Meet the Y: Noelle's Journey of Transformation

When Noelle Tijerina first started coming to Zumba at the YMCA of Austin in 2014, her positive vibe was immediately felt. Noelle is generously sharing her story of physical and emotional transformation, in the hopes it is helpful to others.

By Noelle Tijerina, YMCA member

My journey goes back to my childhood.  I grew up in a household that consisted of alcohol abuse and physical abuse.  Since I can remember, I lived a very active life which consisted of playing soccer through the Houston YMCA and competitive swimming through another organization. I remember being thin or healthy sized up until about 8 or 9 years old, which is when my parents got divorced. 

I lived what I want to call the typical school life. I was accepted by many, but also picked on and bullied, mostly about my weight and looks. I was very active in sports and marching band but was always obese. In college, I became less active and continued to gain weight. Post college, I moved back home and spent some time looking for work and again, continued to gain weight and live a very unhealthy lifestyle. 

I was single, had a couple serious relationships, graduated, and moved around a bit just trying to find my place in the real world, tipping the scale at 380 lbs. Throughout my teen years and early twenties, my father would constantly bring up my weight and tell me I needed to lose weight, but would never bring it up in a concerned way but in an insulting way. I had tried many diets and shakes over the years, and I would lose 20, 30 pounds at a time, but then I’d give up and put the weight back on in no time. 

The turning point

I had moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in 2011 in hopes of a fresh start.  I remember one night I was meeting up with someone to go on a blind date. I was very attracted to them and had a great time on the date. After that night I tried to reach out to them and they never replied back.  I sat back and reality hit me that as far as physique, I felt I did not have much to offer someone. I was morbidly obese, at my heaviest. I was basically sick of not being able to have who or what I wanted in life because of my weight. 

So at that point, I decided Jan 1, 2012, would be day one of my life-changing journey. I was absolutely fed up with the life I was living and I desperately wanted to not live that life anymore. Because I felt so motivated and really felt that this was the turning point, I decided to live my journey out loud and blog the good times, the bad times, the downs and ups, and wanted to show the world that it is possible to lose weight naturally, no matter how big.

The journey

The start to my journey wasn’t easy. I had to do some major soul-searching. I came to the realization that all my life I had been using food as an emotional escape. The problems in my household, the problems at school, social problems I faced - I masked it all with eating.  Once I realized this, I knew the only way that I’d be successful at losing weight was to train myself to deal with life’s issues in other ways than eating my feelings away. So I took each day one at a time, completely changing my diet, cutting calories, and exercising a lot. There were many times I was around people eating fast food, and I remember getting angry that I wasn’t allowed to eat that kind of food. I remember going to my room and telling myself that it was my decision to lose weight and stay away from bad food — that I was sick of the life I was living and fast food would always be there, so I could survive sacrificing it for a few months or a year.  

I kept my routine going strong and days turned into weeks, then into months, and before I knew it I dropped 100 pounds in 6 months. I blogged my journey and constantly posted pictures of my food and workouts to help hold me accountable each day. felt like I had an audience depending on me and I couldn’t let them down by cheating, so this really helped me. 

I spent the next few years moving around again, and in that time I gained about 40 lbs back. I then moved to Austin in 2014, where I kept the active lifestyle up but not the best diet, and I had hit that point where I was fed up again. I am now in the best shape and size I’ve ever been in since I can remember and I’ve lost about 130 pounds. 

If I could give advice to someone wanting to lose weight, the number one piece of advice I would give is to stop eating processed sugar. Sugar is the devil and has absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever. I would also tell them to learn to cook and love to cook because losing weight requires a lot of home cooking and meal prepping. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail. 

Last but not least, ditch the scale and take lots of pictures for comparison. Stay consistent as possible. Losing weight takes a lot of patience and time, but it’s totally worth it.


These days you’ll find Noelle on the TownLake YMCA Stairmaster, downstairs in the weight room, or at the occasional Zumba class. She says feel free to stop by and ask her more about her journey – or share your own!

Got a Y story to tell? Email

All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and/or contributors and not of their employer. Any questions or concerns regarding the content found here may be sent to

Contribute to the Y

We believe that lasting personal and social change can only come about when we all work together to invest in our kids, our health and our neighbors. As the leading nonprofit committed to helping everyone thrive at each stage of life, we are uniquely positioned to take on new and long-standing challenges more comprehensively than anyone else.

Your support through the YMCA of Austin’s Annual Giving Campaign makes this possible.