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Melissa's challenge Melissa Cassidy was a lifelong emotional eater. "Every time I was sad or upset, I turned to food," she recalls. She eventually put on 30 pounds, and the weight gain affected her deeply. "I became shy and reserved," she says. "My self-confidence was almost nonexistent."

After getting married and having two kids, Melissa had reached 135 pounds by her mid-20s, which she felt was 30 pounds too heavy for her petite 5-foot-1-inch frame. She was also dealing with a serious medical condition: endometriosis. "I was in constant pain, and the extra weight made me feel even more uncomfortable," she says. Fortunately, the pain subsided after Melissa underwent a laparoscopy.

Her turning point Shortly after her 30th birthday, Melissa made a decision to take better care of her health. "There's a history of heart disease and diabetes in my family," she says. "After the endometriosis was treated, I wanted to prevent future health problems."

Her weight-loss & exercise plan Melissa knew she needed help starting, so she bought 20 sessions with a personal trainer. "She taught me the importance of weight training to build muscle and help boost my metabolism," Melissa explains. In addition, Melissa did three or four cardio sessions a week and started eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains while cutting back on the fat and sugar in her diet.

Making success happen To track her progress, Melissa loaded a food and exercise log onto her Palm Pilot. "I aimed to burn more calories than I ate," she says. Instead of skipping breakfast, Melissa began her day with a balanced meal, such as oatmeal and fruit. "I ate five or six small, healthy meals a day so I was never starving and ready to overeat at my next meal," she says.

Then, she prepared healthier versions of favorite meals. "I also started freezing food and packaging leftovers so I wouldn't be tempted to eat too much," Melissa says.

When it came to emotional eating, two methods worked best for her: Melissa either distracted herself with other activities such as talking to a friend on the phone or playing with her kids, or satisfied herself with healthier food choices. Her favorite substitution was slices of lowfat cake or a lowfat, high-fiber muffin instead of slices of chocolate cake. But most of the time Melissa no longer craved high-fat sweets. "Thanks to my workouts, I had more energy and felt great," she says.

Six months later, Melissa had lost 20 pounds, but the endometriosis returned, and her doctor recommended a partial hysterectomy. "I knew I would need help getting back to my program after the surgery, so I hired a trainer for 10 more sessions," Melissa says. Six weeks post-op and with her doctor's approval, Melissa restarted her exercise program. "I began slowly and built up to where I was before," she says. She spent the next year losing 10 more pounds.

Now at a healthy 105 pounds, Melissa is proud of her lean, muscular body. She's become a certified personal trainer who helps others get fit and healthy. "I show my clients my before and after photos so they know that I've been where they are," she says. "I tell them that with persistence, they can reach their fitness goals."
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