Tammy's Slim-Down Stats
How she did it: Weight Watchers and exercise
Heaviest Weight and Size: 295 lb; size 24
Current Weight and Size: 157 lb; size 6
Vitals: 46, Manchester, KY; child-support caseworker
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What Packed On The Pounds
My unhealthy focus on food
Tammy Pennington's childhood dinner table groaned with traditional Southern fare: fried pork chops…mashed potatoes…gooey mac and cheese. "Food was always the focus in my family," recalls Pennington. "I ate even when I wasn't hungry, mostly because it was there." By her late teens, she tipped the scales at 250 pounds. Over the next 20 years, she cycled through diets, including the Blood Type Diet, but the weight always came back on—and then some. (Search: What is the Blood Type Diet?) Shortly after her 40th birthday, she stepped on the scale, shocked that she'd reached a new high of almost 300 pounds.
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My Lowest Moment
Not qualifying for gastric bypass surgery
Tired of avoiding mirrors and ducking out of photos, Pennington applied for bypass surgery. To her surprise, her insurance company turned her down, stipulating that she needed to first try a more traditional weight loss method. "I was so angry and depressed," says Pennington. "I felt like a total failure."
What Finally Worked For Me
Weight Watchers plus workouts
Mostly to appease her insurer, Pennington signed up for Weight Watchers. The portion-controlled, balanced-eating method, paired with ongoing group support, helped her drop 5 pounds in the first week.
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Three weeks later, she'd lost a total of 10. "I couldn't believe that I wasn't starving and was still losing weight steadily," she recalls. "It upped my motivation to stick with it." Three months later, she'd shed a total of 25 pounds but seemed stalled. To kick fat loss into overdrive, she set her alarm for 4:45 each morning and did an hour-long DVD workout—The Firm series was a favorite—in her living room.
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What Keeps Me Motivated
By the end of the year, Pennington had lost 60 pounds, but it took her another 2 years to reach her goal weight of 155. To stay motivated, she began walking or running a 5-K almost every weekend. "When I ran my first 5-K, I felt like I'd conquered the world," says Pennington, who now frequently finishes local races in the top three of her age group. "Every time I get a medal, I hang it up to keep me inspired."
Run off 10, 20, 30 pounds or more, even if you haven't run a step in years!
My "Take It Off, Leave It Off" Secrets
Banish grandiose goals. Aim to lose 5 pounds at a time, not 50 all at once. "Achieving small goals regularly inspires you to stick with it instead of becoming overwhelmed and throwing in the towel," she says.
Weatherproof your workouts. Invest in easy-to-store fitness items like DVDs, exercise bands, and hand weights: "You won't be able to make excuses when it's raining or you're too busy to make it to the gym."
Brown-bag it. "At work, I avoid eating calorie-heavy take-out food by cooking a little extra healthy fare—like grilled chicken or fish—at dinner and packing it for lunch the next day."
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Lost 138 pounds; has kept it off for 4 years