My parents divorced during my junior year of high school, and I ate to soothe my emotions. In my 20s, two pregnancies packed on more weight. I made sure that my boys ate balanced meals, but I opted for greasy takeout and liters of soda. By age 35, I weighed almost 300 pounds.
I was no stranger to weight loss fads. My younger sister Karen, a personal trainer, encouraged me to get fit once and for all—but it wasn't until I stepped on the scale for a physical and weighed in at 282 pounds that I realized I had to change. I devised a strategy: I'd eat the same foods but halve the portions. I also gave up the 2 liters of soda I was guzzling each day.
About 2 weeks after I cut my food intake, I decided to go to the gym just 3 afternoons a week and walk on the treadmill for 15 minutes. Soon I was walking 4 days a week—and, finally, using the elliptical for an hour to burn 700 calories! After 2 months of building up my stamina with cardio, I turned to Karen for help. She e-mailed me loads of weight-training workouts, including photos of the specific machines. Soon my body became toned for the first time in my life.
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Stairway to Health Heaven
In February 2009, I participated in the Empire State Building Run Up, a race where thousands climb the 86 floors up to the observatory deck. I couldn't believe how far I had come, bounding up scores of steps when just months before I could barely walk on the treadmill. Losing 141 pounds in just 18 months was (and still is!) an incredible feeling.
Make it about your health. My sister taught me to focus on my overall fitness rather than just a number on the scale. She was right: When I learned to love exercise and set goals at the gym, the weight loss that followed was just an added bonus.
Learn to appreciate real food. I stopped viewing food as recreation and began to see it as fuel. These days, I've given up takeout and try to buy natural whenever possible. No matter what, I'll always fall back on grilled chicken, salads, whole grain cereals, and fruit.