Elsa Vélez, 53, of Marietta lost 127 pounds

SUCCESS STORY / Elsa Vélez, 53: From 254 pounds to 127 pounds

Former weight: 254 pounds

Current weight: 127 pounds

Pounds lost: 127 pounds

Height: 5 feet 2 inches

Age: 53 years

How long she’s kept it off: Over a year. She began her journey in September 2009 and reached her goal weight in June 2011.

Personal life: “My husband, Ramon, and I celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary in July. We have three wonderful grown children: Alexis, 29; Katrina, 27; Gabriel, 24,” Vélez said. “I have worked for The Coca-Cola Co. for 19 years. … I’m a communications program specialist.” She lives in Marietta.

Turning point: “I was diagnosed with diabetes and high cholesterol,” she said. To start, she began walking, wearing a pedometer and aiming for 10,000 steps per day. “When I started running, everything came together — my body toned up and my shape changed completely. I went from overly curvaceous to pleasantly lean.”

Diet plan: “I began keeping a food diary from Day One,” she said. “Seeing how every morsel affects the daily caloric total keeps me accountable. … Initially, [I] just cut out bread and sweets. When weight loss slowed, I met with a dietitian who put me on an 1,800-calorie diet. Once I hit another plateau, we reduced calories to 1,650 per day until I achieved my goal of losing 100 pounds.” She believes in a splurge day each week. “My daughter’s friend calls it Faturday,” she said. “These splurges made getting back to business on Mondays bearable.”

Exercise routine: On Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays she runs 5 kilometers. On Saturdays she does a longer run of 5 miles. Tuesdays and Thursdays are Zumba and a 2-mile brisk walk.

Biggest challenge: “The weight came off relatively easily since I had never dieted or exercised and my metabolism wasn’t damaged from yo-yo dieting,” she said. “I started walking and lost the first 25 pounds within three months. Encouraged by the weight loss, I cut back on my weakness — bread. That and reducing my daily food intake to 1,800 calories sped up the weight loss even more.”

How life has changed: “I can run,” she said. “I used to have recurring dreams where I was running through wooded areas and fields. Now, my happiest and most satisfying moments are when I’m on one of Georgia’s myriad trails running to my heart’s content. The joy I feel during those runs is beyond explanation. I also love my runs through Georgia Tech when I’m in Midtown — such a beautiful campus and watching all the kids fills me with confidence for the future.” On Sept. 13, Vélez will run in the Kaiser Permanente Corporate 5K Run/Walk (http://kpcorporaterunwalk.com).

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 Michelle C. Brooks, ajcsuccessstories@gmail.com.

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