Tracy: before
Height: 5'5"
Weight: 238 pounds
Tracy's goal is to find the "hole" in her spirit that cannot be filled with food. She says she's been overweight all her life. Tracy was married in 2003 on the island of Santorini, Greece. But instead of having fond memories of her day, all Tracy remembers is "feeling fat."

One of Tracy's obstacles is figuring out how to be healthy with a busy schedule. "Also I really lack the discipline to lose weight using the diets I've previously tried," she says. On average, Tracy eats out 10 times per week, and often feels she's too busy to go to the gym.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Tracy places her happiness with her life at a 4. "If you look at my life on paper, it would seem like an 8.5-plus, but in my reality, a lot of my great accomplishments and special moments are affected by my weight," she says. "Sometimes it feels like I'm like this really interesting person who's inside a fat suit. But I just cannot seem to find the zipper."
Tracy: before
My goal for this month is to listen to my body a little more. I had a splitting headache this afternoon and I'm wondering if my body just was needing a little extra rest after all the changes and excitement over the last week. The good news was although I had a bit of a headache and was VERY sore this morning, I made it to the gym and did 40 minutes on the treadmill. I played racquetball last night, which was a lot of fun and seemed like a great workout, but I certainly used a lot of muscles that had been seemingly dormant. Since I was such a good girl, I didn't feel guilty and took a nap this afternoon. It definitely felt good to get some rest and not fill that "hole" with food that would have just made me feel more lethargic.

Another feeling that has been out of touch, so to speak, is hunger. My goal is to only eat when I'm hungry rather than when I historically would grab food. Recalling Colin Cowie's approach to eating being something to enjoy and cherish nurturing my body, Matt and I have stocked up on some great produce and getting back to cooking. I absolutely love to cook and think that many times I can create meals that are healthier and tastier than restaurants. Because cooking is something I'm passionate about, I've decided that I want to do a "food-umentary" along my journey. I've started taking photos of the meals I'm having—this way I have documented my meals. It also makes me more excited about producing a yummy and beautiful meal.

For all those friends who have reached me and sent me good luck and offered their support, thank you so much. I think many people were so surprised that my weight was a big issue and something that bothered me so much. It's great to know that there were some people that had been out of touch for a while who offered great thoughts. Thank you to everyone, especially my mentor, Dana, who has been an amazing inspiration.

Thank you so much everyone,

Tracy: before
For those of you that aren't aware, this weekend a huge holiday was for anyone that even has a bit of Irish heritage. We all get quite excited and have many celebrations: Shamrock Shuffle, Guinness beer, a myriad of potato dishes…we even color the Chicago River green. Heck, the term "pub grub" originated in good ol' Ireland. My solution was that as soon as I got back from my Saturday a.m. workout, I came home and stayed in the house and just hoped for Sunday to arrive. (I must note that I cannot even remember any time I wished for Saturday to rush by.)

By the time 8 p.m. rolled around, I was starting to get bored and realized that Whole Foods was open until 10 p.m., so we went grocery shopping. Who knew what I would discover? My Whole Foods has a new bistro that serves, guess what? Beer and wine. How fabulous is that? The one place of natural and healthy foods, the one place where I didn't think that I would be haunted by the pressures of sharing a drink, has succumbed to the pressure. Matt said he wanted to have a beer. I'm sure that would have been tons of fun: I'd go shop and come back after he'd had a beer and some sort of free-range, grain-fed snack food. Uh, no. We grabbed what we needed and high-tailed it out of there.

Other than that, my week has been good. Friday night I worked out for two hours—an hour of racquetball and an hour doing cardio. I even met someone who is looking for a new racquetball buddy. I fear that the better I get at the sport, the less of a workout it is. Why am I so good at everything? It really is a curse. Then on Saturday my friend Eileen did an amazing thing and surprised me bright and early so I had a workout buddy. We had a "fantastic" workout. (Note that "fantastic" has been rebranded. The a new and improved meaning is "working out and invoking burning sensations, exhaustion, out of breath, and feeling as though I'm in Army boot camp; previously known as miserable.")

