Tamara Harbison is a huge loser and proud of it. The 27-year-old waitress from Morrisville, North Carolina, shed a whopping 125 lbs in 9 months with the help of Dr. Ian Smith's book "The Fat Smash Diet: The Last Diet You'll Ever Need" (St. Martin's Griffin). The dedicated southern belle who has been maintaining her new weight since January followed a strict regimen of healthy eating, regular exercise and good ole fashioned hard work to get slim and trim. "I originally had no real expectations for this diet. I simply followed Dr. Ian's diet and exercise plan 100 percent without cheating because I was so impressed with my results. The fat seemed to melt away day by day," says the former teacher. Harbison shares with ESSENCE.com how she said bye-bye to fast food, her new favorite places to shop, and why she was in denial about her weight.
ESSENCE.COM: Was this your first attempt to lose weight? If not, why do you think it worked this time?
TAMARA HARBISON: No, this wasn't my first attempt to lose weight but my attempts were few and far between. This time I think I was really motivated by the results. I went into the diet with no expectations. I really thought that I was genetically built to be large. The weight fell off of me so quickly I figured something must have been right about it.
ESSENCE.COM: How did you find out about the diet?
HARBISON: My mom brought the book to me. Her beautician was dropping weight and she asked her what she had been doing, and that's how I found out about the book. I learned of Dr. Ian through the television show "Celebrity Fit Club."
ESSENCE.COM: In addition to the change in your eating habits and exercise routine, did you stop dining out as much?
HARBISON: Oh yeah, I started doing a lot of cooking at home myself. But what is so great about Dr. Ian's plan is that he doesn't keep you from your normal lifestyle routine. Like, if I had a birthday party to go to, I would go to the birthday party and there were things there I could have. You just know your limit. It's all about portion control.
ESSENCE.COM: When you look at older pictures of yourself at your starting weight or look at your old size 24 clothes, what goes through your mind?
HARBISON: I never actually viewed myself as large as I was. Looking back at some of the pictures, I sometimes just sit and stare at them. I knew that I was large but I never viewed myself as being obese. I never considered myself as having crossed over to that realm but I was there.
ESSENCE.COM: Is there anything you can do now that you couldn't do before you lost the weight?
HARBISON: It's been fun buying more clothes. It's also been an adjustment knowing which stores I can go into, because I always had it in my mind that I couldn't go into Banana Republic because I can't fit anything in there, or oh, I can't go in J.Crew, and now I say, oh yeah, I can. (Laughs.) Another thing, I had gotten to the point where I couldn't reach down to buckle my Maryjane shoes around my ankle. So I would put my shoes on and have my sister buckle them when I got to church.