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“I Dropped Four Dress Sizes In Six Months!”

Tara Anderson used to watch soap operas during her young son’s four-hour naps, eating a container of ice cream or a bag of chips all the while. The 33-year-old stay-at-home mom in Laval, Que. points to boredom as the culprit. “God forbid I should take the time to put a serving in a dish—I might miss a murder on Days of Our Lives,” says the former social worker with a wry laugh. She was blissfully ignorant of her true size until she developed photos of herself in front of the home her family regularly vacations at in Maine. “I couldn’t believe how big I was compared to the years before.” (You can see Anderson’s Before photo here.) Desperate but still somewhat skeptical, Anderson joined a local Weight Watchers on her mother’s recommendation in July 2005, and was pleasantly surprised. “There were people in the classes my age, or with the same eating issues I had.” She shed about 20 pounds before her emotional eating caught up with her again.

The breaking point

In October 2005, Anderson’s husband lost his job. The same day, her son came home with a school fundraiser box of 30 king-sized chocolate bars. “I ate all of them in maybe a couple of hours,” she says. “I felt like such a failure. I realized that it’s not just about what to eat; I needed to learn how to deal with my emotions, and find another outlet.”

The challenge

Lose the remaining 10 pounds and keep it off.

The plan

To continue with Weight Watchers, work out daily using DVDs and track potentially derailing cravings. Anderson resisted the urge to save money by quitting WW. “I knew that if I did, I wouldn’t get the help I needed,” she says.

The biggest obstacle

Food cravings. “I don’t ignore them, otherwise I would give in to them even more,” Anderson says. “But I make better choices: if I’m craving chocolate, I’ll have a sugar-free hot chocolate drink. If I’m craving salt, I’ll have a 100-calorie pack of Pringles.”

The results

Applying her new think-before-you-eat strategy, Anderson lost another 10 pounds for a total of 30 in six months (or four dress sizes). She also followed the six-week maintenance program and was eventually invited to be a Weight Watchers’ leader (someone who hosts weekly meetings). “I feel so much better. And it’s not just the weight loss. I just feel so much more energetic.”

The road ahead: Anderson and her husband are contemplating having a second child. Also, since she stays motivated by setting regular fitness goals, this summer she’s going to walk the Weekend to End Breast Cancer in Montreal with her mother.

The tips

  • Sideline the pantry raid. “I keep sugar-free gum and tiny sugar-free candies unwrapped and loose in a bowl at eye level in the pantry. So if I go in there when I don’t need to be in there, I grab one, put it in my mouth and walk away.”
  • Make a to-do list. Because Anderson is often driven to eat when bored, she’s developed a to-do list for those moments. “It can be things around the house, like organizing a drawer. But I try to put a few things on the list for me, like taking a bubble bath without a toddler banging on the door, doing my nails, reading a book or calling a friend.”
  • Learn new ways to stress—and celebrate. Weight Watchers taught Anderson how to deal with difficulties without eating, by opting for a workout and turning to peer support. She also learned how to celebrate (when her husband got a new job a few months later) without food. The couple decided to go out dancing.

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