By Alice Oglethorpe

Weight Loss Success Stories: Brenda's Challenge

A Southern girl, Brenda always loved chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, and fried eggs served with bacon and sausage. "As I got older, I put on more and more weight," she says. "I tried quick fixes, like shakes and pills. They worked, but every time I quit taking them, I'd gain back everything I'd lost and more." At 248 pounds, she thought she was destined to be heavy for life.

Diet Tip: My Turning Point-Nothing Would Fit

While shopping for an outfit to wear to a wedding eight years ago, Brenda realized how big she'd gotten. "Nothing in the plus size stores fit," she says. "I couldn't even squeeze into a size 26. I cried at the mall" Seeing photos from that wedding made an even bigger impact, and Brenda immediately vowed to change her lifestyle. "I looked horrible," she says. "I didn't recognize myself-I knew I had to do something about my size right away."

Diet Tip: Don't Deprive, Substitute

Brenda headed to her kitchen, where she tossed fatty breakfast meats and biscuits in the trash. She then replaced those foods with fruit, vegetables, chicken, and fish. Brenda found the switch easier than she thought it would be. "I didn't feel deprived because I ate every two hours," she says. Over the first three months she lost 2 pounds a week. The next step: exercise. "My husband was so proud of me for improving my diet, he bought me a treadmill," says Brenda. Every day after work, she walked as far as she could on it. "It became my time-I'd turn on music and just put one foot in front of the other." It worked: She shed 140 pounds in 15 months

Diet Tip: Find Your Benefits of Success

"As I got fitter, my health problems-like prediabetes and high blood pressure-disappeared, and that kept me on target," says Brenda. Another boost: "I can walk into a store and find my size," she says. "It feels amazing."

Brenda's Stick-With-It Secrets

1. Walk the talk "I wear a pedometer to make sure I hit my goal of between 10,000 and 11,000 steps a day. Just seeing it reminds me to walk as much as possible."

2. Keep treats tiny "Living in Texas, I'm still tempted by fried chicken, sausage gravy, and red velvet cake, but I have a three-bite rule. It's all I need to feel satisfied."

3. Lean on others "I wasn't shy about asking friends and family for support. They were there for me while I struggled, and now they get to feel proud of me."

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