Vitals Elizabeth Potter, 26, West Valley City, UT
Occupation JetBlue Airways supervisor
Time required to reach goal 2 years, 3 months
Lesson Learned Find a workout you enjoy. "If I didn't love cycling, I couldn't do it for hours a day."
Secret Weapon Her son, Aiden, now 5. "He was my inspiration, and lugging a 25-pound kid in a bike trailer was tougher than any machine at the gym."
Weight Before 255
Weight After 155
Elizabeth was always chubby, but when she got pregnant in 2004, she hit 225 pounds and developed gestational diabetes. After her son, Aiden, was born, she split up with his father, and life as a single mom took a toll. She began taking antidepressants but also self-medicated with food. "The worse I felt, the more I ate," she admits. She eventually reached 255 pounds.
"Once Aiden started walking, I just couldn't keep up," she says. "I needed to get healthy for both of us." In February 2006, after a coworker raved about the weight-loss benefits of cycling, Elizabeth bought a mountain bike and a trailer to pull her son in.
If you still haven't a bike, today is the time to buy it!
I have this one, it's really comfortable:)
On her first day out, Elizabeth barely made it around a five-mile trail—and paid for the effort. "Everything hurt," she says. But she stuck with it, adding distance gradually. She also chipped away at her three biggest vices: fast food, soda, and Starbucks. "It was hard, but I had to stop—convenience was no longer an excuse."
By September 2007, Elizabeth graduated to a road bike and spent hours a day on it. "I'd feel such a sense of accomplishment after a ride," she says. In winter, she alternated between a stationary bike and the elliptical machine at the gym and added strength training two or three times a week.
The former fat kid is now a fit size 8 and a competitive road-bike racer who logs 25 or more miles a day—and has more than enough energy to keep up with her son. Best of all, she's been weaned off the antidepressants. "Once I no longer needed them, it was like, wow, this is how it feels to be happy."
Moderation, not deprivation "I still eat chocolate. It's all about portion control."
Have a daily mission "One day I'll aim for distance; the next, maybe harder gears. Meeting goals keeps me motivated."
Make up for mistakes "If I go overboard at one meal, I scale back at the next one."