Kat Maisano's Instagram feed is all the fitspo you'll ever need—but the fitness influencer didn't achieve her 65-pound weight loss overnight.
"Growing up, I was never really out of shape, but I also didn't have a concrete handle on workouts," Kat recently told Shape. "I'd go to the gym often, but would kind of waste time because I didn't have any direction. So I'd hop on the treadmill or do the elliptical but with no real purpose."
Working as a bartender didn't make things easy either. "I'd have so many late nights and would end up eating a lot of fried food and french fries, which definitely led to a pretty unhealthy lifestyle," she says.
Kat didn't start taking exercise seriously until after she had her son. "My body just changed so drastically," she says. "I gained 70 pounds and quickly realized that I needed to change my approach to fitness and food. It was hard to admit, but I no longer felt comfortable in my skin."
Even after that realization, it took Kat four months to feel truly ready to take that step. "I was still trying to figure out how to be a mom," Kat says. "Breastfeeding and sleepless nights made it hard to make working out a priority."
Then, one day Kat woke up and found herself scrolling through Instagram, looking through a page that showed before and after photos of regular fit moms. "I saw a couple of the photos and felt that I looked like some of the women in the before photos," Kat says. "It made me realize that I definitely had the potential to change my body—it was just going to take a lot of time and work."
So she decided to take a before picture of herself. "Doing that helped me set my intention and made it feel real," she says. "I had taken this photo, and now I had to do something about it."
Still, Kat didn't have the money to sign up for a gym membership or workout classes. "We were broke as a joke," Kat says. "I was still working as a bartender and my husband worked part-time. Plus with the baby, it was impossible to leave the house because we didn't have much help."
Kat saved workout videos from Instagram and screenshotted exercise routines from Pinterest to make up a plan that worked best for her. "I had dumbbells that were my husband's from high school, and they were totally rusted," she says. "But as I started taking time for myself every day, I started to crave it. Those 30 to 40 minutes became a way for me to release all the stress that came with being a new mom." (
She focused on circuit-style training. "It was very simple, fast, and intense," Kat says. "I focused on getting as much in as possible while my son took a nap." A hack that helped: "I'd wake up and put my workout clothes on first thing, so I was always ready to go."
Slowly but surely, Kat started seeing her body change. "I weighed myself to gauge my start weight but didn't weigh myself at all until I felt like I was where I wanted to be," she says. "I took pictures though, and would see the slightest changes in my face, arms, and eventually the rest of my body. It made me realize, 'Wow, this is working.'"
Changing her eating habits also made a huge difference. "I was just so motivated and immediately started saying no to fried and overly processed foods," Kat says. "I was still eating a lot but mostly whole foods." (Here are eight clean eating recipes to satisfy any craving.)
Seven months in, Kat had lost 65 pounds without ever setting foot in a gym. She shared her progress on social media, which immediately grabbed everyone's attention. "I racked up thousands of followers so fast, and they were all interested in knowing what I did to lose the weight," Kat says. "I enjoyed answering people's questions and helping them so much that I decided to become a certified personal trainer."
Now, along with being a CPT, Kat offers her own custom training and boot-camp guides online and has her own fitness studio—all with the goal of helping young moms and other women reach their fitness goals.
"It took a long time, but I finally feel confident in who I am," Kat says. "Before I started on my journey, I was so unhappy with my body that I started putting positive affirmations on sticky notes all around my house. At first, it felt like I was faking it. But when I realized it wasn't about how my body looked but what it could do for me, I fell in love with it in a deeper, more meaningful way."
Kat hopes that her story reminds moms that you don't need to have ideal circumstances to start fighting for your goals. "You need to realize you aren't going to have a set amount of time, with a room to yourself to get a workout in," she says. "You need to work with what you've got and just go with the flow. Sometimes that means getting your lunges in while pushing your kid in the stroller—and that's okay. Just do what you can, whenever you can, and you're bound to see results."
This article originally appeared on Shape.com.