She Gained Control With Faith and Discipline

At 34, I've struggled with being overweight for most of my life. I would enjoy months of being my desired weight here and there, only to gain it all back again. Yo-yo dieting has vast and multifaceted pitfalls. It was a vicious cycle until recently.

I gained 45 pounds during college, and lost it through starving myself and overexercising. The weight came back a few years later and brought more with it, 75 pounds. I was so mortified by what I had done and what I looked like that one morning I couldn't get out of the car to go to the gym.

But eventually I lost 75 pounds through eating healthily and exercising daily. I maintained that loss for six months and felt wonderful about my body, but had just begun to work on the reasons I overate. Then I became involved in an unhealthy relationship and gained 100 pounds. At this point, I weighed 258 pounds.

I looked at myself in the mirror one morning and said out loud, "How did this happen?" It was as if the weight had manifested on my body overnight. Fed up with not being in control of my body, I decided to make a complete shift in my thinking. I concluded that diets didn't work and gave myself permission to never go on one again. I focused on appreciating my inner qualities and my relationship with God because I knew that I would need his help to win this battle.

I joined a gym and started working out six days a week. I taught myself to drink water, eat more often and stop eating before feeling full. I was so large that the only cardiovascular work I could do was to ride a stationary bike. I incorporated light weights to tone my muscles and boost my metabolism. I increased my cardio to an hour a day.

It took a year to lose 100 pounds, and I have maintained this loss for almost two years. I feel transformed. I don't go to the gym anymore, but hike daily in the hills where I live and use free weights at home. I also do regular yoga to elongate my muscles and to relax.

I eat well-balanced, low-carb meals consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, chicken and nuts. My secret: I do not tell myself that I can't eat a particular food. I crave all foods that I deny myself, and if I know that I can have anything I want to eat, the obsession with it is removed.

It might not be easy, but absolutely anything in life is possible with God, consistency, discipline, patience and--let's not forget--humor.

Vital Statistics

Name: Tracy Wirtz

Age: 34

Occupation: Art director/writer

Old weight: 258 pounds

New weight: 150 pounds

Height: 5 feet, 6 1/2 inches

How Did You Do It?

Do you have a story about how you lost weight and kept the pounds off? Or a story about how you learned to mountain climb or in-line skate, trained for a half-marathon or discovered a unique way of keeping fit, dealing with a nagging ailment or persevering with a fitness regimen despite some obstacles?

If so, we'd like to hear from you. Tell us your story in a 500-word essay listing what worked in terms of diet, exercise and encouragement, as well as any emotional and physical changes.

For weight-loss stories, send us full-body color photos of yourself, before and after. For other types of stories, send a color photo of yourself doing the activity you're writing about.

Send essay and photos to How I Did It, Health, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053. Include daytime and evening phone numbers. Submissions cannot be returned. And, please, no phone calls.

In addition to publication, winners will receive a Los Angeles Times Health section gym bag, a Sparkletts hot-cold travel mug, T-shirt and coupons for free water products, courtesy of McKesson Water Products Co.

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