By Jenna Autuori

Weight Loss Success Story: Jennifer's challenge

As a young girl, Jennifer chose to spend her after-school hours watching TV instead of playing outside. On top of being sedentary, she lived on quick, high-fat meals, like burritos covered in cheese. She kept gaining weight and, by age 20, hit 214 pounds.

Diet Tip: Have a Change of heart

Jennifer wasn't happy about her weight, but she lacked the motivation to change. "I was in a serious relationship, and I figured if my boyfriend didn't think I needed to slim down, I shouldn't worry too much about it," she says. When she got engaged, Jennifer finally found a reason to tackle her growing waistline. "I wanted to look good on my big day," she says. "Unfortunately, soon after he proposed, I found out he'd been unfaithful, and I called off the wedding." But as upset as Jennifer was, she didn't want to give up on her goal of getting healthy.

Diet Tip: Keep a Steady Pace

When a friend suggested joining a gym together, Jennifer agreed. "The buddy system was perfect because I looked forward to meeting up with someone," she says. "And my time on the treadmill helped me blow off steam." Loving the way exercise made her feel, Jennifer met with a trainer to learn about strength training. "I'd never done any before, so he taught me basics like biceps curls, lunges, and crunches," she says. As the weeks went by, Jennifer got more toned. "Seeing new muscles was motivating," she says. Almost as soon as she improved her lifestyle, she started dropping about a pound a week. Jennifer knew that exercise alone wasn't enough-the next step was cleaning out her kitchen.

"I got rid of all the junk food, like boxed pastries, macaroni and cheese, and cereals loaded with sugar; then I filled my fridge with broccoli, carrots, and other veggies," she says. "I also bought smaller plates and bowls so I wouldn't be tempted to serve myself huge portions." Over three years, Jennifer peeled off 84 pounds. "Getting thin didn't happen instantly," she says. "But being healthy felt so good, I didn't care how long it took."

Diet Tip: Only One Life to Live

This past year, Jennifer realized just how precious being in good health is. "I was diagnosed with cervical cancer and lost my father within a few months," she says. "Both events were devastating, but working out and eating well kept me going." Now in remission, Jennifer will never revert to her old habits. "I'm glad I learned how to take care of my body," she says. "It doesn't just look better on the outside; it's healthier on the inside too."

Jennifer's Stick-With-It Secrets

1. Know your portions "To learn about serving sizes, I bought prepackaged frozen entrées. Then, when I cooked my own meals, I made the same amounts."

2. Plan around eating out "If I'm going to a restaurant at night, I have a little less at lunch and tack on 10 extra minutes of cardio. That way I can still enjoy my time out with friends and not feel guilty for treating myself."

3. Divide up your gym trips "I like exercising in the morning to wake up and at night to de-stress, so I do mini workouts twice a day to get both benefits."

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