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Slim and breathing easier

June 09, 2008|Jeannine Stein

Bonnie SHERIFF, 26, left Kansas for California to attend Caltech in 2003. In the process, she chucked her typical Midwestern meat-and-potatoes diet and decided to slim down, going from about 180 pounds in high school to 127 now. The doctoral candidate, who lives in Pasadena, exercises about three to four times a week and sticks to a diet heavy on whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Once an asthma sufferer, she says she now has "virtually no symptoms" and has increased energy and stamina.

Life-changing moment: "Midway through college [undergraduate], I thought, 'I'm making a lot of bad choices based on self-esteem, and I think my weight's one of these things that's really dragging me down. This has to be the No. 1 priority to fix it.' "

What worked: She had tried running, but it hurt her knees. She hadn't bothered with the gym because she wasn't sure how to navigate the equipment and didn't know what exercises were best. Then, after her move, a friend showed her the ropes at a gym and Sheriff started eating a more vegetarian-based diet. "The weight loss was a byproduct of those things," she says. "I found California a more liberating environment."

She adds: "If I crave something, I'll cook it myself and make it healthier. If I want a bacon cheeseburger, I'll make a vegetarian version at home and I'll burn some calories making it."

Lessons learned: "Someone told me that you need to become a person who exercises -- that's part of my identity now." Then there's food: "You need to think like a thin person when you eat -- it's all about portion control."

Tips and tricks: "I think a lot of people eat out of boredom, but you can develop hobbies, go out with friends. I also think you have to identify every situation where you have a trigger and need to come up with alternatives [to eating] in those situations."

The lowdown: "I don't know why people fail necessarily, but I think sometimes people aren't doing it for the right reasons. It's got to be a transformation of identity."

-- Jeannine Stein

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