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Dropping Lbs.: Joy Kocal of Selden

Joy Kocal, 49, of Selden went from 278

Joy Kocal, 49, of Selden went from 278 pounds to 142 pounds in less than 24 months with the help of Weight Watchers. Photo Credit: Handout/Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan

Joy Kocal

49, Selden

Occupation: Works in the automotive department at Walmart, Centereach

Height: 5-foot-4

Weight: 278 before May 2010, 142 after April 2012

HER STORY It was pregnancy that first made Joy Kocal feel out of control. "I gained 70 pounds with my first pregnancy," says Kocal, who found herself pregnant again in two years. "I hadn't even lost the weight from the first pregnancy."

Add to that what she described as a bad marriage, and food became her best friend. By 2010, she had hypertension, high cholesterol and chronic knee pain. "I was going to orthopedic surgeons because of my pain, but there wasn't anything structurally wrong with my legs," says Kocal. She blamed the knee pain on undiagnosed arthritis, the blood pressure and cholesterol on heredity.

Although she lost 80 pounds for her wedding to a new man, she ballooned afterward. "I wasn't mentally ready to lose weight permanently," says Kocal, who eventually turned to Weight Watchers as a support system.

"I guess you see what you want to see," says Kocal, who acknowledges she also was suffering from an undiagnosed case of denial. "After I gained the weight back to the point my wedding ring didn't fit, that's when it clicked."

DIET "I eat everything, but pay attention to my portions," Kocal says. "Tuesday, the day I get weighed, is my free day and I eat everything. The rest of the week, I stay on the points plan."

Breakfast is some combination of oatmeal, toast, turkey bacon and pancakes. "But not all on the same day," says Kocal, who went from a size 24 to a size 7-8. Lunch and dinner most often are grilled chicken or other proteins, salads and lots of vegetables.

EXERCISE She takes Zumba three days a week and goes to the gym the other days to use resistance and elliptical machines.

ADVICE "Remember that food isn't the answer," Kocal says. "Once your mind is set to do it, you'll go forward and never turn back."

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