Shelby Reeker celebrated her golden birthday with a big bash.

But when she looked back on pictures from her 24th birthday party, she had a meltdown. She didn’t like what she saw.

The Omaha woman found a personal trainer at Activ8 Fitness, 132nd and F Streets. She walked in ready to make a complete lifestyle change.

Reeker said she started “from ground zero.” She could barely do a squat, and started out lifting with 3-pound weights.

She got over her fear of being judged in the gym and joined group classes. She and her classmates hold each other accountable.

Along with the new exercise routine, Reeker overhauled her diet. She started tracking everything she ate in a day. It also meant cutting out pop and fast food.

Reeker started at 217 pounds. Now she’s down to 139 pounds and is working on maintaining her nearly 80-pound weight loss.

She has found a happy balance in maintaining her diet and exercise routines. She still goes out to eat with family and friends, and she doesn’t turn down cake at a birthday celebration. She knows how to get back on track the next day.

“Now, it’s not so much losing weight. This is for my mental health,” said Reeker, who’s now 25. “It’s such a relaxing place, and it’s where I crave to be, especially after a hard workday.”

Sign up for the Live Well Nebraska newsletter

Get the latest health headlines and inspiring stories straight to your inbox.

Q: When did you start working out and why?

A: I started in May 2018. On my 24th birthday, I took pictures and had a huge golden birthday celebration. I just didn’t like who I was in those pictures. I wanted to make a change.

Q: Describe your workouts. How many days per week do you exercise?

A: When I started, I did a lot of personal training. I eventually got to a point where I was comfortable working out around other people. Now I walk in feeling like I’m part of their family. There’s a lot of high-intensity interval training and weightlifting. Every day is different. I’m there five to six days a week.

Q: What is your current fitness goal?

A: Continuing where I’m at. I’m at a really good place. I’ve lost 75 pounds, and I’m maintaining. I’ve gotten to a point where the scale doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. I feel so comfortable in my own skin. I’m so proud of myself. I worked really, really hard. There is no magic pill. It was a complete lifestyle change.

Q: What has been your biggest accomplishment?

A: How I view myself. I was very hard on myself, and I beat myself up when I saw pictures. At the beginning of the journey, it was hard not to see that scale move. But I took weekly pictures, and they were the biggest thing, because I’ve seen my body change. I changed my physical appearance, but also a lot mentally and emotionally.

Q: What has been the toughest hurdle and how did you overcome it?

A: Saying no in that beginning process. I had to say no to going out on weekends or to doing pizza night once a week. That was hard, but I learned not to make food so much of a priority at gatherings. Some people didn’t get it, but this was a “me” thing. It was changing for me and no one else.

Q: What helps you stay on track?

A: Christa Gilson and Brent Dierking have been the greatest people. They have changed my life. And the friends I’ve made. These girls text me on my bad days when I don’t want to go to the gym, and I text them encouragement. I couldn’t do it without the support and accountability.

Q: What is your gym pet peeve?

A: Not putting your weights away.

Q: What do you do when you aren’t in the gym?

A: I work a lot and I spend a lot of time with friends and family. The gym has been my life, but I love it. I love being active and being outdoors.

Q: What is the piece of equipment, supplement, clothing, etc. that you can’t live without?

A: Wearing a tank top is now my favorite thing ever. When I first started, I went to the gym in full-length leggings and a T-shirt. I also love a kettlebell workout.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their fitness journey?

A: Don’t be scared. That scale does not define where you’re at. You’ve got to take a hard look in the mirror and realize that if you’re putting in the work and trying, you’re doing the best you can and it will come in time. Everyone has different goals. You can’t compare someone else’s story to your own.

Get the latest health headlines and inspiring stories straight to your inbox.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.