One day it just clicked. Something had to change, and Annamarie Rivera was going to make it happen.

“I was in a really, really bad relationship that kept getting worse and worse,” Rivera said, remembering that day. “I was too attached, I couldn’t get out of it.”

Rivera, 27, said she weighed more than 400 pounds five years ago and has since lose more than 180 pounds.

Back then, she was in the habit of eating fast food more than once a day.

“When I was with him, I was eating McDonalds seven to 10 times a week,” she said. “I only knew of Coke and juices. I would never think of wanting to eat healthy.

“I was always heavy, but when I was in that relationship, I had gained over a hundred pounds,” she said.

She was going through the motions, making her way from her home in Trumbull to her job in Shelton every day, until she decided she was done with what was happening.

“One day I just did a U-turn in the middle of the road,” drove to the gym, “and signed up,” Rivera said.

Getting started

She couldn’t start her new journey right away. She wasn’t in any kind of shape to use the machines — and her weight exceeded some of the limits to use the machines.

“I just started walking. It was literally the next day,” said Rivera. “I don’t know what clicked with me. I just would put my headphones on and zone out the world around me.”

A few days later she moved out of the ex-boyfriend’s house. Despite a few setbacks — an accident that affected her mobility — she hasn’t looked back.

The weight began to fall off. The gym became a mental addiction.

“This was going to be my outlet,” to walk away stress and any fears. She started her first day at the gym with 10 minutes on the elliptical, and then moved to the treadmill.  “The gym became a mental addiction,” she said, but in the course of it she met her husband. The two were married in May.

“The hardest part of [my transformation] was healthy eating,” said Rivera. “When they say it’s a lifestyle change...you really have to change your complete mental outlook on it.”

Finding the right food

“When I first started, I started trying to not have any carbs,” Rivera said. But, when she started to look at it, she saw that it’s not right to cut out all carbs. You need to eat good carbs, she said.

After seeking some help from her mom — a marathon runner — she’s found something that works for her.

She didn’t eat out at restaurants for a while because she wasn’t really sure what would be the right food choices for her.

“Eventually, you know what to order,” Rivera said.

It’s been a lifestyle change for her. She said it needs to be because that’s the only way one can truly maintain a weight.

“You can’t just eat healthy for one year, get skinny, and then think it will stay that way,” she said. “You can’t do quick fixes and crash diets. It’s impossible. You will never succeed.”

She said she loves picking out a variety of food to eat. She said she has to find the food she likes because that’s the only way to stick with it. If she didn’t like the food, she wouldn’t eat it.

“You have to have a cheat meal a week,” she said, to get the craving out of the way.

“Once you see results, it will become something that you love doing,” Rivera said.

Rivera said as she was trying to find her way through weight loss, she turned to the Internet and found people with similar stories. She found them inspirational. She soon was posting her weight loss story on the web for others. She has found that telling her story and hearing that she’s inspiring others has helped her stay on track.

“You realize that if this person could do it, then I can do it,” she said. “It’s a life-changing journey. I actually truly feel beautiful.”

Rivera is hoping to lose about 20 more pounds to her goal weight. She’s also looking to become a certified personal trainer so she can help someone accomplish what she has.

To follow Rivera on her weight loss journey, find her on Instagram @weightlosswithannamarie or visit Weightlosswithannamarie.com.