I've worked out far more than I even expected I could have during these last few weeks, and my food has been really clean. We don't have to change our eating habits until Phase 2, however when I get off the treadmill and it says that my "fantastic" workout only burned 120 calories, I can't even imagine grabbing french fries, ice cream or cheeseburgers. I had my diet review with the dietician and Janis said that I'm doing really well. Obviously my friends at the various drive-thrus around the Chicagoland area are probably suffering a major decrease in revenue, but I'm sure that they'll understand.

People keep saying that I look like I'm losing weight. I think that they have to say that. Maybe they're all afraid to say I really just look tired. The laundry itself is enough to make me dizzy! I am basically doing double the laundry I was doing before. This is one of those hidden things that is an extra "bonus" of my new program.

So even on a really tough week I did great, and very proud of myself sticking to the program perfectly. I'm toasting my water with lemon and lime juice.


Tracy: before
I had a great week of working out. I've now roped more people into doing my mini-triathlon, so now Matt and I have another couple—Dave and Eileen—to train with us. As a result, we decided this would be our first week of training. I did a strength-training class that was brutal, and I was sore that same day. We were out to dinner for my first Phase 2 meal at a restaurant, and Eileen convinced me that my new bike needed a fun maiden voyage. Unfortunately, 16 miles on a bike meant that on Monday I was incredibly sore. If you would like a visual of how I Iooked, I suggest thinking about The Wizard of Oz where the Tin Man can barely move his limbs. That was me, only a can of oil wouldn't have helped one bit. Moving an inch made me say, "Ouch." I need not even mention about how sore my buns are!

Onto brighter topics that don't involve pain and suffering, my food-umentary has been going great. All my friends have been asking questions and giving me great feedback on the recipes I'm posting. My good friend Rayce is coming to visit and she somehow confused my food-umentary with a menu and asked me to make sure I'm able to make certain items. I'm just so happy that I've begun to rebuild my relationship with food and not look at eating the things I create with such guilt. I'm learning to cook in a healthier way and even been teaching Matt a thing or two.

The scale has been cooperating, but I must admit it's very difficult to resist the temptation of daily weighing. It's very hard when you want to be reinforced for good behavior, although we're not supposed to use the scale. I've had very few changes to my diet with the Phase 2 changes, once I started seeing that all those workouts were only racking up about 300 calories, I realized that 30 minutes at the gym didn't equal a candy bar.

A funny thing happened to me last week, I was running to a doctor's appointment right after I finished working out and was starving. Somehow, I'm still very hungry after I work out. However, I didn't have time to get something from a sit-down restaurant. I remembered those Slim-Fast drinks and ran into a drugstore and grabbed a six-pack. I think the cashier thought I was crazy, I had already opened the case and started drinking while I was in line. This was a huge success because I didn't plan well, but still managed to make an okay choice that could get me through the appointment and get home, where I could make a good choice.

This week I'm thankful for my massage therapist who, although she can't work miracles, certainly helped get me back on my feet and back to the gym. I only took one day off to wallow in my pain, and for that I should have a monument erected or something.

In pain and pleasure,

Tracy: before
When I began this program, my mentor, Dana, told me that the changes in my body would be small compared to the changes I would have as a person. I sort of rolled my eyes. In my head I thought, "I'll be a skinny person whose new view on life is not digging to the back of the rack at the store and eventually be able to stop shopping at stores that cater to people over size 14." I know that Dana had much bigger things projected for me, but I really didn't believe.

It's funny because in the last two months I find myself saying and thinking things that are brand new to me. Yet somehow they have "snuck" into my life almost like they were always there. I wonder if all these changes really have been there, but have been suffocated by all the yucky food and coach potato behavior. Looking back, I just can't even believe some of the things I would eat, how much I would eat, or how I thought that I was busy. Now I look at food and know that every time I put healthy food in my mouth it's a sign that I'm respecting my body. And even with my hectic schedule, I've still found time to get to the gym and even miss it when I have my days off.

