Drop Pounds by Doing Good

Meet three women whose weight-loss journeys began by giving back to others.
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Sarah Marsden

Sarah Marsden raised $2,100 for Girls on the Run

"Running helped me lose 111 pounds."

"Next year I'm going to run this race." It was the spring of 2003 and Sarah Marsden, 29, had just finished a 5K walk (her first) in support of breast cancer. At 226 pounds, Marsden, who lives in Minneapolis, understood that reaching that goal wouldn't be easy. "But the walk made me realize not everyone can move their body. If you can, you should."

She knew she had to start slowly. "Thinking about running a three-mile race was daunting, but I was determined," Marsden says. She'd walk one block, run until she couldn't anymore, then walk again. She kept alternating this pattern until she was covering six miles, running most of the way. That led to more healthy changes. "I made little tweaks in my diet, like trading white pasta for whole wheat." Cutting portions was also key. "Once I did that, the weight melted off." She lost 40 pounds in a year and proudly ran the 5K.

Encouraged, Marsden stuck with her new lifestyle and dropped another 50 pounds over two years. Then she had bunion surgery. "I needed motivation to start running again," she says. So she decided to do the 2009 New York City Marathon to support Girls on the Run, an organization that helps third- to fifth-graders build self-esteem through running. "It shows them that exercise is fun and makes you strong," says Marsden.

A year of mixing short runs with 10- to 24-mile treks helped her shed 20 more pounds. "I wore a Girls on the Run shirt during the race and so many people cheered for me it really kept me going," says Marsden, who has run 12 more marathons since then. "I always wear my shirt and little girls have come up to me and said that they're part of Girls on the Run. I'm a role model to them and that means everything to me."

Sarah's Tips

Splurge a little!
"I found low-calorie replacements for foods I loved. But when the craving is really strong, I don't fight it."

Start with a salad.
"I always order one as an appetizer. It keeps me from reaching for the bread basket and fills me up so I'm satisfied with less of my main course."

Think of yourself as an athlete.
"Even if you're not the fastest person on the course, you have to give yourself credit for just being there."

Continued on page 2:  Connie Rios


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