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Every weekend, you'll find Sarah Matthews Tun on the tennis court with her husband, Nelson. Exercise has become a daily habit for this 21-year-old college student. "If I don't do something, I feel sluggish," she says. It's a big change: Just three years ago, she weighed 220 pounds and avoided all physical activity. Always overweight, Sarah spent her childhood being compared to her slender fraternal twin sister, Sandra. "People would ask me, How can you be twins? I could barely hold back the tears." She took comfort in junk food and second helpings of her mom's fried chicken; by age 16, she was 5'5" and weighed 220 pounds.
Through high school, Sarah tried several fad diets without success. "I'd follow them for a week and then go back to the way I was eating before," she says. Feeling awkward about her size kept her from exercising. "I didn't think I could do it; just climbing the stairs was a struggle."
With her eighteenth birthday coming up, Sarah began to panic about her future. "I was heavy, I had never had a date, and I was worried about my health," she says. "Several members of my family have high blood pressure and diabetes."
First, Sarah replaced the two cans of soda she had every day with water, which saved her 280 calories a day. Next, she swapped fried foods for baked chicken, salads and fruit and started walking one mile twice a day.
Within a month, Sarah had lost 10 pounds. Feeling more energetic, she increased her walking pace and added 30 minutes of biking to her routine. Around the same time, she met Nelson at the grocery store where they both worked. "It was love at first sight," she says "and it made me even more determined to slim down." By that fall, she weighed 175 pounds. Seven months later, at her wedding in May 1999, Sarah weighed 135 pounds. Gradually, she trimmed down to her current weight of 118 pounds.
These days, Sarah is studying to be a dental assistant and is determined to keep the pounds off permanently. "My family always told me I was beautiful, but I never believed it," she says. "Now I do. I'm a totally different person. When I look in the mirror, I can barely remember what it was like to be heavy."
Weight: 118 pounds
Pounds lost: 102
Months at current weight: 25
The Workout: Every day, Sarah runs two miles on a treadmill or bikes for 30 minutes, works out with free weights and does 50 sit-ups. She plays tennis with her husband on the weekends.
The Diet: Breakfast is an egg or oatmeal with orange juice. For lunch, she has a salad with a tuna sandwich and an apple. Dinner is baked chicken or fish and a vegetable. She often has a piece of fruit as a bedtime snack.
Stick-With-It Tip: Use music to stay motivated during exercise. "An upbeat song helps me keep my energy up and prevents boredom."
Biggest Temptation: Pepperoni pizza and french fries. "When I get a craving for fast food, I have Jell-O or a few Fig Newtons instead."
What She Couldn't Wait to Wear: An above-the-knee denim skirt. "When I was heavy, I used to wear long dresses to hide my legs. Now that they're slim and muscular, I want to show them off."
Originally published in Fitness magazine.