When I was in college I remember someone saw me and said, "I saw you running on campus." And I quickly replied, "Oh, I was probably running to catch the bus." Looking back, that statement means so much—the only time I was running was to catch a vehicle that would carry me somewhere. Now I'm driving to a park to take a class to learn how to run. Isn't it funny how things have changed?

As much as I was quite skeptical that I would truly be changing, I'm finally beginning to believe it. I make decisions that shape the way I want my future to be and am much more conscious about those decisions. I'm doing things today that I never would have considered possible, and finding that a little bit of belief in myself goes a very long way. I feel like sometimes that this journey is a lot about letting go and introducing myself to a whole new me. I know it took me a while to believe it, but I'm positive that having faith and believing that these changes are real and permanent is having a bigger impact than I could have ever imagined.

Believing in myself!

Tracy: before
I had the funniest thing happen to me last night as I was lying in bed. I remembered that I had gone through the two boxes of skinny clothes, but there were a few items that weren't in the box. This morning I ran downstairs and found it—my little black dress. I was wearing it when I met my husband and it has always sort of been a gauge of how well I'm doing. Ironically, I tried it on this morning and it was as loose as it has ever been. Then I realized: All those clothes that I had been hesitating to try on? I better hurry up. I'll miss them on my way back down.

My world has really changed so much. I used to lie on the bed and suck in my tummy to get clothes to fit. Now I'm trying to rig up a belt-pinning system because my clothes are too big.

I actually threw a blouse over the top and wore my little black dress to work today. Mostly because this dress has always been such a huge indicator of how good I am as a person. And today I realized that my self-worth is completely unrelated to a piece of clothing.

So I threw on the dress, and I feel like I'm taking today to remember that I shouldn't feel guilty for gaining weight. I'm taking this moment to be appreciative of how wonderful I feel and noting that this journey is about the person I'm peeling away the layers to find. And I'm feeling better irrespective of what outfit I'm able to fit into.

Feeling cute on the inside,

Tracy: before
I cannot remember the last time I went shopping and even went into the dressing room. My traditional approach is to go into a store, grab things off the rack, and if they're jackets, then I'll see if I can get them buttoned. And if they're pants, I buy them and try them on once I get home. This obviously leads to a lot of returns, and as you can imagine, the shopping that I've done is about whether it fits and less about how it looks.

Last weekend I had a completely new experience. First, I have no idea what size I wear because this is what I would normally call a "small girl" store. So I started to embark on this adventure very tentatively by checking the options then circling back. I decided that I must stop just buying things that fit and really focus more on the really great feeling.

There was an adorable dress only in size 12, and I figured that I would just try it on. Maybe I could estimate how long it would take to fit into and buy it as a motivational outfit. To my surprise and enlightenment, the size 12 dress I tried on fit perfectly. In my mind confetti and balloons were falling from the ceiling because this was truly better than any New Year's party I could imagine. I have not worn a size 12 since I was in junior high, so this was amazing and incredibly moving. Most women find themselves crying in the dressing rooms during bathing suit season, and I was crying for joy. I guess there's always a first for everything.

It's funny because I'm standing there easily zipping up this dress, and at the same time thinking that this journey really hasn't been as difficult as I thought it would have been. I spent years sitting around thinking that something magical was going to inspire me or motivate me, but nothing more than losing weight has inspired me like this.

I was celebrating this last week a lot. I have FINALLY made it to "one-derland" when I weighed in the other day at 198 pounds. And even as I saw the numbers, I was still really surprised. I'm really working on being happy with the changes.

Appropriately timed, I'm heading off for an adventure vacation where I'll do rock climbing, kayaking and hiking. How ironic that when I was looking at hydration systems for our hike that I was choosing based on which bag was heaviest. Had I taken this vacation in February of this year, my body would have been 40 pounds heavier—what a treat I have given myself!

