Macaroni and cheese. Candied yams. Cornbread stuffing. You’ve had it all and then some this holiday and will resolve to lose all the weight you’ve picked up by doing so in the New Year. But the idea of starting yet another weight loss regimen is daunting and you don’t have any extra money these days for a gym membership or even personal workout equipment. knows your strife and has you covered. Read on to find out how one Atlanta woman managed to shed a whooping 215 pounds with very little cash and a whole lot of determination. Her experience can help you meet your weight loss goals too.

After having two miscarriages and delivering two premature babies, NaAja Afie Thomas felt her own excess weight was the reason for her children’s poor health—as well as her own. “It could be 11:30 A.M. or 11:30 P.M.; if I wanted it, I made it: burgers, fries, omelets, a gallon of soda per sitting, ice cream…,” says Thomas who works retail in Atlanta.

Thomas knew she needed to make changes. She was on medication for hypertension and, at well over 350 pounds, couldn’t fit comfortably in the backseat of a car or in a restaurant booth. But a gym membership or personal trainer wasn’t in the family budget, and her doctor had denied a request for prescription weight loss pills. Thomas realized her only option would be to exercise and limit her food intake if she wanted to shed pounds.

She started by slowly cutting back on rice, crackers and bread for three months. Then she tried eating more fruits like bananas, watermelon, papaya and pineapple for snacks, and replaced her breakfasts and lunches with high-protein French vanilla or strawberry shakes. Thomas also got moving, working out to aerobics, Pilates and walking DVDs. “At first I couldn’t even finish one,” admits Thomas. “Now I can do some DVDs twice in a row.” She also watched The Biggest Loser and Celebrity Fit Club for inexpensive inspiration and weight loss tips.

Thomas, now a curvy size 12—down from a 32W—she maintains her weight loss by jogging a 16-minute mile and then sweating on her elliptical machine while watching TV for about 30 minutes each morning. Her shining moments: The day she was light enough for her husband to pick her up and when she was slim enough to fit in her daughter’s arms. Next stop? A theme park: “I want to go for a roller-coaster ride now that I can fit in the seat,” says Thomas.

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