When Mary Jane Turrubiartes' youngest child dragged her to the gym near the end of 2012, it was the last place she wanted to be.
Her daughter Elida, now 21, knew her mom was unhappy. Turrubiartes was nearing 200 pounds, pushing a size 18 and taking four medications for high blood pressure, along with steroid medicine for asthma. She was prediabetic and her cholesterol was high.
Her self-esteem was even worse than her health.
"She was always so negative about herself," Elida said. She said she didn't want her mother to die because of health problems related to her weight.
Turrubiartes, now 48, knew her marriage of 20 years had been bad for a long time. She struggled with emotional demons she wasn't ready to confront.
But she listened to her daughter and went with her to the gym in the suburbs of Houston where she met a personal trainer -- my brother.
She sat in his office with her daughter and listened to him say she could change her life.
"I'm too old," she said. "I'm too fat." Her daughter and her new trainer refused to accept that.
So, like so many others with the same intention near the start of a new year, Turrubiartes signed up to begin training. It was pretty miserable at first. And it didn't get much better for a while. After a particularly difficult workout, when she felt discouraged and wondered whether she should continue training, her trainer said to her: You need to look in a mirror and figure out what is going on with you.
"Who does he think he is?" she thought to herself. She wanted to quit.
She talked to her mom, who encouraged her to stick with it. Elida told her to keep going, too. They were proud of her effort.
She had been through a lot of hardship, even before this particular journey began.
Back in 2000, Turrubiartes had nearly lost her own life when she was 36 weeks pregnant. Doctors induced her to give birth because of preeclampsia, a condition in pregnancy when women develop high blood pressure. Her baby was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck.
He died in the hospital two weeks after he was born.
"I just got numb after that," she said. "I went into this place in my head where I was on autopilot. I didn't grieve. I went back to work right away."
Years later, the weight started really adding up. She was the one who cooked for her entire family. She loved to bake for them, too.
"I was eating everything I was cooking and baking," she said. "I was so unhappy, I don't think I even knew it."
At the gym, 13 years later, she was dealing with those emotions while transforming her body.
After changing her diet and about six months of training three days a week, the pounds started falling off pretty quickly.
Her doctors were amazed at her progress, and she slowly got off nearly all her medication. The hardest decision she made was realizing she had to move on from a marriage that had only been getting worse.
"I gave everything to my husband and kids. I thought we were going to grow old together. I'm not 30. It's kind of scary being alone," she said.
She filed for a divorce that should be finalized in a few months.
"There were days when I was so down in the dumps, I didn't want to go anywhere," Turrubiartes said, let alone a gym. But she forced herself. The things she was able to do while training gave her courage. It made her stronger physically and mentally.
She lost more than 50 pounds over the course of that year. She's now down to a size 8. She decided to study for her certification to become a trainer while she continued to work. She passed the test in October, and wants to train other women and help them regain their confidence.
Her daughter had seen how unhappy she was with herself, even when she couldn't face it.
"If it wasn't for her, I probably would never have done it," said Turrubiartes.
Elida said her mom may not realize it, but her dedication to making her life better has encouraged her just as much.
The transformation in her life has been bittersweet.
"It's sad because the family is broken up," she said, crying. "But I'm at a better place physically, mentally and emotionally."
Her daughter had helped her realize: I can't be unhappy like this anymore. And she's starting to see herself differently.
"If someone tells me I'm pretty, I'll say, 'No, I'm not,' she said. "My girls will say, 'Mom, learn to take a compliment.'"
Sometimes when she gets dressed and passes by a mirror, she does a double-take and backs up to take another look.
"Oh, OK," she'll think to herself.
"I'm learning how to take a compliment."