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When Erika Bleszinski decided to revamp her exercise and eating habits, she asked her husband, Tyler, for support. Not only did he encourage her — he joined her. "We changed our bodies and our attitude," says the 26-year-old journalist from Sacramento, California.
Growing up, Erika ate mostly traditional Mexican dishes cooked in lard. Still, she was so thin that her nickname was Flaca — Spanish for "skinny." At 15, though, her diet began to catch up with her. She gained 40 pounds in two years and weighed 175 by age 17. "I never exercised because I was so busy studying," she says. She lost 30 pounds in her senior year of college getting ready for her wedding, but she regained it -- and more -- by her first anniversary, reaching 190 pounds.
A few months later, Erika fell and tore a ligament in her foot. "The accident shook me up. I started thinking about my health and became determined to improve it."
While recovering, Erika changed her diet. She replaced beef with poultry and traded french fries for vegetables and whole grains. Tyler was behind her all the way.
"I struggled with giving up fast food while he tackled his Mountain Dew addiction," she says. "We cheered each other on, which made sticking with it a lot easier."
Once her foot healed, she started jogging on a treadmill for 30 minutes a few days a week. In four months she lost 35 pounds, bringing her to 155. Next, she added step aerobics and weight lifting to her routine twice a week. Erika hit her current weight of 138 pounds two months later.
On a trip to Cancún last year, Erika really reaped the rewards of her efforts. "It felt great to be comfortable wearing a bikini, but even better to climb hundreds of steps to the top of the ancient Mayan pyramids and hardly break a sweat!"
Pounds lost: 52
Months at current weight: 13
The Diet: Breakfast is a granola bar and an apple. For lunch, Erika eats a tuna sandwich, carrot sticks, a fruit cup and baked potato chips. Dinner is a veggie burger and a large salad. She snacks on graham crackers, applesauce and grapes.
The Workout: Erika spends an hour doing a cardio workout four times a week, alternating between running on a treadmill and taking a step class. She lifts weights twice a week and goes for a walk after dinner three evenings a week.
Biggest Temptation: Twix candy bars. "I treat myself to one every other week so I don't feel deprived."
What She Couldn't Wait to Wear: A pair of skintight velvet jeans she bought right before her wedding. "I was so excited to try them on, but when I did, they almost fell off me! It was a bonus -- and made me realize I'm in the best shape of my life."
Best Compliment Since Losing Weight: "Last Christmas, my brother turned to me and said, You look 15 again!' That was the last time I was as thin as I am now."
Stick-With-It-Tip: Get support from a partner or a friend. "My husband's encouragement helps keep me going when I feel like skipping a workout."
Originally published in Fitness magazine.