As Claudia Bazaldua flipped through magazines, she was envious of the models she saw.
At 5 feet, 7 inches and 230 pounds, Bazaldua showed it to a friend and said, “Oh look, this girl. She’s so cute. I want to look like this girl.”
When her friend replied, “Stop dreaming, you’re never going to have your body like that,” Bazaldua turned around and said, “I’m going to show you.”
Fueled by desire to prove her friend wrong and to feel better about herself, Bazaldua changed her lifestyle.
“You want to look better but a lot of people push (you) down,” said Bazaldua, who is only 29 but has already had two heart attacks. “You don’t need to listen to these people.”
Now, 90 pounds lighter and 10 dress sizes smaller, Bazaldua’s diet is different, her arm muscles are defined, her legs are toned and her abs are prominent.
“I feel more confident,” said Bazaldua, whose transformation began about a year ago.
After going from being easily winded to full of energy, Bazaldua said she wants to teach others to take care of themselves the same way she learned to take care of her body through diet and exercise.
Before losing weight, Bazaldua said for the 10 years she was in the U.S., she was too scared to even check her mail for fear a neighbor would say “hi” and she’d have to talk to them with broken English and a thick Spanish accent.
Her struggles continued when she started working out and became frustrated when reading nutrition articles and tips in English, but couldn’t fully comprehend them.
As she began losing weight, Bazaldua was confident enough to study and apply for U.S. citizenship, which she received last summer.
With her citizenship and a newfound love of fitness, Bazaldua has a new dream.
She wakes up in the morning anxious to work out, then heads to a GED class at Central Texas College, where she hopes to get her high school equivalency and eventually get a personal trainer certification.
“This is a year I feel brave to do all this; my GED, my ESL class, my citizenship class,” she said.
But losing the weight wasn’t easy.
The first time she stepped on the scale and saw she lost only five pounds, she felt depressed and thought maybe her dream would never come true.
But she told herself to be patient.
“This is the key,” she said. “Be patient because in one month you (won’t see) the change. Maybe in three months, then go in the mirror. Don’t go on the scale every day because you’re going to feel frustrated.”
When she first started working out, Bazaldua walked at the park with her three children. Then she slowly started building her at-home gym with second-hand items like punching bags, weights and machines she found online or at yard sales.
“If you want to do something, you’re going do it,” she said. “People make excuses like I don’t have time or I have three kids or more kids, I don’t have the room. … I’m not superwoman. I get tired, but I’m going to finish it.”
Sylvia Zamora, 43, took up running to ease her frustrations instead of sitting on the couch, depressed and eating junk food after her divorce in 2009. In about a year, Zamora went from 230 pounds to 155 pounds. But after enrolling in college classes, the number on the scale slowly crept back up.
“I was like, I have to do something because I’m getting to 210,” said Zamora, of Killeen. “I don’t want to be 230 again.”
So when she met Bazaldua at a garage sale, the two exchanged numbers.
Zamora said Bazaldua is a natural born motivator and since the two started working out late last year, Zamora’s lost 45 pounds.
“She pushes it to the limit and you just got to listen and have faith. Everything she tells me, I do it. Everything hurts, but it’s working,” said Zamora, who weighs about 165 pounds. “It’s hard. Just be patient, do your diet. The weight didn’t get there in a month. … If you want to take it off, it’s going to take time.”
Now, when Bazaldua runs into old friends, they hardly recognize her. “I want to say to other people don’t stop dreaming,” she said. “It’s never too late. I feel old, but I say, ‘It doesn’t matter, you can do it.’”