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The Secret to Our Success: Real Women's Weight-Loss Stories

These women lost weight and changed their lives by exercising, eating healthy, and staying positive with FITNESS Magazine's You Can Do It 8-Week Makeover. You can do it, too!

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Karen Pearson
Debra Bordenkecher
Karen Pearson
Karen Pearson
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Why are these women rejoicing? Because out of nearly 61,000 readers, they were the seven You Can Do It! challenge top performers. Let their transformation -- in mind, body, and spirit -- inspire you to reach your goals.

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I Gained Confidence

"With a positive attitude, I know that I can do anything."
-- Debra Bordenkecher, 38, Omaha, Nebraska

Debra's Success Story
"I wanted to feel better about myself before my high school reunion, so I volunteered with Brush-Up Nebraska and helped paint a house for a disabled elderly woman. It made me feel like I could truly make a difference."

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I Ramped Up My Routine

"I now look at hurdles as something to conquer, not as a reason to quit."
-- Michelle Brogdon, 42, Chesterfield, Michigan

Michelle's Success Story
Q. You ran your first half-marathon as part of the challenge. Why did you decide to do it?
A. I had run a 5K with my son, and it was a huge accomplishment for me, because I couldn't run down the block a year ago. Then someone at work brought up the idea about training for a half-marathon. The idea of pushing myself even harder seemed so far-fetched that I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Q. Did you find it difficult to get ready for the race? What are some of your training tips?
A. I'm a nurse who works 12-hour days, so the hardest part was balancing work, family, and running. But I followed a pretty basic training schedule, running both outside and on the treadmill. It became something social, too: A few of my colleagues also ran, and every week we talked about our routes and our struggles. My family was my personal cheering section throughout the process. I finished in two hours, 33 minutes!

Q. What else do you suggest to help make working out fun -- a favorite snack, music, post-workout ritual?
A. My favorite snack is honey-cinnamon almonds, I love listening to "I Believe" (Fantasia) when I run, and I always wash my face after sweaty exercise sessions with a great cleanser, such as Olay Hydrate & Cleanse Anti-Oxidant Lathering Face Wash ($6.99, drugstores).

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I Began to Eat Healthier

"Exercising and eating well gave me so much more energy!"
-- Tanya McDonald, 21, Chicago

Tanya's Success Story
Q. Why did you want to change the way you were eating?
A. For so many years I just felt blah, like I had a big bubble around me. I started taking care of myself more -- I quit smoking -- but I would still eat double cheeseburgers and bags of chips. I finally felt better emotionally, so I also wanted to do something to feel better physically.

Q. How did you succeed? Are there any healthful snacks that you would highly recommend?
A. I stopped eating meat, started drinking more water, and added more fruits and veggies to my diet. I used to go for periods without eating very much, then overeat. Now I make sure to eat breakfast, and I snack a lot -- I love clementines and mixed nuts. I've also cut down my portion sizes.

Q. What keeps you motivated? Are you doing anything else that helps you stick with your new healthy habits?
A. I just want to feel good and be a positive role model for my daughter. When I first started the challenge, I was really out of shape, but I knew I should be doing more cardio. I would tell myself, "Just run to the end, then you can walk for a second and run again." I kept doing that until I could run the whole time. Now I'm taking kickboxing, hip-hop dance, and sculpt classes. I've got more energy for everything now.

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I Boosted My Mood

"I kept telling myself, 'It will be amazing when you finish this.' Now look at me!"
-- Lisa Korpusik, 25, Fairfax Station, Virginia

Lisa's Success Story
"I'd gone through a bad breakup and felt so unhappy and negative. To get out of my rut, I signed up for a 10-day Outward Bound backpacking trip in Montana, quit smoking, and started running."

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I Took Back My Life

"I found an appreciation for every second of every day."
-- Jessica Stevens, 24, Stafford, Virginia

Jessica's Success Story
"After I had my second child, it was hard to take the weight off and find time for myself. I started planning meals and workouts on Sundays. I also joined a co-op for moms -- we rotate babysitting each week, so everyone has time to exercise."

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I Lost 25 Pounds!

"Doing something I love -- skating, walking, hula-hooping -- helped me lose weight once and for all!"
-- April Whitacre, 38, Saint Michaels, Maryland

April's Success Story
Q. What motivated you to take the challenge?
A. Before I started the FITNESS routine, I was always so bloated that my rings were tight. I was heavier than I'd ever been, and I just wasn't as happy as I used to be. I wanted to be able to run and play and laugh with my 11-year-old daughter. I wanted her to be proud of me.

Q. How did you change your eating habits and schedule to lose the weight?
A. I replaced pasta, bread, and potatoes with veggies and healthy proteins (egg whites, grilled chicken, fish and veggie burgers). I also started roller-skating and hula-hooping -- I skate on Sundays for three hours, hula-hoop with a weighted hoop for 30 minutes every day and do crunches, lunges, and a variety of exercise videos regularly.

Q. What had prevented you from dropping pounds in the past?
A. My husband and I own a retail clothing store, and I work 60 to 70 hours a week. I didn't want to spend more time away from my family by trekking to the gym after work, so I just didn't go. Now I get workouts in while spending time with my daughter.

Q. Are there any songs you always listen to while you work out?
A. I need high-energy music when I exercise. I love "Pon de Replay" (Rihanna), "Don't Cha" (Pussycat Dolls), and "Crazy" (Gnarls Barkley).

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I Feel Strong and Energized!

"I learned that it's never too late to start a routine and stick to it."
-- Kathy Burns, 40, Kingston, New York

Kathy's Success Story
"I didn't want to be a doughnut-indulging, junk-food-eating, overweight cop, which is what I was becoming. I started working out five days a week, signed up for a 5K (so I'd have to run) and adopted a 5-2 eating plan -- five days on a strict, healthy diet and two days off."

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, March 2007.

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