BEFORE 265 lbs
AFTER 155 lbs
Jen Tallman, now 25, used to start the day with two breakfast sandwiches, hash browns, and a cinnamon roll. At night, she turned to takeout, easily notching up 7,000 calories before bedtime. “I wasn’t active at all,” says the Binghamton, New York, native. Two stabs at group dieting failed, and Jen, 5’7″, hit a high of 265 pounds before her 21st birthday.
Jen suffered from exhaustion, swollen hands and feet, and headaches. When she read online that these could be symptoms of prediabetes and high blood pressure, she was terrified that her life could be in danger. “I knew I needed a permanent change,” she says, “not a quick fix.”
A gym-averse Jen started with daily 20-minute walks. She practiced simple habits such as previewing menus for light options before she went out to eat and ditching the bun on her burger. In four months, she lost 40 pounds. When her progress stalled six months in, around March 2010, Jen sprinkled 30-second running intervals into her walks and kept closer tabs on her daily eats with a smartphone app.
As her walks turned into five-mile runs and her calorie count dipped under 1,200 per day, Jen shrunk fast. By 2011, she reached 130 pounds—but that was another extreme. “I was unhappy and anxious,” says Jen, who found herself constantly obsessing over her weight. So she inched toward the middle, enjoying previously off-limits favorites like pizza one day a week and penciling rest days into her workout schedule (which now includes indoor cycling classes, yoga, and fun DVDs mixed in with running). Happily settled at 155 pounds, Jen says, “It’s all about balance.”
In March 2011, Jen moved to New York City to chase a career in the fashion industry, something she never had the courage to do as a size 24. Now she’s an office assistant at Chanel. She’s also an athlete: “This year, I ran my first half-marathon back home in Binghamton,” says Jen. “It was special for me, since that’s where I used to be so unhealthy.” As for the ailments that scared her into losing weight in the first place? Gone. “I feel healthy and relieved, finally,” she says.
Hit refresh. “To keep from getting bored, read healthy-food blogs for new ideas. I write one at artificiallybalanced.wordpress.com.”
Work in exercise. “It’s OK if you don’t have tons of time to go to the gym. Every bit adds up. Take a walk at lunchtime, or do squats at your desk every hour.”
Plan ahead. “Do your food prep on Sundays so you have go-to meals and snacks for the week.”
womens health mag