By Alice Oglethorpe

Weight Loss Success Stories: Heather's challenge

An avid reader as a child, Heather grew up pretty sedentary. Her idle lifestyle and a huge sweet tooth kept her heavy for her age. Teased by classmates about her weight, she turned to food for comfort, causing the scale to reach 235 pounds by the time she was 22.

Diet Tip: Find a Buddy

Heather knew her habits were causing her weight issues. "I'd binge on cookies and ice cream, then promise myself it was the last time," she says. "But it never was." Then, about six years ago, Heather got some much- needed encouragement. "My friend Julie had lost 70 pounds and asked me to work out with her," she says. "I'd been scared to join a gym, but she gave me the courage to try."

Diet Tip: Taking Chances

At first Heather was self-conscious at the health club. "I thought everyone was staring at me because I was so big," she says. "But I pushed aside my insecurity and focused on the fact that I was finally taking action." She started hitting the gym regularly, but dropped only 10 pounds in eight months. "I still needed to get serious about eating right and exercising more intensely," she says. Heather set about improving her diet with little tweaks: replacing mayonnaise with mustard, switching from whole milk to nonfat, and swapping out white bread for wheat. She also stopped stocking desserts at home. "I would go buy a cone of frozen yogurt instead of keeping pints of ice cream in my freezer," she says. In a little over a year, she shed another 50 pounds. She also started strength-training with a personal trainer. "I saw a brochure with before and after pictures of people who had used the gym's trainers," she says. "I couldn't believe the transformations!" Heather signed up-and began seeing muscle tone within just a few weeks. "It was hard work, but since I was paying for the sessions, I wanted to get my money's worth," she says. After two years, Heather got down to 150 pounds.

Diet Tip: Give Back

Just as Julie inspired her to lose weight, Heather is doing the same for others. She helped her mom drop 15 pounds and teaches kickboxing at the gym. She's even featured in the new personal training brochure. "When I flip it open to my photos, I can't believe it," she says. "I've always wanted to be healthy, and I finally am!"

Heather's Stick-With-It Secrets

1. Don't get ahead of yourself "As I was trying to lose weight, I focused on my current actions, like eating well that day, instead of thinking of the larger task at hand."

2. Start your day satisfied and healthy "Cereal wasn't filling me up at breakfast, so I switched to egg whites, turkey bacon, and whole-wheat toast."

3. Focus on fitness first thing "Every morning I decide when I can fit in exercise-even if it's just running up and down my stairs and doing crunches."

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