For all those that are thinking about starting a weight loss program: My suggestion is to RSVP "Yes" to yourself and soon you, too, can have a dressing room party!

With much jubilation!

Tracy: before
I've returned from my much-needed vacation. Matt and I were really looking forward to this trip because it was the perfect combo: healthy food, spa treatments and adventure. We started things off with a hike along the slick rocks in Utah and managed to scare myself when we came dangerously close to a rattlesnake. We managed to make it back safely and just in time for a healthy lunch.

The absolute highlight of the trip was the rock climbing. Well let me clarify that a bit, the rock climbing shoes hurt my feet so bad, next time Oprah is complaining about her high heels, I think she should slip on a pair of rock climbers. The good part is that you're so scared the whole time you're climbing that you completely forget about your toes feeling like they're in a vice.

I did four climbs and found it to be really rewarding. It was very scary, but repelling down after you've made it to the top was worth it. Falling from 200 feet in the air wasn't very fun, and it felt like I fell about eight feet (…after watching the video, I realized that it was actually only about 18 inches—how embarrassing!) However, I liked the rock climbing because it really challenged me to believe in myself, my whole body was hanging on teeny little ridges in the side of the mountain, and many times the climbing guide was encouraging me to make a move that seemed impossible.

In many ways, rock climbing was really the greatest metaphor for my weight loss journey. I have a great support system to help me when I start to slip, and know that I can get back to climbing and not have to fall all the way to the ground. Also I know that this is about really a lifetime of complex climbs and that racing to the top of one hurdle doesn't mean I'm done.

So I'm back to my usual life in Chicago, unfortunately a little bit of a head cold, but I'm planning on setting some serious running goals. The number of people who have told me that The Big Weigh In episode had them cheering for me. Confessing how difficult it was for them to start running was very inspiring. Thank you to everyone for their support.

That Rocks!

Tracy: before
Now that I'm back from vacation I'm back to work and feeling very sick. I managed to catch some sort of cold. How I caught a cold when it was 98 degrees outside, I have no idea. So, a dozen boxes of tissues later, when I thought that I was turning the corner, I developed an eye infection. Needless to say I am really just trying to maintain through this tough time. I can hardly breathe, so running is not an option by any means.

The scale is just hanging tight, which is a very good thing. Although sometimes I feel disappointed that I'm not losing weight, I realize that at some point when I hit my goal weight my new goal will just be maintaining. So I have a self-imposed plateau until I can get well and back to the gym. Hopefully I'll be able to start peeling away the pounds again once I get back to my old self.

I'm so glad chicken soup is approved on the diet!

Tracy: before
Well, recently I've made a very difficult decision to make a career change. I thought about it very long and I'm considering a position that requires 100 percent travel. This is, of course, a huge consideration because it means that I won't be able to cook for myself. And, more importantly, working out will be a big challenge as well.

Coupled with my career change I managed to buy a car that I ended up not liking at all. Unlike a blouse that you try on and decide you don't like after a few hours, cars cannot be returned. I made a really bad decision and it was really going to cost me, to say the least. This has been a tough time because it was the first time I bought a car by myself and I feel like a total failure. For now I'm going to hang tight and just pray for a good resolution. Right now every option that is being offered is really less than acceptable.

To top all of this change off I'm still feeling sick. So I'm stressed and not working out. This has been a really tough time for me and with everything that is going on, sometimes friends will say, "How's the Oprah thing?" And frankly, I haven't been able to concentrate on it like I would normally want to.

What I'm doing is concentrating on making good food choices, trying to maintain my current weight and know that I'm going to get through all of this hectic mess and resume the better lifestyle that I had adopted before I had such a collision of major life changes.

Trying to maintain!

Tracy: before
All right, too many things happened all at once. I am still sick (When will this end?!?). The job situation is still in flux. And I'm still driving the car that I hate. Did I mention that it looks like we're going to need to sell our home?

