In 2014, Helen Costa-Giles weighed over 220 pounds and stood at 5 feet tall. Doctors told her she was “morbidly obese” and recommended she lose weight to avoid chronic health problems down the road. Heeding the advice of her doctor, Costa-Giles started a weight loss journey that has inspired her entire community to join in on the process.
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After coming home from the doctors, Costa-Giles tried anything and everything under the sun, including weight loss pills and low-carb diets. These just didn’t have an effect on her body weight. It wasn’t until she fully committed herself that she started to see results.
Instead of taking shortcuts or a magic pill to shed weight, the 38-year-old decided to change her whole lifestyle. She started by breaking the vicious cycle of eating junk food all the time.
“I had to break that cycle, because it was up to me to lead them to a healthier lifestyle,” she told PEOPLE. “I basically came down from the doctor’s that day and I had my paperwork and I slammed it down on the kitchen counter and said, ‘That’s it. We’re done. No more yo-yo dieting, no more fads.’”
Within six months of changing her diet, she had lost 60 pounds, CNN reported. Even after the impressive weight loss, she wasn’t pleased with her appearance. “I didn’t exercise my first six months. I didn’t have the confidence. But once I lost the weight, I was like, ‘Oh, I kind of look like Gumby. I probably should start working out.'”
This is when she decided to share her health journey with others in her community. It all started with a Facebook post. “I put a post on my neighborhood Facebook and said ‘Hey, anybody want to work out with me at 4 a.m.?’ And people said yes! I had a few people come, and then the next day they came again. I started to realize they need me as much as I need them.”
Costa-Giles now believes that even a tedious work out is better when you do it with others. It can make all the difference.
“Having somebody there next to you and having somebody on the same journey with you is really powerful. I think once you help somebody else in their own health journey, it does a lot for you.”
Now, at 4 a.m. every morning, the mother-of-two uses her driveway and garage to create a workout environment for all of her community. In the two years since her doctor’s visit, Costa-Giles has lost 90 pounds. She is now in the best shape of her life.