A Pals Gym Body Inspired Her to Get Fit

Vital Stats
Name: Katarina Cameron
Home: Corpus Christi, Texas
Age: 24
Height: 5'8"
Weight before: 180
Weight after: 120
Job: Graduate student

The Buildup: Katarina Cameron had resigned herself to a life of being "a little chubby" by the time she entered college. At Northern Illinois University, she piled her cafeteria tray with burgers, fries, and pizza. "I was eating at odd hours and never paid attention to what I put in my mouth," Cameron says. She jumped two clothing sizes between her freshman and junior years and was about to move on to a third when she peaked at 180 pounds.

The Breaking Point: At the beginning of her senior year, in September 2005, nothing in Cameron's closet fit. She'd had enough. At the same time, her best friend, Rachel Johnson, a health buff, began taking graduate courses at Northern Illinois. "Seeing how Rachel ate made me realize that losing weight wasn't as daunting as I'd thought," Cameron says.

The Changes: Following her friend's example, Cameron stocked up on healthier choices. "Instead of chips, I nibbled on carrots, cucumbers, and pickles," she says. "I took care of my cravings for sweets with fat-free, sugar-free Jell O." Moving off-­campus helped her resist the caf's fattening meals and plan her own low-cal ones: ­veggie-filled salads, baked chicken, and broth-based soups. Cameron kept "exercise dates" with Johnson three or four times a week at the campus gym, where she walked on the treadmill for 30 minutes. "Knowing someone was waiting meant I had to go."

After four weeks, Cameron's pants were looser and she had more energy. After three months, she had a new attitude. "Exercise made me feel good, and I started going to the gym every day, even when my friend wasn't there." She stepped up to jogging and elliptical workouts, and at home she added weight-training exercises. By Christmas 2005, Cam­eron had lost 30 pounds, and by May 2006, she'd parted with 10 more. She shed 20 more pounds over the next two years.

The Reward: Exercising and eating healthily are no longer things Cameron has to do; they're things she wants to do. "When I was heavy, I would feel down about myself," she says. "I feel so good now that I can't imagine my life any other way."

Her Tips
Forget skinny jeans "Keep a pair of 'fat' pants in the closet and put them on when you want to give up. You'll see how far you've come and get fired up to keep going."
Have a plan "Don't just assume you'll get a workout in--schedule it. I write out my goals (like cardio three times a week) on a calendar."
Feed a sweet tooth "Stock up on precut fruit so you'll always have something good for you to grab as a snack."

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