So it happened—off the wagon I went. I went through the fast food window and was a very bad girl. I know that God is with me right now because when I went to dive into my ice cream there was something in it. I think it was catsup, but who knows? It was enough to gross me out and get me to throw it away immediately. The fries tasted yucky, so all in all I just had a cheeseburger. I do feel like God was saving me from myself, and it really reminded me that even if I had all that junk food I would have felt terrible and it wouldn't have helped me feel less stressed.

I have been doing Pilates and some weights in the wake of my head cold, which makes me feel better even though I know that cardio is what is going to help peel away the pounds. I know that the rest of my life will have big decisions and challenges, and for that I'm happy to know that for the last few weeks I've been maintaining my weight loss and not slipping back like I would normally.

I know that all of these things are temporary and I'm looking forward to getting back on track!

Tracy: before
If I told you that this weekend I passed on a date, you'd probably think I was crazy, right? Well, I did. It wasn't a date with Matt, it was with a bacon-wrapped date with apple vinaigrette. I know that the dates are yummy, but it's really all about choices. When I was planning my Saturday evening dinner with colleagues, I knew that it would be a tough decision which items to enjoy and which ones I'd have to just avoid.

We went out to one of my favorite tapas restaurants. For those who have never enjoyed the "small plates of Spain," tapas are usually really delightful, appetizer-sized portions of food that isn't really healthy in general. I had a salad to start (good job), then I had a bite of this heavenly lamb that had this tangy sweet sauce (eek, one bite was too much, I think!), then I moved onto beef tenderloin with blue cheese (again, scraped the blue cheese off and avoided the fries), scallops—absolutely yummy (no sauce, so I had two scallops and didn't feel bad), bacon-wrapped dates (I drooled over these but didn't have a single one), another order of the beef (again, just had good conversation during this dish), escargot (okay, total yuck so glad someone ordered something I don't like).

Did I mention the sangria was everywhere? Have I mentioned how iced tea, although a great drink, doesn't have the fun party atmosphere of sangria? I was waiting through all these lovely dishes because I knew what was our dessert. They serve an almond sorbet, which is so small but really delectable. One of the people I was dining with even mentioned that it seemed like I was "sandbagging" a few courses before dessert. I smiled and thought about what a good girl I had been. I ate my sorbet knowing that it was worth the sacrifices and that the rest of my day had been perfect as far as food goes.

For now the only dates I've been having are ones with my personal trainer, which is perfectly fine. Now if only I could come up with some sort of treadmill that after every mile I got to have a tablespoon of that almond sorbet. There's a great new idea!

Tracy: before
This coming weekend is the weekend! It's where my two workout friends and I do the Chicago Triathlon. I'm excited, but mostly very scared. I'm the middle participant, which means that as soon as my good friend Vanessa pops out of the water, it's me on the bike pedaling 40 kilometers as fast as I can. Mostly because Cathy has to run 10 kilometers, and the later I finish, the hotter it will be.

It is totally amazing to be participating in this event, but right now I just keep checking the weather and doing two-a-days until the race. When we registered, I requested a size large T-shirt, thinking that was such a risky move (I was a XXL at that time). But now that I'm wearing size large in my dress shirts, I know that I made the right choice.

I'm also in process of planning a big trip to Seattle for work, but Matt is going to tag along for the weekend prior, and we're going to do some hiking and mountain biking. I remember the last time we were hiking three years ago and I had to stop every 20 feet to catch my breath. I'm really excited that hiking will be more fun for both Matt and I, and he won't have to stop while I take little breaks. When I was requesting info from the tour guide for the bike ride, I requested that they extend the bike ride longer than 10 miles, because 10 miles is really not far at all and is normally the distance I ride to and from my Pilates class.

I really feel like a changed woman. I remember a few years back telling someone that all I wanted to do was fit back into a size 14. And now that I'm there, I'm surprised in some ways that I had the ability to do this myself and it didn't require some remarkable intervention like gastric bypass surgery.

