Leah Huggins of Lithonia loses 86 pounds

Former weight: 282 pounds

Current weight: 196 pounds

Pounds lost: 86 pounds

Height: 5 feet 9 inches

Age: 27 years

How long she's kept it off: Eleven months. "I started in 2009, and I reached my goal weight in January 2011," Huggins said.

Personal life: "I am currently a student at Argosy University, working on a doctorate in business administration," she said. "I reside in Lithonia."

Turning point: "In December 2007, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis," she said. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder where the body's immune system attacks the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. "The nurse in the doctor's office told me to exercise my behind off. I vowed that once I got control of my motor skills again, I would exercise and work hard."

Diet plan: "I usually eat every two hours," she said. "I cut fried foods from my diet. I also eat a lot of veggies, cut down dramatically on sweets and indulge in more whole grains."

Exercise routine: "When I was still suffering with the symptoms associated with MS, I did 'Walk Away the Pounds' DVDs at home. It allowed me to move at my own pace," she said. "Once I was functioning at 100 percent again, I joined Ladies Only Total Fitness in Decatur. I do a lot of cardio and strength training. I work out at least five times a week"

Biggest challenge: "I love sweets but hate what they do to my body," she said. "When I go to the pastry shop, I think of how slow I run when I eat pastries."

How life has changed: "I love going back home [to South Carolina] and people not noticing me because of all the weight I've lost. I've decided to become a personal trainer because I want people to change their life for the better as I have done," she said. "The thing that keeps me focused on keeping the weight off and remaining active is I remember how I felt when the MS symptoms attacked my body. ... If I was going to be immobilized by MS, I was not going down without a fight. My advice to others: You must take care of your body so it can take care of you."

Be an inspiration: If you've made positive changes in your diet and/or fitness routine and are happy with the results, please share your success with us. Include your email address, a daytime phone number and before and after photos (by mail or JPEG). Write: Success Stories, c/o Holly Steel, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 223 Perimeter Center Parkway, Atlanta, GA, 30346-1301; or email ajcsuccessstories@gmail.com.