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Who: Lisa Delvecchio, 28
Before weight: 157
After weight: 124What She Bought
Two Ellen Barrett workout DVDs, $30The Workout Routine
30-minute video, two to four days a week; 30-minute walks on the weekendsThe Results
"I was a cheerleader and danced my teens away, so I never thought about working out. Then I got an office job where I sat and snacked all day long. I really packed on the pounds. The panic point came when my best friend got married in June 2006. I was over the moon to be her bridesmaid -- until I had to order my dress in a size 16.
"That was it. I started doing some exercise DVDs before dinner two to four times a week. As for my dieting philosophy, it was simple: Eat real food. I steered clear of processed snacks and fast food.
"I hit my goal in February 2007 and have kept up with my healthy habits since then: I still exercise at home, eat right, and weigh myself often to make sure I'm on track. I'll never be the rock star in the front of the gym class, but at least I can wear my mismatched sweats to work out and nobody sees me!"
Who: Dulce Tanelli, 41
Before weight: 145
After weight: 105What She Bought
A pair of sneakers, $80, and The Body Ecology Diet, by Donna Gates, $25The Workout Routine
Walks or jogs with her dog four to six miles in the morning and two miles in the evening most daysThe Results
"No wonder my name means 'sweet': Vending-machine treats used to be my best friends, and I would often eat an entire gallon -- not a pint, a gallon -- of ice cream at night.
"In November 2006, I visited my family in Portugal. They were pretty ruthless about my size. It was hard to hear, but when I got home, I bought a pair of sneakers and started walking.
"I felt good, but I was still eating candy and cookies all day. A friend recommended The Body Ecology Diet, which focuses on avoiding empty calories and adding in new vegetables such as fennel and bok choy.
"When I reached my goal in February 2007, I booked a trip back to Portugal. My family couldn't believe the difference. I love that I did this on the cheap. It's easy to make the 'I can't afford a trainer' excuse, but walking outside is free."
Who: Jayne Santoro, 46
Before weight: 305
After weight: 180What She Bought
Gym membership fee, $1,000; annual gym fee, $125; and a home treadmill, $1,200The Workout Routine
Cycles or jogs for 30 to 45 minutes five to seven days a week and strength-trains for 30 minutes three days a weekThe Results
"I was a chunky kid, but I stayed active, so I never worried about my weight. Then my mom died of cancer when I was 19 years old. Food comforted me, and I gained 100 pounds. Mortified, I began my first of many lose-60-pounds-then-gain-70 cycles. In 2002, I went shopping and the size 28 jeans didn't fit. I thought, I can't keep doing this to myself.
"I was determined this time to make the weight loss stick. I tricked myself into feeling full by eating high-volume foods, like a huge veggie-filled salad with low-cal dressing. I started cycling and running on weekends with a childhood friend, just as we used to do when we were kids. During the week, I hit the gym or used my treadmill before work.
"It took a year to lose the weight, and I've kept it off for six years now. The treadmill has helped enormously. I have no excuse for not working out, even if it's storming outside. I've literally exercised my butt off!"
Who: Cynara Charles-Pierre, 35
Before weight: 173
After weight: 148What She Bought
Power 90 workout DVD series, $75, and 60 days' worth of food from Zone Chefs (now called Chefs Diet), $2,500The Workout Routine
Thirty to 60 minutes of Power 90 (a workout that alternates cardio and sculpting moves), five days a weekThe Results
"I hate going to the gym, I'm a breadaholic, and I love Southern food. Add that together over time and you'll see how I gained weight. In January 2007, I experienced my second miscarriage. It forced me to ask myself: Am I the healthiest I can possibly be? There was a lot I couldn't control about pregnancy, but I could take charge of what I put into my body.
"The biggest problem was that my husband and I don't get home from work until 8 or 9, so we were living on takeout. I knew I would never have time to make fresh, healthy meals every night. I needed something that I could pop into the microwave. I found Zone Chefs online; they deliver three healthy, heat-and-eat meals and two snacks per day. It's pricey, but not so far off from what we were paying for takeout. And spending the money made me really committed to sticking with the program. My husband didn't eat them with me every night, but even he lost a few pounds.
"Once I started losing weight, I also began working out with the Power 90 DVD series, which I heard of through a friend who transformed her body. The workouts are super-challenging, so I never get bored. When I was younger, I had great arms and abs, and I'm so psyched that I'm getting them back! My husband and I are still trying to have a baby, but at least I know my health is where it needs to be."
Who: Susan Giacin, 30
Before weight: 146
After weight: 136What She Bought
Initial consultation with a trainer, $100; gym and weekly personal training sessions, $4,400; and a heart-rate monitor, $100The Workout Routine The Results
"I travel, work really long hours, and go out with friends all the time, so getting to the gym had become just one more thing on my to-do list. When I did manage to fit in a workout, I wasn't putting any energy into it and wasn't happy with my results. It was a lose-lose situation. At the beginning of 2007, I decided it was crazy to spend money on the gym if I wasn't getting anything out of it, so I scheduled a consultation with Lacey Stone, a personal trainer at Equinox Fitness Clubs in New York City. I thought, If I'm going to do this, let's do it right.
"We started by checking out my diet. First problem: With my crazy schedule, I was skipping meals. I got home so late, I just wouldn't bother to eat dinner. Not only was I hurting my metabolism, but I also wasn't getting enough fuel to really push myself at the gym. Lacey explained that I needed to eat every three to four hours and add more vegetables and healthy fats to my diet, such as a few almonds instead of chips for my mid-afternoon snack.
"Lacey also suggested that I use a heart-rate monitor while running or cycling, which was probably the best $100 I've ever spent. Now I know how hard I have to work to get my heart rate up, and my cardio is way more effective. She also gives me strength-training moves, which I write down, so I can mix and match them when I'm traveling.
"Within the first six weeks, I noticed my arms and legs getting more defined. By the eight-month mark, I was very happy with the results. My philosophy: We spend so much money on facials and clothes to make us look better, but if you exercise to be physically fit, you'll be happier on the inside and you'll look and feel better on the outside."
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, July 2008.