Weight Loss Success Story: Cindy's challenge

Cindy was always the "heavy" one. "In middle school, my Tae Kwon Do instructor suggested I go on a diet," she says. "And I was one of the few dance team girls who wore an extra-large leotard." By the time she graduated from college, she'd hit 185 pounds.

Diet tip: The breaking point

Cindy had avoided getting on the scale for years-but she couldn't ignore it when her size 14 pants became too snug. "The button on one pair in particular kept popping off," she says. "As I was pulling out the needle and thread to sew it back on for the umpteenth time, I got fed up and realized I had two choices: Buy bigger pants or lose weight. I wasn't ready to shop for a size 16, but I was willing to try to change my unhealthy habits."

Diet tip: A foolproof recipe

That day Cindy started writing down everything she put in her mouth. "At the end of the week, I tallied up my entries and discovered I was way over 2,000 calories a day," she says. "Since I was eating out at least five nights a week, making my own meals seemed like an obvious way to cut back." So Cindy broke out a long-neglected Rachael Ray cookbook and started making weekly treks to the grocery store for ingredients. "I didn't nix any foods, but I did measure out everything I ate to make sure I wasn't having more than a single serving." Soon Cindy was dropping a little over a pound a week. "After seeing how my healthy eating efforts paid off, I wanted to ramp up my exercise routine too," she says. "I bought a pedometer and tried to log five miles, or 10,000 steps, each day-which sometimes meant stepping in place in front of the TV before going to bed!" Cindy also hit the gym in the basement of her building three times a week, starting with a few minutes on the elliptical, then working her way up to a half hour on the treadmill. The weight kept coming off, and a year and a half later, Cindy became her own weight loss success story-she was down to a trim 135 pounds.

Diet tip: Fit and healthy

Seven months after Cindy reached her weight loss goal, her father, an emergency room doctor, had a heart attack and passed away. "We both knew heart disease runs in our family, but I think he was in denial and figured he'd start exercising and eating right eventually," she says. "Since my dad died, I'm all about being proactive. I slimmed down to feel better about the way I look, but I'm keeping the weight off so I can live a long and healthy life."

Cindy's stick-with-it secrets

•Outsmart candy cravings "I realized that when I have sugar in the morning, I crave it all day. Now I satisfy my sweet tooth after dinner-usually with dark chocolate."

•Get fit with your pooch "When the weather's nice, I take my dog on an hour-long walk instead of going to the gym. He loves the extra exercise and attention-and I love taking my routine outdoors."

•Break down big goals "I started following the program to build my upper-body strength. By doing a few push-ups a day, you can get up to 100 in six weeks. I can already do 50!"