By Alice Oglethorpe
Updated: May 31, 2018

Weight Loss Success Stories: Sarah's challenge

As a young girl whose mom and dad fought a lot, Sarah found comfort in food. "I'd down a bag of chips, feel guilty, then I'd eat even more," she says. Her parents divorced, but Sarah's bad eating habits stuck. By the time she was 15, she weighed 185 pounds.

Diet Tip: A Healthy Wake-Up Call

Sarah may never have changed her habits-but four years ago her older sister, Rachel, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. "She was the athletic one, so seeing that even someone as fit as she was could get sick scared me," says Sarah. "I realized that if it could happen to her, it could happen to me-and that my odds would improve if I started to take better care of my body. I decided that while she was fighting for her health, I would do the same."

Diet Tip: Finding My Own Coping strategies

Instead of taking away "bad" foods, Sarah added good ones. "I went along with my sister to her doctor's appointments and listened while her physicians told her which foods she should be eating," she says. "I learned that fruits and veggies aren't just low in calories, many are also high in cancer- fighting antioxidants. I made a rule that as long as half my plate was filled with them, the other half could be anything I wanted." As a result, she started losing about a pound a week. Sarah also knew she had to find a better way to deal with stress than bingeing on cookies and chips. "I was having trouble sleeping because I was so worried about my sister, so I would take long walks in the evening to tire myself out," she says. "It helped curb my anxiety more than eating french fries did." After one year, Sarah was down 50 pounds. "I loved the feeling exercise gave me, which is why I started working out harder," she says. "I was in college, so I used my school's gym, added weight training with moves I learned from magazines like Shape, and replaced some of my walks with jogs," she says. In another six months, Sarah dropped 20 more pounds.

Diet Tip: Finding My Strength

At the same time Sarah reached her current weight, her sister's doctors announced she was cancer-free. "I told Rachel how proud I was of her for beating cancer, and she told me she was prouder of me for losing so much weight," she says. "We were both there for each other during our struggles, and now we get to celebrate our successes together."

Sarah's Stick-With-It Secrets

1. Sweat the small stuff "Every little bit of activity counts, so I jog in place during commercial breaks and do calf lifts while standing in line at the movie theater."

2. Strike a balance "If I'm at a restaurant and feel like splurging on an entrée, I don't go all out and get a fried appetizer and dessert. Instead, I'll have a salad first and fruit after to keep the total meal's calories in check."

3. Rise and dine "I used to skip breakfast, but I'd be so hungry, I'd end up pigging out later. Now I start off with steel-cut oats and berries and I eat less overall."

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