By Juno DeMelo
Updated: November 02, 2017

Weight Loss Success Stories: Johnna's Challenge

As a kid, Johnna was called "fatty" by her classmates-which led her mom to sign her up for ballet, tap, and jazz lessons. Johnna stuck with them and lost some weight, staying in a healthy range throughout high school. But during her senior year, she was a victim of sexual abuse. "My self-esteem dropped to an all-time low, and I started eating more to deal with my depression," says Johnna. She got bigger and bigger, tipping the scales at 192 pounds within a few years.

Diet Tip: Find Some Support

Johnna stayed silent about her abuse until she was 25 years old, when she mentioned it to a co-worker. The colleague told her that her daughter had gone through something similar and had found therapy really helpful. "A lightbulb went off in my head and I immediately made an appointment to see someone," says Johnna. "After talking about what happened to me, I realized I wasn't at fault. Dealing with how I felt inside paved the way for me to start changing how I looked on the outside."

Diet Tip: Join the Party

Not knowing where to start, Johnna joined a local weight- loss support group. Through the experiences of other members, she learned about hidden calorie bombs, like salad dressing and sour cream, and discovered new ways to lighten up her old standbys. "I didn't have to cut out my favorite foods," she says. "I just needed to prepare them in healthier ways-like making mashed potatoes with low-sodium chicken broth and less butter." Johnna also started taking Jazzercise classes. She loved the mix of dancing and resistance training because it didn't feel repetitive and was choreographed to fun songs. "It was hard at first, but I just kept going back until it got easier," she says. Over the course of one year, Johnna lost 20 pounds. Encouraged, she added strength training to her routine, which helped her drop another 15 pounds. "I wasn't so focused on the scale; it was all about how good I felt," she says. Eager to help others who struggled with their weight, she became a fitness instructor, teaching Jazzercise and other classes. Now, seven years later, Johnna's weight has settled in at a healthy 129 pounds.

Diet Tip: Make a Connection

Used to feeling invisible, Johnna loved the one-on-one attention from her Jazzercise instructor. "When I was just the heavy girl in the back of the exercise studio, she got to know me," says Johnna. "That kept me coming back-and now I do the same for the women I teach."

Johnna's Stick-With-It Secrets

1. Avoid exercise detours "I keep workout clothes in my car and go directly to the gym after work. If I stop at home, I won't want to head back out the door."

2. Jog your memory "I keep a photo of myself when I was at my heaviest in my wallet. I look at it whenever I'm tempted to overindulge-it reminds me how far I've come and helps keep me on track."

3. Schedule splurges "Dark chocolate is my favorite way to treat myself. Instead of thinking about it all day long, I let myself have one small piece first thing in the morning, before I eat breakfast. It feels really decadent, and I get the craving out of my system."

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