‘I Ate A Mostly Vegan Diet And Did Strength Training To Lose 45 Pounds After A Prediabetes Diagnosis’

My name is Yanel Mayorga (@shewolf_getsfit), but everyone calls me Nelly. I am 30 years old, and I am from Long Beach, California. I am a full-time wedding and maternity photographer. After learning I was at risk of diabetes, I decided to eat a vegan diet overnight and strength train to weight loss. I lost 45 pounds in the process.

I have always been overweight and that’s pretty much been my biggest insecurity. In a nutshell, I associated my potential with my weight, and I used my weight as an excuse as to why I was living a mediocre life. My unhappiness with my weight was my life story because I let it be.

Back in 2016, I went to the doctor because I was dealing with insomnia. I found out I weighed 286 pounds that day, and was diagnosed with depression and high-blood pressure. My blood work came back indicating that I was prediabetic, which was a nightmare come true. Diabetes and heart disease run in my family, and I was really upset about it.

That doctor’s appointment in 2016 was the wake-up call I needed.

When I was a teenager, my uncle lived with us, and he passed from diabetes complications. It was one of the most difficult experiences to helplessly witness his body shut down while his spirit was very much alive and know it could have been prevented had he prioritized his health. That doctor’s visit made me reevaluate my priorities and make the first step. I literally went home, watched Unsupersize Me (a weight loss-focused series) on YouTube, did a bunch of research, and made the decision that I would put effort into making better choices.


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I went vegan for four years. I quit my previous way of eating cold turkey the night that I decided I was going to make a change.

I cleaned out my kitchen and fridge, went grocery shopping, and added healthier, more nutritious foods to my diet. The first 10 pounds melted right off.

I still eat mostly vegan, except this year I started experimenting with fish every now and then. I avoid added sugars, processed foods, and gluten. However, I am not restrictive. I choose to live healthy because it makes me feel good. I just eat what makes my body feel good because that’s really the ultimate goal.


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Here’s what I eat in a day now.

  • Breakfast: I practice intermittent fasting almost naturally, so most days I don’t eat breakfast unless I am training early. If I am training early, I eat a banana and a cold brew coffee with oat milk. Or I make a smoothie with half an apple, half a banana, ¼ cup of oats blended in 8 oz. of water, with a dash of cinnamon. It’s delicious and filling, but not too filling.
  • Snack: Mixed nuts and a can of heart of palms or fruit.
  • Lunch: Protein shake with frozen mango, frozen pineapple, nut butter, vanilla protein powder, and spinach.
  • Snack: Cucumber with lemon and tajin.
  • Dinner: A voluminous salad with bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, avocado, pumpkin seeds, green beans, and a protein like salmon, tofu, or a black bean burger.
  • Dessert: Frozen mango.

For exercise, I started going on long walks when I first started.

Eventually I started going to the gym to do 30 minutes of walking on an incline on the treadmill.

Now, I do extensive workouts five to six times a week. I do 30 minutes of cardio, and then weight lift for 45 minutes. I really am having a lot of fun at the gym. I’m enjoying seeing how far I can push my body and how much stronger I am getting. The physical results aren’t bad either, but the gym is really a place where I’m proving to myself that I can push further than I think.


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These three changes made my weight loss journey a success.

  • I changed my inner dialogue. I used to really beat myself up about my weight and my choices. I really used to believe that if I was thinner, my life would be better. Now, anything I do is because I love myself. If I’m having a self loathing moment, I look at photos of how far I’ve come. I list things that I like about myself, or say a prayer of gratitude for my journey. It’s really about turning your inner dialogue into something that’s going to support your goals.


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  • I started believing that there is space in the fitness world for me. I used to believe that the gym wasn’t for me because I was not fit. I know that sounds bizarre, but it’s true. The gym gave me anxiety sometimes, and I used to believe that people in there were judging me or looking at me. When I started my fitness page, it was a way to keep myself accountable. As it began to grow, it allowed me to connect with others like me. It allowed me to create a space within the fitness community for myself, but also allowed me to prove to myself that fitness is for me.


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  • I allowed myself to succeed. This is the most recent change I have made. In the past I would lose weight, gain momentum, and then when I began to see progress, I would unconsciously self-sabotage. I don’t know why, it was like my brain would not allow me to succeed. I no longer fear success, and I welcome it.


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I have lost 45 pounds since my highest weight. I had gained some weight during quarantine, but lost it again (and then some).

Weight loss has been a bonus in my fitness journey. I began with the goal to lose weight, but I have learned so much about myself, who I am, and what I can accomplish if I get out of my own way. It really is about treating yourself with the utmost respect, rooting for yourself harder than anyone, and allowing yourself to have whatever you want. Once you change your mindset, you can do everything.


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