— -- For Lauren LaPorta it was tough to lose weight.
The 28-year-old high school guidance counselor spends most of her days in a wheelchair after a diving accident in 2000 left her with a severe spinal cord injury and an initial diagnosis as quadriplegic.
On that day 17 years ago, LaPorta had just come home from a middle school swim meet when she was playing with her friends in her backyard swimming pool.
"I've dove into a pool a thousand times, but this one particular dive, I slipped ... and went directly straight down," she recalled. "My hands hit the bottom and gave way. Everything just went numb."
She was only 11 at the time, but the reality of how serious her injury was started to sink in when when doctors told her that she had shattered her C5 vertebrae in the middle of her spinal cord.
And, she said that she started "grasping the meaning behind it" when doctors told her she'd have to learn how to dress herself again, sit up again and how to stand up again.
After a year and intense physical therapy, LaPorta was able to begin moving her limbs again.
Still, one of the challenges of constantly being in a wheelchair was that she drastically gained weight. At her heaviest, LaPorta was 240 pounds. She blames mostly fast food restaurants.
"When you're in a wheelchair and it’s hard for you to get in and out of your car so many times a day, you're more likely to go to drive-throughs," she said.
But thanks to her trainer, Erica Little of Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, LaPorta lost more than 40 pounds since August. It's a true feat for a woman who can only walk a couple of steps at a time using a cane, a walker, or by holding someone's hand.
Working out was initially extremely difficult, LaPorta said.
"Our first attempt on getting on a treadmill, walking, I fell off," she recalled. "I tried it again [recently], and was able to step right up and we walked for five minutes."
LaPorta also changed her diet, adding more fruits and vegetables to her daily intake.
Now, with her weight on the decline, LaPorta said she feels even more confident to continue fighting her paralysis.
"I still have my down days. I still have days where I question, 'Why me? I don't feel like doing this today,' or I wake up and don't feel good bodywise," LaPorta admitted. "But you just keep going.
"I have the inner strength to overcome such an injury and keep fighting every single day, and find new ways to motivate myself."