"I really saw myself for the first time," said Vela, a fourth-grade teacher who lives in San Ramon with her husband and two children. "I didn't think I looked as horrible as I did."
She also noted that she didn't feel healthy.
"Walking from my classroom to the office I was out of breath," she recalled. "I knew I didn't feel good but I made every excuse possible."
Vela said she'd been thin all her life so never thought about her weight. But when she started her career, the change in lifestyle began to result in the weight gain.
"I was sitting a lot and not planning good meals," she said. "I grabbed something easy."
As she became older, the pounds stayed on.
"I kept saying that I could do it on my own, and that I was fine with my weight gain, which was averaging about 10 to 15 pounds per year," Vela said.
Then she saw the photo.
"It was just sort of the last straw," she said. "I was not getting any younger, I knew this is it, my health is at risk. And I am a mother, I want to be here to take care of my kids."
Her nurse practitioner, who is also a friend, had been suggesting she try a program called LeanMD for years. Vela contacted her to say she was ready.
She began the program in August 2017 -- by March 2018 she had lost 75 pounds. Now she wears between sizes 4 and 8, depending on the brand, and is happy to say she can share clothes with her teenage daughter.
With LeanMD, Vela's calorie total for the day was cut to 1,000, then down to 800, she said, and she was provided an appetite suppressant.
"I was nervous at first seeing how little I was going to have to eat ... and whether I could handle it," she said. "But after losing 2 to 3 pounds a week, it was pretty easy."
The program is flexible, with guides to eating healthy fresh foods rather than prepackaged or processed.
"I would buy a ton of produce every week and get everything ready the night before," Vela said. "I quickly started to see how much better I felt after eating. I was energized. I had become accustomed to overeating and feeling terrible and lethargic."
"I realized that bowl of pasta weights me down in more ways than one," she added.
Vela said she did not feel like the new diet was too limiting.
"We still went out once a week for Mexican food, but I didn't have chips or tortillas, just steak fajitas with vegetables," she said. "I have learned to choose better options."
Now Vela is in maintenance mode and weighs herself every morning to keep on track. She makes adjustments to her diet as needed.
"I feel great and I definitely know that it's a lifestyle change," she said. "I have to make smart choices for the rest of my life."
Sometimes she will negotiate with herself -- going out to dinner on Friday night might mean cutting some carbs the next day.
"But I don't feel like I'm depriving myself," she said. "I feel great."
Lisa's tips for losing weight
* Stick with it. When you see the change, you will realize it's not as hard or impossible as you thought it was. In fact, it will be a lot easier than you think.
* You have to consider it a lifestyle change, not a diet. You have to change how you look at food.
* Reach for good snacks when you are hungry -- string cheese, nuts, etc., things under 100 calories.
* Be prepared. You can't be successful without preparing, doing meal prep, and without having healthy things in the house.