Joanne Brooks: "I lost the weight for myself and that has made all of the difference"

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Who: Joanne Brooks, 24
Town: Bethpage
Occupation: Administrative assistant and graduate student

Height: 5'7"
Weight before: 255 (May 2007)
Weight after: 184 (Feb. 2009)

Her Story: After four years at upstate Siena College, Joanne Brooks said she came home in 2006 at her heaviest weight ever, about 75 pounds more than when she left.

While she noticed the weight slowly creeping on, "I was more interested in hanging out with friends," she said. "I was not motivated."

Her turning point came when her older sister, Jennifer Baumbach, was about to give birth in May 2007. Brooks said she still weighed five to 10 pounds more than her sister.

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What she eats: Before she started dieting, meals were anything convenient, usually unhealthful foods in large portions, Brooks said. Now, she plans meals and tries to modify her previous diet.

For breakfast, she has instant sugar-control oatmeal or whole-grain bread with light peanut butter. She snacks on fruit, almonds or yogurt. For lunch, she eats leftovers packed in Tupperware containers or buys a salad or soup. For dinner, she eats whatever her mom makes, such as whole- wheat pasta and chicken, but "just less of it," she said.

Workouts: Although she has always been athletic and was a competitive swimmer, Brooks stopped exercising when she got to college.

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Once she started her diet, exercise came slowly. She first started walking around the neighborhood with her sister and their friends, or doing little things, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Later, she joined a gym, which she now goes to about three times a week, walking or running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bicycle for 45 minutes, then lifting light weights for about 15 minutes. Additionally, she started walking from Penn Station to her office near Columbus Circle each morning, nearly 1½ miles, and she takes a yoga class once a week.

Her advice: "You just have to get in the right state of mind," she said. "If you want it enough, you can do it."

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