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"I Lost 138 Pounds and Ran Two Marathons"

Trevor Paulhus

It wasn't until she gave birth to her daughter, Madison, in 2008, that Jessica was finally ready to make a change. When her 43-year-old father was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, she decided it was time to get healthy for her little girl's sake. "My blood pressure was so high that I needed even stronger medication," Jessica recalls. "I was afraid I would need heart surgery by the time I reached my dad's age."

Jessica started taking 15-minute walks every day, and because she was breastfeeding, the weight fell off quickly at first. But six months postpartum, 5-foot-1-inch Jessica hit a plateau at 219 pounds. In March 2009, she began attending Weight Watchers meetings. "I learned which foods would give me the most bang for my calorie buck, like fruit, fish, soup and salad," says Jessica, who also joined a gym and committed to an hour of interval training or cardio five days a week.

Today, Jessica and her ticker are in amazing shape. The avid runner, with two marathons and five half-marathons under her belt, is completely off her blood pressure meds. "When Madison asks if we can take the stairs, it inspires me to keep making healthy choices," says 131-pound Jessica, who loves being a role model for her daughter and feels comfortable in her own skin at last.

What Worked for Me

Playlist pick: "The beat of Zendaya's 'Replay' is exactly my running pace. I once listened to it on repeat for a whole half-marathon!"

My mantra: "If your will does not match your desire, you will never reach your goal."

Kitchen lifesaver: "I couldn't live without my slow cooker. Taco soup, made with ground beef, taco seasoning, canned beans and veggies, is a family favorite."

Bucket list: "Now that I don't have to worry about the weight limit, I would love to take a ride in a hot air balloon."