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WEIGHT LOSS: A HOW-TO GUIDE

Liquid diet, exercise did the trick

June 09, 2008|Jeannine Stein

Heidi BARAJAS was active as a child, despite weighing more than her peers. She loved sports in high school, but her fitness regimen got derailed in college, a combination of working and a knee injury. Her weight crept up, leading her to try "every diet in the world," which usually worked to take the pounds off but not to maintain the weight loss. She eventually went on a supervised liquid diet, which, paired with exercise, helped her lose a significant amount of weight -- the 48-year-old is now down to 169 pounds, and would like to lose more. Barajas, from Lemon Grove, Calif., even quit her civilian military job to go back to school and become a certified personal trainer.

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Life-changing moment: In 2002, her ob-gyn told Barajas she was a stroke waiting to happen, and that at 234 pounds, she needed to get her weight under control. She wasn't thrilled with the doctor's suggestion of a liquid diet, but tried it anyway.

"The health educator [at the clinic] was very persistent," Barajas says, "and I couldn't give her one excuse she didn't have an answer for. Also, this program offered one year of maintenance, and to me that was the key and instrumental in keeping the weight off. I found out what I needed was education, because as you lose weight you need to learn about portion size and calories."

What worked: "I went from doing nothing to burning about 6,000 calories a week. I started out walking, took Jazzercise classes and went on the treadmill." In the initial weight-loss phase, Barajas was exercising about three to four hours a day -- a temporary regimen she eventually traded for a more moderate routine.

Still, she says, "I felt exhilarated, I had more energy, more focus and a much better outlook."

Lessons learned: "I keep a food journal every day. I write down every single thing I eat, and that helps me immensely. I think my relationship with food will always be a struggle, but I am getting more successful about changing my mind-set -- I'm eating to live, not living to eat."

Tips and tricks: "I have a before and after picture of myself laminated and posted in my pantry. So I have to lift the picture before I go in there, and then I have to make a conscious decision about eating something. I also try to get my physical activity in early in the day, and I always take the stairs. I also check in regularly with my health educator."

The lowdown: "The physical activity. It's amazing what that does for you, both mentally and physically."

-- Jeannine Stein

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