April 23, 2009

My Turning Point About three years ago, Carin went through a painful breakup. "I had a lot of negative energy that I didn't know what to do with," she says. "I'd heard that exercise could help you cope with stress, so I decided to try it." Carin started dropping by her local community center to use its gym. There she would walk on the treadmill three days a week. "Though I'd never before enjoyed exercise, I felt calmer after every session," she says. Four months later, she was 25 pounds lighter.

My Weight-Loss And Exercise Plan "Losing the weight made me feel better about myself, and the compliments I got boosted my self-esteem even more," Carin says. The positive reinforcement gave her the willpower to try to change her diet. Carin was used to having two Pop-Tarts in the morning, fish sticks and french fries from the school cafeteria at lunch, a few cookies after school and a fast dinner of ramen noodles or mac 'n' cheese. She cut all those out, opting instead for whole-grain cereal for breakfast, bringing her own lunch (usually a tuna-salad sandwich and an apple) and having boneless, skinless chicken breasts and brown rice in the evenings. "I also made small changes, like trading my three-plus cans of cola a day for vegetable juice," Carin says. "And if I found myself craving something sweet, I grabbed a banana."

Making Success Happen Once school let out for the summer, Carin expanded her exercise routine to include outdoor cardio sessions. "I'd either go for a short run or walk or bike the seven miles around a lake near my house," she says. She returned to school the following fall weighing 165 pounds. "During the first faculty meeting, some of the teachers didn't even recognize me!" she says. She continued with her healthy changes and six months later reached 145 pounds. Next, Carin started running on the treadmill, using music as motivation. "I just tell myself, 'Run till the end of this song,' and before I know it, I've run for an hour," she says. She has also added two weekly strength-training sessions that include a weight-machine circuit and ab moves like crunches and leg lifts. "Now my desire to exercise is instinctual," she says. "For that, I wake up thankful every day."

My Motivation Secrets > Keep junk out of sight. "I know that if it's around, I'll eat it. I buy an individual portion if I'm really craving something." > Do just 15 minutes. "Even a quick walk or weight circuit makes me feel so much better." > Find new challenges. "I stay focused at the gym by trying new toning routines I see in magazines."

My Workout Schedule > Running/walking 55 minutes/3 times a week > Resistance training 60 minutes/2 times a week