Today I'm going to thank God for small favors. For instance, I don't have to wear a bathing suit this weekend for the triathlon, and frankly, that's a very good thing.

Here's to the first of many triathlons!

Tracy: before
The Chicago Triathlon was this weekend—more than 8,000 people participated and it was an experience like no other. At 3:30 a.m. my alarm clock went off, I hopped in the shower and started to get nervous. Vanessa's alarm didn't go off so the day was a bit hectic, but we made it down to the triathlon and checked in on time. Vanessa is a very calming person to be around and I can't thank her enough for bringing her soothing personality, even after a hectic morning.

The relay teams went last which, of course, made me have a complete freak out—it was 5 a.m. and it looked like I wouldn't be on the bike until 10:30 at the earliest—and the temperature was going up every moment. I forgot to eat breakfast, and thank goodness Matt went out to grab breakfast for Vanessa and me. Now was the time to hurry up and wait, so much time was going by. My lesson learned by 6 a.m. was that apparently the transition station, where you change from one sport to another, is a major pick-up area. So, if you're single and looking for some major motivation for the triathlon, I suggest you hit the road and start training.

Vanessa was awesome on the swim, we were heat number 52 and she beat a lot of the people from heats 48–51. I call her the little amphibian. I ran out of the transition area and got started, and then people started passing me. It was really tough—and somehow I completely missed until the day before that I wasn't allowed to wear my MP3 player during the race. I depend on music motivating me so much and I was left to my own devices and no distractions from the heat, sun and just trying to avoid potholes since I don't know how to change a flat tire. As I was riding for 40 kilometers I thought about how I would hardly believe you if you had told me at the beginning of the challenge the person I had transformed into.

As I was nearing the end I actually passed a number of people. And as I rounded the curve, Vanessa and Matt were cheering and filming me finish. I turned the corner and rode as fast as I could to transition to Cathy. Cathy did great, and we had a great little photo op with our medals at the finish. I was thinking, as I finished, about my next triathlon—where I'm doing the swim, bike AND run on September 8. I am so incredibly excited…and did I mention sore, hungry and a bit sunburned. No pain, no gain, right?

I feel great and know I need to make some tweaks in my training for the next tri. But I've really come so far—this is awesome. Thanks Vanessa and Cathy, I couldn't have done today without you.

Here's to the first of many triathlons!

Tracy: before
I was shopping for a pair of hose the other day and looking at the chart to determine which size I was wearing these days. When I was looking at the chart I remembered that I had a BMI of nearly 40 when the challenge started, and I wondered what my BMI was after six months of the challenge. I was pleasantly surprised: My 38.6 BMI was now down to 29.9. When I looked at the categories, I realized that 29.9 was actually the upper limit for "overweight." Who knew I'd be so thrilled to only be overweight? But I'll take it, and look forward to being in the "normal" weight category.

I also went to my doctor, an experience I used to completely dread. I would try to concentrate on relaxing so my blood pressure wouldn't be off the charts. I had what they call "white coat hypertension," which means that I was fast on the path to having high blood pressure. Since the challenge started, I've had a few 120/75 readings lately, so I dread it a little less. When I was in the office this time I had a remarkable 90/60. First I questioned if I was still alive with a stat like that, but apparently it's great news.

When my doctor came in he was so supportive and continued to comment on how impressed he was with my success. I have a wonderful doctor, but I must admit that going in for my checkups is no longer something that I worry about. Admittedly, the nurses think I'm odd because I get so excited when I get results from my lipid panel or blood pressure, but for everyone who has had a struggle with their weight, I know that the scale isn't the only way that progress is seen.

Tracy: before
This past week was really tough. I worked a lot of hours this past week, and although that makes my commute home easy because I arrive before rush hour and return very late in the evening, it makes life a little more difficult.

