vegetables. At school, she ate a protein shake or bar for breakfast, a banana, apple, pear or some clementines for a snack, more fruit and a low-calorie frozen dinner for lunch. She used a calorie counter app on her phone to track her intake, sticking to about 1,500 to 1,700 calories per day based on how fast or slow she was losing weight.

She also cut out dairy, which was probably the hardest sacrifice.

Tarver’s weight-loss advice:

“Find something active that you love doing, and don’t give up.”

“I could drink a whole gallon of whole milk in two days. I really, really liked cheese and milk a lot,” she said. “It was difficult at first because I was so conditioned to eating cheese, but I felt better.”

After a couple of months, she allowed herself one cheat meal a week — two bacon and egg taquitos from her favorite fast food chain every Tuesday. She still has that ritual, but is a little freer with her diet on the weekends.

When Tarver started her weight loss journey in November 2012, at 235 pounds, she wore size 22 pants and was about 42% body fat. Within 14 months, she was down to 135 pounds, a size 6 and 21% body fat. Her back pain is almost completely gone, she has her dream body and is “the happiest I have ever been.”

“I can’t believe how easy it was — how fast the weight came off when I was doing the right thing,” she said. “I’m thrilled out of my mind with my body.”

Her husband, Tom Tarver, says Roni has always been beautiful, but it’s clear to him how much better she feels.

“I’m very proud of her, and I would choose the way she feels now over however she looks,” he said. “She’s happier, and she is just a fun person to be around. It’s the kind of person you want to be married to.”

Tarver fluctuates between 130 and 135 pounds and considers herself to be in maintenance mode; she carries around some extra skin from the weight loss, but will happily accept the extra skin over the extra weight.

“If I could give one piece of advice to anyone struggling with their weight, it would be to find something active that you love doing, and don’t give up,” Tarver said. “Consistency is key to making any lifestyle changes. Find a support system and tell people what you are trying to do for yourself. When you say it out loud, you become accountable.”



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