Weight Loss Success Stories: Amanda's challenge

Already heavy when she graduated high school, Amanda put on 15-plus pounds in her freshman year. After college she continued to gain-turning to food to cope with emotional upset-settling at 280 pounds after her second daughter was born.

Diet Tip: Getting the picture

A few months after giving birth, Amanda took a family trip to Disney World, where they all posed in front of Cinderella Castle. "When I saw the pictures, I could hardly believe it was me!" she says. "I knew I'd been putting on weight for years, but I hadn't seen a full-body shot of myself in a long time. Coming face to face with just how heavy I'd become made me realize I needed to make some serious changes."

Diet Tip: Step by step

The first thing Amanda did was start a food journal. She wrote down not only what she ate every day, but also how she was feeling. "A few weeks after I started my food journal I noticed I was eating when I was stressed or tired," she says. "So when I felt a binge coming on, I tried shifting my attention: Instead of eating junk food, for example, I'd call a friend or go for a walk." Amanda also began using measuring cups and spoons to control her portions, and replaced her nightly bowl of ice cream with fruit. Soon she was dropping 2 to 3 pounds a week.

Once the food journal helped her get her eating under control, Amanda turned her attention to exercise. She started by walking around her neighborhood, tacking on a block or two at a time. "After a few months, I was ready to take on a new challenge," she says. "So one morning I popped in a step DVD and followed along in my living room. At first I could only manage the 15-minute warm-up, but I kept at it until I could make it all the way through the routine." Eventually she joined a gym. "After going to the same boot camp class for a few weeks, I started looking forward to seeing the regulars, many of whom became my friends." A year and a half later, Amanda was down 120 pounds and 10 dress sizes.

Diet Tip: Setting the right example

"My friends started asking how I'd lost the weight and whether I could help them too," she says. "So I started a support group for people trying to get slim: We meet twice a month at a local church to set goals, weigh in, share diet tips, and keep each other accountable." Amanda loves seeing the group members' weight loss successes-and knows how life-changing it can be. "I've always been spunky and sassy on the inside, but now the way I look matches the way I feel."

Amanda's stick-with-it secrets:

1. Choose your battles "It's hard to be overweight, it's hard to lose weight, and it's hard to maintain your weight. You just have to pick your 'hard!' "

2. Do the "write" thing "I have an exercise food journal devoted to all the reasons I work out, like 'It makes me feel strong and sexy.' Reading through it motivates me whenever I don't feel like going to the gym."

3. Set yourself up to succeed "I used to keep candy and chips around, thinking I had the willpower to indulge only occasionally. But there's no need to test yourself! Getting rid of that stuff saved me a lot of wasted energy."