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Last fall, Stephanie Moreau celebrated finishing a 5K race. "I went to a Japanese restaurant and ordered a spicy tuna roll and a few pieces of salmon," says Stephanie, a 28-year-old social worker from Long Island, New York. Three years ago, she wouldn't have considered eating something so healthy; at the time she weighed 277 pounds and preferred pizza, chicken wings and beer.
Growing up, Stephanie was always overweight. "I had two brothers who were jocks, but I was never athletic. In high school I absolutely loved junk food." By senior year she weighed 185 pounds.
In 1991, Stephanie entered the State University of New York at Stony Brook. There, her eating habits got worse. In addition to indulging her sweet tooth with doughnuts and ice cream, she spent weekends binging on the usual college fare of fast food, chips and beer. "I didn't gain the freshman 15," she says. "I was closer to the freshman 40."
In the winter of 1994 Stephanie met Judd, the man she would later marry, and continued to pile on the pounds. "Like a lot of new couples, we ate out a lot." By graduation she was up to 235. "I was in complete denial. Instead of admitting how heavy I was, I just bought bigger clothes," she recalls. By the time Stephanie and Judd got engaged on New Year's Eve 1996, she weighed 260 pounds and wore a size 24.
It wasn't until three months after her wedding that Stephanie finally had a moment of truth. "I was taking a shower when I looked down and couldn't see my feet." By then, Stephanie weighed 277 pounds. She realized something had to change.
Her first step: reining in portions and choosing healthier foods. "I started planning meals," she says. "I stocked my kitchen with fruits, vegetables and lean meats and threw out all of the junk." Only three weeks into her new eating plan, she'd lost 10 pounds. "I was so encouraged I decided to exercise. Tough as the first mile was, as soon as I was done I was hooked." As she got stronger, she started running, and by July 1999 she had dropped a whopping 100 pounds. The following September, Stephanie ran her first 5K. By October she had reached her goal weight of 155 pounds.
These days, Stephanie says her stomach turns when she thinks about her old pizza and beer binges. "My life is totally different now. I can fit into almost anything I try on, and I have so much more energy. It's a wonderful feeling!"
Pounds lost: 122
Months at current weight: 16
The Workout: Stephanie runs five miles, four times a week. She also does weekly plyometrics with a trainer.
The Diet: Breakfast is whole-grain cereal, skim milk and fruit. Lunch is grilled chicken or fish, salad and a baked potato. Dinner is chicken or fish or tofu stir-fry and vegetables.
The Turning Point: When she couldn't see her toes. "I was afraid for my health."
Biggest Temptation: The Burger King drive-thru. "Some mornings I just want to hit the snooze button instead of getting up to make something healthy."
What She Couldn't Wait to Wear: Slim capri pants and a sleeveless sweater. "I couldn't believe how great they looked on me."
Originally published in Fitness magazine.