"I traded stress eating for exercising--and lost 41 pounds!"

BEFORE 191 lbs
(scroll down to see photo)

AFTER 150 lbs

Heather Mursch, now a 401(k) administrator in Lakewood, Ohio, put on 20 pounds in college and gained more weight when she moved in with a friend after graduation. "We'd eat dinner before going to a bar, and then stop for pizza or gyros on our way home," says Heather, 34. Workouts became less frequent, until she quit exercising altogether. And when Heather got married in 2000, she wore a size-16 gown.

Are your friends a fat influence? The world health organization thinks maybe, yeah

Four years later, Heather's marriage was over, and her clothes were tighter than ever as she turned to food to cope. "One night, to deal with the stress, I went for a run," she says. It was her first workout in four years, and she only made it one block, but it was enough. "I felt so much better," she says.

Heather began running every night, as far as she could push herself. In October 2004, she ran her first 5-K and joined a gym where she started taking classes such as step aerobics. Through exercise alone, she dropped 20 pounds from her 5'9" frame in one year. Then she adjusted her diet by shrinking portions and noshing on more fruits and veggies, and the scale dipped another 10 pounds. Strength-training classes three times a week helped whittle her down to her goal weight of 150 pounds. By then, she says, "it wasn't about the number on the scale, it was about how empowered I felt. I'm the strongest I've ever been!"

Cardio vs. strength: see which is better for you

In 2008, when Heather walked down the aisle a second time, it was in a size-6 dress. She got her fitness teaching certification and leads group step and weight-training classes four times a week. And with two marathons under her much-smaller belt, she formed a club with some friends, with the mission of running a marathon in every state. "Exercise should be fun," she says.


Grow your own. "I plant squash, green beans, cucumbers, and jalapenos in my garden so I always have fresh veggies."

Trust your gut. "You're stronger than you think you are. Your brain may say you can't, but your body can do it!"

Trade plates. "Use a small plate or bowl in lieu of a large one. It really makes a difference."

Tell us: What did you do for yourself today????

More from Women's Health

Best Revenge Bodies: Before and After the Breakup

Get Sleek, Sexy Arms

How to Increase Metabolism

Only You Can Motivate You--But Our Online Personal Trainer Can Help

The workout, the eating plan, and the secrets to get you there, all in one book. Buy Look Better Naked.

Want more Women's Health? Subscribe today for only 99¢ an issue!