"I Cut Down on Junk Food and Lost 70 Pounds"
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"I Cut Down on Junk Food and Lost 70 Pounds"

How Christi Lee Palas triumphed over a pantry full of junk food, upped her exercise, and lost 70 pounds.

Getting Out of Junk Food Paradise

Name: Christi Lee Palas
Age: 22
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 145 pounds
Pounds Lost: 70
At Current Weight: 4 years

Christi Lee Palas grew up in a junk-food paradise. "My mom kept the kitchen stocked with chips and ice cream," says the MBA student and Pittsburgh native. "If it was in the house, I ate it. So did my brother and sister, and all three of us got huge." By the age of 18, Christi weighed more than 200 pounds.

A Takeout Diet

Extra heft was an asset on Christi's high school softball team (helping her hit the ball farther), but she was always conscious of her size. "The coach only ordered one or two larger uniforms, and I was afraid I wouldn't get one, since there were several bigger girls on the team," she says. Practicing four days a week wasn't enough activity to burn off the takeout or spaghetti she'd eat afterward. Still, Christi didn't realize how heavy she was until she got weighed for her physical in February of her senior year. "Usually, I would glance away from the scale. But this time I looked and was shocked to see it read 215 pounds," she says. "I thought, What will I be in 20 years -- 300?"

Changing Her Exercise Regimen

Christi was motivated to start walking to and from school and around her neighborhood: four and a half miles a day. "By May, I could fit into size 18 jeans again, instead of just wearing sweatpants," she says. Then she reduced portion sizes and cut out soda, high-fat condiments like mayo and butter, and fast-food standbys like General Tso's chicken. When she weighed herself again in September, she discovered that she'd lost almost 40 pounds. Inspired, she hit the campus gym for 40 minutes four times a week and added weight training to her routine to drop another 30 pounds by the end of her freshman year.

Now a grad student, Christi has kept the weight off and maintained the same size for four years. In addition, she's been a mentor to brother Caleb, 21, and sister Brandi, 25 -- they've lost nearly 100 and 30 pounds, respectively. "We trade fitness tips and go on hikes together now, instead of eating junk food in front of the TV."

Christi's Weight-Loss Plan

The Diet: "For breakfast I have a bowl of oatmeal with skim milk and a banana. Lunch is tuna on whole wheat and a 6-ounce cup of yogurt. Dinner is grilled chicken, veggies, and brown rice. I snack on air-popped popcorn and frozen grapes or apples."

The Workout: "I do 40 minutes of cardio, like the elliptical machine or fast walking and jogging on the treadmill, four days a week. I also strength-train my upper and lower body for 30 minutes three times a week."

Portion Pointer: "I buy Wheat Thins and other snacks in portion-controlled bags so I don't overindulge."

Best Compliment: "Lots of my old high school friends truly don't recognize me now when I bump into them at local spots or when they look for me on myspace.com."

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, September 2006.