Last updated: Nov 07, 2014
Annabelle Goetke Chicago Age: 26 Heights: 5'8" Before: 328 lb. Dress size: 28 Before I even hit 20, I weighed 328 pounds, and I knew my childhood eating was to blame. When I was growing up, the dinner table was always filled with greasy meats and potatoes (no veggies); each meal ended with ice cream. I had made a habit of avoiding mirrors, so it wasn't until I saw a picture of myself in the fall of 2006 that I realized how badly I had let myself go. Seeing that shot made me miserable. My body felt like a jail cell, and I was over it.
First step: Fast-food detox
I turned to one of my older sisterswho is really into healthfor guidance. She suggested I start with simple food swaps, such as brown rice for regular and sprouted grain bread for white. The hardest habit to quit: fast food. Clean eating paid off, though. I shed 15 pounds in the first month.
Turning point: Cardio plus strength
Feeling lighter, I decided to get more active, parking farther away in lots and taking the stairs whenever possible. I was tired and breathless at first, but I worked up to an hour of run-walk intervals on the treadmill six days a week. Within a year and a half, I sweated away 140 pounds. But then I hit a plateau. So I downloaded Jamie Eason's LiveFit Trainer app and started strength training. It totally transformed my body. Not only did I drop another 20 pounds in 12 weeks, but my waist got leaner and my muscles became more defined. Even better, I was finally able to carry my own groceries.
After: 154lb Dress size: 4 Sizes lost: 12 Scott Bell Looking back, I see that my first steps toward my 154-pound goal were made in the kitchen. That's why I'm studying to be a dietitian. I know what it's like to feel trapped; I want to teach others that it's never too late to escape the prison of bad eating habits.
Take-it-off cheat sheet
Small, doable lifestyle changes gave Annabelle extremely big results. Steal her real-world-tested tricks, and score even more amazing diet and maintenance strategies at health.com/weight-loss-stories.
Track with an app MyFitnessPal helped me become more aware of what I was putting into my body.
Pack diy snacks My go-to pumpkin-spice cream cheese muffins are protein-filled to keep me satisfied longer.
Lighten up meals I make low-cal versions of my fave gourmet foods, like stuffed portobello mushrooms.
Find a better indulgence I top berries, nectarines and cherries with homemade whipped cream, nuts and dark chocolate.