These women knew they needed to change long-held habits to strengthen their hearts. So they laced up their sneakers, got moving and watched the numbers on the scale drop. Use their secrets to spur your own success.
My Best Advice: START SMALL, STAY LOCAL
Jessica Larche, 31, Norfolk, VA
Weight lost: 100 lbs.
» HEART ALERT "In 2012 I went to the doctor because I was having bad headaches. Turned out, my blood pressure was 160 over 100, which is dangerously high. I started taking medication and promised myself that I'd stop turning to food every time I was sad, bored or upset. I knew I should start exercising, too, but I needed something that was realistic."
» WALK-IT-OFF STRATEGY "I committed to walking two laps around a beautiful nearby park every night for roughly one month. Eventually I felt comfortable enough to go to the gym, where I started using the elliptical machine as well. I lost 75 pounds over the course of a year and a half. Now I strength-train three days a week and do five-mile walk-run workouts one or two days a week. I'll pick a post, jog to it, then walk to the next landmark."
» EAT-RIGHT TIP "Pasta is my trigger food, so I use a Spiralizer to make zucchini noodles, which I toss with olive oil, shrimp and red pepper flakes."
» LIFE NOW "The most exciting part of this journey has been sticking to my promises. It's so liberating to know that if I put the work in, anything is possible. I love this quote, 'It's painful to be overweight, and it's painful to work out: Choose your pain.' I'll take the pain of being sore any day, because it's helping me grow stronger physically and emotionally.
» MY MOMENT OF PRIDE "In April 2010, I walked the Crescent City Classic 10K in New Orleans with my aunt and my mom. We finished, but it was tough and by the end, my back really hurt. Five years later and 90 lbs down, I signed up again with my mom. I wanted to retrace my steps and redefine my path. The joy I felt as I crossed the finish line was overwhelming."
My Best Advice: USE YOUR HOME AS A GYM
Kirsten Helle, 37, Sammamish, WA
Weight lost: 103 lbs.
» HEART ALERT "At 25, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and prediabetes, but I figured that was the norm because my family has a history of heart disease. Then one day I was sitting on the couch watching my 2-year-old daughter play. I realized that if I continued down that path, she would follow in my footsteps. Right then and there I decided to create a healthy new family legacy."
» WALK-IT-OFF STRATEGY "I was too embarrassed to go to the gym, so I committed to walking three times a day for 10 minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes I'd just walk in place in front of the TV. After a year, I'd lost about 40 pounds through a combo of diet and exercise. Then I got pregnant with my son. I kept walking, and eight months after he was born, I'd lost 63 more pounds. I've kept off the weight for nine years, and today, I still walk about two miles, three days a week."
» EAT-RIGHT TIP "If my plate looks empty, it's hard for me to feel full. Now I always make sure to cover it with vegetables so it's piled high with nutritious food."
» LIFE NOW "I used to be ashamed to tell people how much weight I'd lost, but a few years ago, I started sharing my story in the hopes of helping others. I think it's more meaningful to hear from someone who's been in your shoes than getting advice from an expert who hasn't struggled. Everyone is capable of making small changes one at a time. Eventually, the good habits outweigh the bad."
KIRSTEN'S TOP SLIM-DOWN FOODS
- √ Steel-cut oatmeal "I mix it with a dollop of yogurt, honey, fresh berries, flaxseeds and pecans for breakfast."
- √ Protein-packed salad "For lunch, I make a big bowl of greens with beets, peas, bell peppers and lean meat or fish from leftovers."
- √ Apple & almond butter "The fruit gives me a quick burst of energy, and the nut butter has protein and healthy fat to keep me satisfied in the afternoon."
- √ Turkey tacos "Dinner is lean ground turkey sautéed with onions, peppers, garlic and spices, which I put into tortillas with cabbage and salsa."
- √ Dark chocolate "Every night, I eat a square of salted dark chocolate. It reminds me to savor life."
MY BEST ADVICE: PICK UP THE PACE
Tracie Johns, 43, Scott Depot, WV
Weight lost: 110 lbs.
» HEART ALERT "I weighed 200 pounds when I had to get a hysterectomy in 2011 to undo damage caused by an infection. Afterward, I was lethargic and gained 53 pounds. I was put on two different medications for high blood pressure and another one for acid reflux, plus I had high cholesterol and was prediabetic. I was also having heart palpitations, so I went to a cardiologist and was diagnosed with sleep apnea and put on an oxygen tank at night. My family doctor told me that my sleep apnea would probably go away if I lost weight."
» WALK-IT-OFF STRATEGY "I had a treadmill in my garage that I'd been ignoring for years. I started walking on it for 30 minutes five days a week. Four months later, I'd dropped 20 pounds and added 1-minute jogging intervals. When my weight loss stalled, I started lifting weights three days a week as well. About two years later, I'd lost 90 more pounds. Now, I warm up with 5 minutes of walking and end with another 15 to 20 minutes."
» EAT-RIGHT TIP "On Saturdays I treat myself to dessert. This weekly treat day helps me feel satiated without going overboard."
» LIFE NOW "I'm off all my medications and the oxygen tank. I used to dislike seeing myself in photos, but now I feel amazing and want to show off my hard work."
JUMPSTART YOUR WEIGHT LOSS WITH OUR TWO-WEEK WALKING PLAN
SOURCE: Liz Neporent, exercise physiologist and fitness expert, us.acacia.tv
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