Tamara's challenge Though Tamara grew up eating small portion sizes and avoiding junk food, her habits changed when she got to college. "It was all beer and late-night burritos," she says. "I tried skipping meals and hitting the gym, but I still gained 40 pounds by graduation." My turning point Desperate to drop pounds, Tamara tried the cabbage-soup diet and other fad plans. Though she did shed some weight, she'd eventually revert to old habits and gain it all back. "I knew the diets were unhealthy, but I was desperate," she says. Finally, she saw a nutritionist to relearn how to eat. "She suggested I have several small meals throughout the day that were a combination of protein, carbs, and fat," Tamara says. "Initially, I worried that I would eat too much and gain weight, but I was willing to try anything." My weight-loss and exercise plan Tamara stopped drinking alcohol and included more protein like egg whites in her meals. As a result she was better able to tune in to her body cues. "For years I'd seen hunger as a sign of weakness," Tamara says. "Once I started eating regularly, hunger simply became a sign that it was time to eat again." Tamara lost about 10 pounds in four months, but when she moved to Chicago for law school, her progress slowed. "I was disappointed I wasn't fitting into smaller sizes right away," she says, "but I knew I needed to be patient while I adjusted." To make the most of her workouts, she began wearing a heart-rate monitor to the gym. She added strength training, Pilates, and yoga to her regimen, and she started losing weight again. Making success happen Grab-and-go meals and snacks like protein bars kept Tamara energized during her classes and workouts; when her schedule freed up on the weekends, she hit the gym for an extra-long training session. "I still lost weight slowly, but I was also building muscle," she says. "The result: My entire shape began to change!" When she graduated from law school two and a half years later, she was 128 pounds--a weight she's maintained for more than three years. Now Tamara relies on her cardio sessions to relieve workday stress, and her healthy snack habit keeps her focused during long days in court. "I used to live my entire life in terms of all or nothing," Tamara says. "Now I know that balance is key." My motivation secrets • Forget about fat-free "At my heaviest, I ate fat-free everything! I'm more satisfied by real salad dressing." • Keep track "If I want a cookie, I'll eat it. But then later I'll skip the hash browns, the bread, or the rice." • Bring your workout home "These days my schedule is limited, so I bought an elliptical for my house. When I can't get to the gym, I fit in 45 minutes before work." My workout schedule • Cardio 40-60 minutes/4-5 times a week • Weight training 60 minutes/3 times a week • Yoga or Pilates 60 minutes/2 times a week To submit your own Success Story, go to shape.com/model.