HER STORY Although chubby most of her life, it was the death of her mother that threw Melanie Cirulnick into a 10-year eating binge.
"I'd set a goal, lose some weight and then go back to eating the processed foods, Chinese takeout, candy, anything in a box," Cirulnick says.
She spent much of her free time alone, eating. During this time, Cirulnick was diagnosed with diabetes. Her doctor warned her that she wouldn't live long if she didn't make some drastic changes.
Her doctor's words were the catalyst to a new life for Cirulnick.
"I decided to walk around just one block. The next day, it was two blocks, then three," remembers Cirulnick, who also joined Weight Watchers. "I worked up to walking 3 to 4 miles a day."
Next, she joined a gym with a pool because exercising in water would be kinder on her joints.
"One day, I looked out the window, and I see these sweaty women," says Cirulnick, referring to participants in a spin class. "I wanted to look like them."
She joined the class and says she loved it so much that she eventually was taking 10 classes a week. She still takes spin classes and water aerobics. She also is an organizing member of Inner Circle, a group of recreational cyclists.
"I finally have my life back, and it's even better than before," says Cirulnick, who eventually had a tummy tuck to remove excess skin.
DIET After years of eating "everything that wasn't nailed down," Cirulnick has adopted a mostly Paleo diet, where she eats like a cave man -- mainly vegetables, meat, fruit and nuts. She stays away from anything in a box.
Breakfast is an omelet with mushrooms and avocado cooked in olive oil. She lunches on a salad with grilled chicken, tuna or shrimp and homemade dressing. Dinner is a salad with grilled vegetables, a protein and a sweet potato. She snacks on nuts, apples and bananas.
EXERCISE Cirulnick is in the pool 45 minutes daily. She does an hourlong spin class every day and elliptical workouts three times a week.
ADVICE "Always remember, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can't see it yet," says Cirulnick, who adds that a good support system also is vital.