I ended up going to the gym after 10 p.m. several evenings, and even though I worked out, I came home and still did more work. I managed to get in my a.m. run and my p.m. strength training despite all the time I was at the office. Even though this was a tough week I made it, and I didn't just survive—I really triumphed. The people on my team were amazed that I had so much dedication, but I found that actually during a stressful week the exercise really energized me and helped me be a better contributor.

I even managed to eat pretty healthily considering the stressors of the week. I did have one sad realization—I think I have to give up Thai food. I had been sick several weeks ago and had a lot of red curry. Red curry has a coconut milk-based soup that is spicy and has chicken and bamboo shoots. It tasted really comforting, and I thought that it was the salt that caused the scale to go up and didn't think much more about it. On Saturday Matt and I went out for Thai food and, sadly, the scale hasn't gone back down. So for now Thai food is going to have to be a treat, and I think it is going to have to go out of the normal rotation. I was a little sad about that but maybe I'll just enjoy it a bit more when I have my Thai treat.

All in all things are going well. I'm here to announce my pact with Vanessa—we've decided that together we're going to lose 20 pounds each by the next show. Vanessa is a great friend and we're doing a good job holding one another accountable and cheering one another on. I think that it's helpful to buddy up every once in a while and shoot for a goal. I really love having a workout buddy and realize that it is due to amazing people like Vanessa that I've been successful. Losing weight is tough. I've been successful in this journey, but it's the people who tell me I look great or that they admire my dedication that keep me going when I hop on the treadmill and after two minutes I feel like crap. It's those same words of support that get me out of bed in the morning to run at 4:45 a.m. and pass on banana cream pie even though it's my favorite. Thanks again to everyone who is supportive in this journey.

Skipping the Thai to make my goal,

Tracy: before
I had to pause for a moment. Since I changed jobs, I've taken the Best Life Diet to: Texas, Alabama, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Ohio, Indiana, California, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, and now Washington. I honestly cannot believe all of the travel that I have done lately. I think it's important to realize that while I'm "on the road" I normally try to maintain, and then work harder on the weekends, it is possible to keep slimming down with a hectic schedule.

I'm really excited to be in Seattle. Last time I was here I was much heavier and had to keep stopping when we were hiking. Now I'm excited to be much more active. The best part about Seattle is that, food-wise, there are a lot of healthy choices. What I really like out West is that it is a very healthy lifestyle, there are people who actually kayak to work—isn't that fantastic?

Things are going well, and I think I'm finally to the point where the Best Life Diet is really my Best Lifestyle. It's no longer a question of making excuses—it's really just about realizing possibilities. Tonight I ran for 18 minutes straight on the treadmill—that's a new personal record for me. I'm very excited and cannot wait until I can run for 20 minutes straight. I still remember when walking two minutes and running one minute for 20 minutes seemed like a workout.

It's great to realize such a change in my capabilities.

Tracy: before
Well, this weekend really was amazing. I have been running in the neighborhood and on a treadmill to train for the Pumpkins in Lincoln Park run. As the person who told Oprah that running is horrible and that I'm really bad, this was a huge challenge to set for myself.

I have been running in the mornings at 5 a.m. and talking with my mother who is an avid runner for tips. I've been doing sprints as well as working on endurance. Although I have been doing all this training, I recently got very nervous that I would start to get winded and end up hailing a taxi to make it to the finish.

I planned to run alone, however, I asked Matt to run with me at the last minute. He came along and did a great job even though I feel like I could hear the worry in his mind—"When is she going to stop and walk?" My mother gave me great advice to not worry about everyone else and do Tracy's best run. There were two women chatting like crazy and they reminded me of how my mother is incredibly yakky and talks the whole time she runs. I ran behind those ladies for the first mile, but then they decided to walk. I forged ahead past the mile marker and knew that I was keeping my pace pretty close to my training. The next mile is kind of a blur, mostly because I was waiting for my body to tell me to stop any second. Thank goodness for my MP3 player. It kept me going as I just concentrated on breathing and doing what was my best effort. It was amazing, I made it to Mile 2 without walking at all.

