Success story: Paula Nocera

SUCCESS STORY / Paula Nocera, 38; Pounds lost: 89.

Former weight: 252 pounds

Current weight: 163 pounds

Pounds lost: 89 pounds

Height: 5 feet 3 inches

How long she’s kept it off: “Started March 2008, and I'm still working,”

says Nocera. “I have 13 pounds to go to reach my ultimate goal of 150 pounds.”

Personal life: “I'm a middle school teacher and I live in Lawrenceville

with my husband, Ron.”

Turning point: “I asked my husband to attend a seminar regarding gastric bypass surgery -- it scared both of us,” she says. “Ron told me that he would support me no matter what my decision, but he asked me if I'd be willing to try working with a personal trainer first. He has been getting up to work out with me at 6:00 a.m., three days a week, ever since.  We've both become healthy and strong, and of course I never gave the surgery a second thought.”

Diet plan: “I've learned to eat several small meals a day, and I focus on getting enough protein in my diet,” she says. She starts the day with protein pancakes (made with 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 2 egg whites, and a dash of cinnamon), a turkey and cheese rollup for lunch, protein drinks between meals and lean meat and vegetables for dinner.

Exercise routine: “I lost my weight working with Anna Smith, owner of Revolution Personal Fitness and Training (www.revtraining.com),” she says.  “She had me doing weight training three days per week with cardio on my off days. I am currently taking kickboxing lessons.”

Biggest challenge: “The biggest challenge was sticking with it when my heart wasn't completely in it, and that happened many times,” she says. “Each time I got myself out of bed when I really wanted to sleep in, I gained confidence.”

How life has changed: “I've hit some major milestones recently, including completing the Iron Girl in June and recently completing a 5K in under 34 minutes, but my journey isn't over by a long shot. I've learned to stick with it through the rough patches. Each time I do, I feel even more confident that this is indeed a lifestyle change and not a fad.”

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 Suzanne Van Atten, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sixth Floor, 72 Marietta St. N.W., Atlanta, GA 30303; or e-mail ajcsuccessstories@gmail.com.