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Before and After: How These Real Women Get Fit

On the reality TV show, Could You Survive?, health-and-fitness guru Pamela Peeke, MD, helps real women to get fit enough to take on extreme real-life challenges. Here, meet the women of the show who dramatically changed their bodies and lives as they share how they got stronger, faster, fitter, and happier.

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I Needed to Get Healthy for My Kids

Abbie de Vera-Jackson
Age: 31
Weight before the show: 179 lbs.
Weight now: 148 lbs.

Body Bio: "I've been overweight my whole life. But during my first day on the TV show, I realized I'd never be able to save my two sons, ages 2 1/2 and 11 months -- or myself -- in an emergency. After that, I was determined to get buff, especially because my husband is an army lieutenant who could get deployed to Iraq at any time. My kids need me!"

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I Needed to Get Healthy for My Kids

Diet Do: "I've started going to the local farmers' market for fruits and veggies. I can't decide what's more amazing: the low price or the high quality. Healthy living on a budget is easy!"

Top Fitness Tip: "Never say you don't have enough time for a workout. I bought a jogging stroller on Craigslist for 50 bucks -- which means I can run and take my children out for some fresh air whenever I want."

Healthy Bonus: "My energy level has skyrocketed. Before, I couldn't keep up with my kids. Now, I can run a 5K!"

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I Got My Energy Back

Naimeh Holmes
Age: 29
Weight before the show: 187 lbs.
Weight now: 164 lbs.

Body Bio: "When I hit puberty, I gained a lot of weight; by age 18, I weighed 206 pounds. I tried all sorts of diets, but I could rarely ever get my weight below 190. I was so unhealthy that some days I didn't even have the energy to get out of bed."

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I Got My Energy Back

Diet Do: "I eat a ton of veggies, because they're a low-calorie way to feel full. I make sure they take up the most room on my plate whenever I'm having a meal."

Top Fitness Tip: "Plan your workout at least a day or two in advance, and stick to the time you've allotted. If you make it a priority, you'll get it done."

Healthy Bonus: "I used to always have trouble sleeping through the night, but not anymore. And the anxiety attacks, hormonal mood swings, and crazy PMS I once suffered from? All that's over now."

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I Ran My First Marathon

Christine Barger
Age: 28
Weight before the show: 175 lbs.
Weight now: 140 lbs.

Body Bio: "I started putting on extra weight in high school; at age 25, I was a size 12. I tried cutting carbs, which helped me drop to an 8, but as soon as I went off the diet, I ballooned again. I'm an actress, and I thought I was going to scream if I heard one more casting director say, 'Great performance, but wrong body type.'"

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I Ran My First Marathon

Diet Do: "I eat small, healthy snacks every three hours so I'm not tempted to pig out on fast food. Some of my favorite things are nuts, sushi, and tofu with brown rice and veggies."

Top Fitness Tip: "After the show, I wanted motivation to stay in shape, so I started training for my first marathon. Knowing I'd have to run 26.2 miles kept me psyched to keep exercising."

Healthy Bonus: "It took more than seven hours -- and I had to speed-walk the last half -- but I crossed the finish line!"

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Getting Fit Boosted My Confidence

Donna Early
Age: 36
Weight before the show: 190 lbs.
Weight now: 173 lbs.

Body Bio: "I was so thin when I was a teen that my mother was always telling me to gain weight. About five years ago, though, my metabolism slowed down. And thanks to late-night munching and always piling my plate with food, I started getting chubby."

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Getting Fit Boosted My Confidence

Diet Do: "Instead of making a box of pasta for me and my husband, I prepare an amount that's about the size of my fist for both of us. We fill up the rest of our plates with veggies."

Top Fitness Tip: "Don't assume that you can't work out unless you're at the gym. I jog or walk in my neighborhood, and when I'm watching TV, I do crunches and sit-ups."

Healthy Bonus: "It's amazing how much getting fit has helped boost my confidence. My goal is to lose another 30 pounds -- and for once, I believe I can do it!"

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, January 2009.

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