The very next thing I knew I had made it to about 2.75 miles and then there was a hill. I knew that I had far exceeded my expectations for the length of time I had run without stopping. I realized that it would be silly to walk across to the finish and that I should take some time to walk now. I walked up the hill, and when I got to the top, I could see the finish. I started jogging down the hill.

When we got to the part near the finish I started sprinting, I figured that I had some energy left and I might as well pass a few people and feel like I did my best. I wasn't sure of the time, but I desperately wanted to be 45 minutes for time, so I really started to hustle. I honestly must have passed about 20 people right near the end. Matt and I held hands as we crossed the finish at 38:10.

Under 40 minutes for someone who could hardly run a tenth of a mile last spring is something that I'm really proud of. Thanks so much to my mother, my trainer and, of course, Matt who did a great job being my running buddy.

Tracy: before
After months and months I really feel like I belong at the gym. You're likely to see me toting around a Bosu and a body bar, or wheeling around a spin bike because I'm a lot more confident. Best of all, I'm not just using the 5-pound hand weights. I frequently venture to the "men's section" and my favorite machine is one that helps you do pull ups—now that's hard core. People at the gym have started to notice my change, and I know most of the other "regulars."

I went to the running shoe store and was getting a new pair of shoes and someone asked if I was doing the marathon. Hmmm. Interesting fantasy, but no. Just 5Ks for now, thank you. I remember feeling like I was so out of place in March when I was buying new running shoes. Now I walk in and know exactly which shoe I want because I'm a real runner!

When shopping for clothing I always sort of felt like size 12 and 14 were just barely "normal girl" sizes. Now that I'm buying some size 10s I feel like I'm not on the cusp of being a "plus-size girl." Also I don't feel like I have to tell the sales ladies I'm just browsing or looking for a gift for someone else—I really belong in the "normal girl" sizes.

At this point the only place I don't know that I fit in is at work. I feel like I'm trying to get by on just two suits because at the rate that I'm outgrowing suits I can hardly keep up with a wardrobe. Sorry everyone that I'm a frequent "outfit repeater." When I get to my goal I promise a whole host of great outfit variation.

Tracy: before
It's funny how so many people say, "When's the last show? Then you can go off this diet." Or, "Are you going to stop working out when this is all over?" I look at them completely perplexed. I finally have a lifestyle that I want. Granted, I'm working a lot and balancing travel as well as all the other aspects of life, but this is what my life is going to look like.

Yes, working out at 11 p.m., or arriving home after 24 straight hours of travel and work can be hectic, but this truly is the life I want. I love the gift of going to the gym late when I know everyone else is there because they have the same level of dedication, and spending an hour on the treadmill and arc trainer. It's a great way for me to wrap up the day, and feels great to kick off my 4-inch heels and give myself a special moment to collect and reward myself with something that is completely about me.

There is no end to this journey. I firmly believe that there probably is not going to be a day when I cannot think twice about the food and beverages I put in my mouth. That being said, I have an amazing perspective on how it feels to dig down really deep and find the motivation and self-love that it takes to get my life back.

I think, going forward, Matt and I will continue to choose our newfound adventure spa vacations and that we're going to keep trying new activities. We never were quite fond of lying on the beach. And who's to say that rock climbing, running 5Ks, mountain biking and a massage aren't the best ways that we can share our time together.

I recently watched the first Oprah Show and caught when Oprah mentioned that this isn't about getting into a pair of size 10 Calvin Klein jeans. Well, I'm in a size 10 and can definitely say that this isn't what this journey has been about. A very nice perk, but not the impetus for my motivation. This has been about making time for me to make the right choices in my food, and about every morning when I wanted to lie in bed and found that place deep inside that got me out running.

So no, the last show isn't about taking a break and going out for milkshakes and burgers. The last show is a great time to reunite with my fellow challengers and show everyone that something I thought was never possible can come true.

As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.


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