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Every day for the last year, Lindsey Longanecker has gotten out of bed at 5:40 a.m., eaten a bowl of Grape-Nuts and walked on the treadmill for an hour before going to work. "I never used to eat anything healthy, let alone get up early to exercise," says Lindsey, a 25-year-old pharmacy technician in El Cerrito, California. Five years ago, she weighed 220 pounds and spent her mornings bingeing on high-fat breakfasts like Sausage McMuffins and pancakes with butter and syrup.
Growing up in Atlanta, Lindsey was always overweight. "I loved hush puppies and corn bread," she recalls. "My mom actually put a lock on our kitchen cabinet so I'd stop snacking.
In high school, Lindsey's weight continued to climb. Instead of going out with friends, she spent her free time sitting in front of the TV snacking on ice cream and potato chips. By her senior year she was 5'4" and 220 pounds.
After graduation, Lindsey moved to San Diego and began working at a McDonald's. "I just wasn't motivated to lose weight," she says. But two years later, she finally had a wake-up call. "After spending two hours trying to talk my friends out of going to the beach, just because I was too embarrassed to put on a bathing suit, I realized something had to change. I was fed up with feeling like I didn't fit in," she says.
Her first step: cutting high-fat, high-calorie foods from her diet and adding fruits, vegetables and healthy carbs like fiber-rich cereal. "I'd never looked at a nutrition label in my life, but I started scrutinizing every single one." After five months of healthy eating and reining in portions, she had lost 40 pounds.
In January 1997, Lindsey moved in with a new roommate, an exercise buff who had recently lost nearly 60 pounds herself. Lindsey joined her friend's gym, and they began going together. "Shelly was always getting compliments. It made me also want to get to the gym and get toned," says Lindsey. In six months of treadmill walking and working out with weights, Lindsey firmed up and lost 35 more pounds, bringing her to her current weight of 145.
Today Lindsey lives with her new boyfriend, Bill, a technical-support specialist. "I proved to myself that I could change my eating, lose weight and get in shape, and that keeps me motivated to stay on track for the first time in my life. I've never looked -- or felt -- better!"
Pounds lost: 75
Years at current weight: 3 1/2
The workout: Lindsey runs or walks for an hour on the treadmill five days a week. She also works out with free weights twice a week.
The diet: For breakfast she has a bowl of cereal with skim milk. Lunch is a turkey sandwich or a Lean Cuisine frozen meal. Dinner is chicken or fish with vegetables and rice; she snacks on granola bars, yogurt or nuts.
The turning point: "When I tried to talk my way out of going to the beach yet again. I was tired of feeling jealous of my fit friends."
Stick-with-it tip: "Find a workout partner. Having someone to lean on makes all the difference."
Biggest temptation: "Going out to eat. It's hard to order a salad when everyone else is having burgers and fries."
What she couldn't wait to wear: "A mini jean skirt. I wore it to my twenty-second birthday party, and it looked amazing!"