"My Get-Slim Advice"
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"My Get-Slim Advice"

Barbara Manna fought a weight-gain relapse by switching to healthier meals and challenging herself at the gym.

"I Did It!"

Age: 26
Height: 5'1"
Her Weight Before: 180
Her Weight After: 130
Pounds lost: 50
Time at Current Weight: 1 year

Barbara Manna fell in love at an early age, with chicken parmesan. "My family owned an Italian restaurant, and I would eat unlimited portions of pasta and garlic bread," says the dental assistant from Sarasota, Florida. By the time she was 15, her weight had climbed to 180 pounds. Although she hated her size, she wasn't prepared to change her diet, and her only exercise was hip-hop dancing a few times a week with friends. But when she was 20, she moved with her parents to Italy to open a restaurant. "It was a total culture shock -- the girls were thin, and I couldn't find clothes that fit me," she recalls. Barbara was motivated to start running two miles three times a week and adopted the Mediterranean diet. Over the next three years, she lost 40 pounds and felt great.

But when she moved back to the States at age 23, she got busy with college, quit running, and ate fast food every day, which pushed her weight back up. "I was so unhappy. I could feel the fat hanging over my waistband and I had zero energy," Barbara says. Yearning to regain the healthy way she'd looked and felt in Italy, she traded double cheeseburgers for fruit, veggies, and grilled chicken and snacked on low-fat yogurt instead of Pop-Tarts. At the same time, she joined a gym and signed up with a personal trainer. "I'd walk on the treadmill for an hour every day after work. After a month, I wasn't sweating or breathing as hard, so I switched to the elliptical machine and stationary bike," she says. She lost about two pounds a week, then added kickboxing and weight training to her routine; within a few months, she had reached her current weight of 130. Now Barbara has returned to one of her old loves -- hitting the dance floor. "When I go out clubbing, I know I look good. I'm actually fit enough to break-dance!"

Barbara's Success Plan

My Diet: "For breakfast, I have a bowl of Special K, skim milk, and a banana. Lunch is a grilled-chicken salad with light dressing. Dinner is two slices of veggie pizza with a side salad."

My Guilty Pleasure: "Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookies. Before I dig in, I read the label -- seeing 160 calories per serving helps me stick to one or two."

My Workout: "I do an hour of cardio and 45 minutes of strength training five times a week."

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, November 2006.