Just 25 years old, Lauren Council had already given up hope of ever losing weight. After years of binge eating, and the pain of losing her mom to breast cancer when she was in high school, the Ripon, California native found herself weighing 270 lbs.
“I had accepted that this was going to be my life because nothing seemed to motivate me,” Council, 26, tells PEOPLE for the 2018 “How We Lost 100 Lbs.” issue. “I was so unhappy, and I would think all the time that I was probably going to hit 300 lbs. within a couple years.”
But everything changed one night in April 2017, when horrible stomach pain sent her to urgent care.
“I had this pain I’d never experienced before and was up sick all night and didn’t know what was going on,” she says. “I had experienced digestive issues on and off for years, but nothing to this extreme.”
A month later, Council was diagnosed with IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, and decided — partly out of necessity — to go gluten- and dairy-free, and cut out junk food. Finally ready to make a change, she ditched the soda and candy once and for all.
“I decided that was it. I was not gonna go back to my old ways,” she says. “I couldn’t live life like that, just being sick all the time. That was the wake up call I needed to finally do something about my diet and my lifestyle.”
For more on Council and four more women who lost 100 lbs., pick up a copy of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Once she got her IBS under control, Council started working out. Inspired by her late mom, she set a goal for herself.
“I wanted to lose 70 lbs. by the time I turned 27 in July 2018, because that was when I needed to start having mammograms,” she said. “I’m at a very high risk for breast cancer because I lost my mom when I was 17, and she was diagnosed at 37. I thought that would be a good motivator for me.”
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Council ended up meeting that goal earlier than expected — by October 2017 — and set her sights on a new goal: to drop a total of 100 lbs. by early 2018. She easily hit that one as well, in February.
“I know she would be so proud of me,” Council says of her mom. “She wanted me to be the happiest I could ever be. To see her sick most of our lives with breast cancer and fighting that battle for almost 10 years — I just don’t want to have to go through what she had to go through.”
She’s now working on finding a balance as she transitions to maintaining her weight loss. But Council is “incredibly excited” about her accomplishment.
“It’s changed my life dramatically,” she says. “I’m so incredibly excited and happy and proud of myself to be at where I’m at today.”
“From day one, I decided to post on social media because it helped me keep myself accountable, but early on, I found that it was making a difference in other people’s lives,” she says. “And even if it’s just that one person that I can help, I mean, that right there is just so incredibly rewarding.”