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Angela Kalal, pharmaceutical clinical trials manager, Rahway, New Jersey
Growing up in a carb-loving family that regularly indulged in pasta suppers and sugary desserts, Angela struggled with her weight and wore sweatshirts even in summer to conceal her size. "I would hide cookies in my room in case we ran out," she admits. "I turned to food for comfort and enjoyment." By the time she graduated from college, Angela weighed 230 pounds.
Tired of feeling like she was "too fat to do anything," Angela agreed when a close friend invited her on a group rock-climbing trip. Although embarrassed when she could not fit in a standard-size harness, she got over it. "I was with supportive people and had so much fun that I was inspired to be more active and take charge of my health," she says.
Shortly after her first climb, Angela joined SparkPeople, an online healthy-diet-and-lifestyle community. "When I began using the food-tracking tools, I couldn't believe how many calories were in things that I thought were healthy, such as restaurant salads and granola," she says. "I was taking in about 3,000 calories a day." She cut that down to 1,800 -- swapping steaks for leaner bison meat and filling up on berries, broccoli, and homemade veggie-packed salads. To stay active, Angela continued climbing and found new hobbies, including hiking and competing in Spartan obstacle races. For motivation, she logged on to SparkPeople's message boards.
By 2006, Angela was down to 133 pounds, and she has maintained that weight ever since. When a snack attack strikes, she munches on cucumber slices topped with chili powder and salt, which satisfy cravings for barbecue potato chips. And now Angela is inspiring rookie rock climbers by teaching at a local climbing gym. "It means a lot to be able to pass on what I've learned to help others test their limits," she says.
What Worked for Me
Biggest indulgence: "Massages to treat my hardworking muscles."
My mantra: "Surprise yourself." Whenever I question my ability, these two words remind me to keep trying. My inner strength often amazes me."
Guilt-free treat: "I make grilled bananas, baked apples, or roasted pumpkin with cinnamon. Yum!"
On my fitness bucket list: "Rock climbing in South Africa."
Go-to restaurant order: "Seafood. Sashimi is my absolute favorite."