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Plumber Marietta Piccone can do anything the guys do -- fix leaky faucets, install toilets, remodel bathrooms -- but she draws the line at joining them in their fast-food runs. Three years ago, she ate the same super-size lunches as the rest of the crew -- and weighed nearly 200 pounds. Today, she's a svelte size 5. "Now when we stop at a burger place, I get a salad," she says.
Playing sports kept Marietta thin as a kid, but she began to put on weight in high school when her family moved to Long Island. "I ate a lot of junk food to cope with the stress," she says. She gained 25 pounds in one year and weighed 150 at graduation. Her weight continued to climb thanks to the long, erratic hours she worked for her father's plumbing-supply company. "Plumbing is physically demanding, so I got a bit of a workout on the job, but I never exercised," she says, "And it was easier to grab burgers and pizza than to cook for myself." By age 30, she weighed 198 pounds.
Marietta ignored her expanding size until one day two years ago. "I caught sight of myself in a full-length mirror -- it looked like I had a tire around my waist. Reality finally hit, and I decided to make my health a priority.
She cut back on bread, pasta, and cheese and gave up fast food. Instead, she ate more vegetables and lean meats like turkey and chicken. "If I wanted a snack, I'd have a slice of turkey with a little mustard," she says. For exercise, she'd ride her bike, in-line skate, or dance for an hour a day. "I'd put the hip-hop radio station on and just move around my living room." In six weeks, she lost 15 pounds. She continued losing weight at a steady pace, and six months later she reached her current weight of 130.
In October of 2000, Marietta shifted her focus from shedding pounds to firming up and began a weight-training program at a local gym. "My legs have thinned out, my butt is tighter, and I'm starting to see some definition in my abs," she says. Her body isn't the only thing that's changed. "When I was heavy, my job was my life and I had no energy. Now, I'm out with friends all the time and I never want to sit down. I feel reborn."
Pounds lost: 68
Months at current weight: 16
The Diet: Breakfast is egg whites scrambled with turkey and tomato. For lunch, she has a turkey or chicken sandwich on whole wheat with a piece of fruit. Dinner is chicken salad and steamed broccoli.
The Workout: Marietta weight-trains and works out on an elliptical machine for 30 minutes, four days a week. She takes a one-hour cardio-kickboxing class two days a week.
Stick-with-It-Tip: Hold on to a piece of clothing that fit the "old" you. "I still have a pair of jeans I wore when I was halfway though my weight loss. When I feel discouraged, I try them on. It reminds me why I'm doing this and how far I've come." Another tip: Add lemon and artificial sweetener to plain water. "It makes it easier to drink more."
Biggest Temptation: Doughnuts. To wean herself, Marietta would sit at the counter of Dunkin' Donuts and order one Munchkin with a cup of coffee. "I'd force myself to eat it slowly. Soon just one was enough to satisfy me."
What She Couldn't Wait to Wear: A turquoise bikini she had admired in the Victoria's Secret catalog. "It was a great feeling to go to the beach and not have to cover up."
Originally published in Fitness magazine.