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The Perfect Fit

ERIN'S CHALLENGE Erin Tharp's weight gain started during her last year of college. "I was so stressed out trying to figure out my future that I turned to food to cope," she says. By graduation, she had gained 15 pounds, and a post-college waitressing job resulted in another 10-pound gain.

Then Erin became a flight attendant, and she began eating on the run, usually in airports or hotels. "I didn't give a second thought to what I put in my body," Erin remembers. "And since I was never in one place for more than a few days, I didn't think it was possible to start an exercise program."

By the time Erin got married the following year, she carried 165 pounds on her 5-foot-4-inch frame.

HER TURNING POINT When Erin saw her wedding photos, she was shocked. "I didn't realize I was so out of shape," she remembers. "I was so upset by my appearance that I didn't buy any of the photos." Still, she continued with her unhealthy habits. After the Sept. 11 tragedy, Erin was temporarily laid off from her job and she decided to re-evaluate her priorities. "I finally had the time to take better care of myself," she says.

HER WEIGHT-LOSS & EXERCISE PLAN Erin started to keep a food journal to track what she was eating and how she felt when she ate. She also joined a gym and began biking or walking for 45 minutes and weight training for 30 minutes five times a week.

MAKING SUCCESS HAPPEN The results of Erin's food journal were shocking to her: "My portion sizes were out of control," she says. "They were two or three times the suggested serving size." She immediately began measuring everything she ate. She also had a small meal every three to four hours, making sure to consume healthy amounts of carbs, protein and fat. "When I ate regularly, my energy levels stayed high and I didn't feel sluggish," she says. Erin also made it a point to treat her sweet tooth every day with a small piece of chocolate, hard candy or licorice.

Two months into her new program, Erin had lost 10 pounds. By the time she was recalled to work a year later, she was 30 pounds lighter. "I had to be refitted for a new uniform because I was now wearing a size 6," Erin says. Her co-workers were stunned by the changes. "They couldn't believe it -- I looked like a whole new person," she recalls.

Erin went back to work with a new attitude toward food and exercise. Instead of eating at airport food courts, she now carries a small cooler filled with fruit, vegetables and water, as well as cans of lowfat soup and tuna. She also sticks with her workout program when she's on the road. "I exercise at the hotel's fitness center, and if there isn't a gym, I'll head outside for a long walk," she says.

Now at a healthy 135 pounds, Erin is happy with her new body. "Not only do I have endless energy, but I feel in control of my health," she says. "That's the best reward of all."

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