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Jill Harrer, student, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
When Jill was a teen, her weight rose -- and her confidence fell. As other kids in her high school began to date, she spent evenings at home curled up with a plate of cookies or downing pizza and chicken fingers at a fast-food joint with a girlfriend.
In high school, classmates referred to Jill as the fat girl. That hurt. By her sophomore year in college, her weight had ballooned to 211 pounds, and she could barely fit in the largest size -- 14 -- at American Eagle Outfitters, her favorite store. But what really motivated Jill to reinvent her lifestyle was watching her mom struggle with esophageal cancer. "I wanted to get healthy not just for me but for her as well. I realized that I need to take care of my body," she says.
Jill started by walking on the treadmill four times a week at home and then at the university gym. She gradually added running spurts, starting with three minutes; with each session she added one minute and increased her speed until she was jogging. Six months after she first set foot in the gym, she could run for three miles without stopping. "The biggest challenge was breaking my restaurant habit," Jill admits. She saved money and calories by eating out once a week instead of four times and researched nutrition information online beforehand to make the smartest choices, such as grilled chicken with steamed veggies. Jill began losing about a pound a week.