What does it feel like to move across the country, start a new healthy lifestyle, lose 26.5 pounds and land a dream job? Just ask Ahwatukee Foothills News Get Fit for the Holiday's contest winner Colleen McCarthy. McCarthy moved to Ahwatukee Foothills from St. Louis last August. At the time, she was not only unemployed, but weighed 287 pounds. Needless to say, the 47-year-old Midwesterner was ready for a change, and change is what she found in the desert. On Feb. 12, McCarthy sat outside the cafe at Aji Spa at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, her smile brightening up the already sunny patio as she enjoyed a pre-massage fruit and yogurt platter. "To re-train yourself is really the biggest hurdle," McCarthy said of her lifestyle change. On Nov. 26, after winning AFN's Get Fit for the Holidays contest, McCarthy began working out with Rebecca Parent, owner of Desert Foothills Boot Camp, five days a week at 6 a.m. "I was always last, but that's OK because they always cheered me on," McCarthy said of her fellow boot campers. "I loved the outdoor stuff and I loved that I could modify." Parent said McCarthy always gave 100 percent, which led her to reach her goal of completing the mile in less than 15 minutes. "Going from not being able to hardly finish a walk to now completing the mile in 13:44 is amazing," Parent said. "She moved out of her comfort zone." McCarthy also attended weekly Am I Hungry? 90-minute workshops with Dr. Michelle May, author of Am I Hungry? What to Do When Diets Don't Work. "When I first started I thought, 'Oh, this is too simple,' but it really does help," McCarthy said of the Am I Hungry? eating style. "It's easier than doing a diet. I don't even eat like I used to or even think about eating. Now when I start to feel hungry I take a drink of water and, if I'm still hungry, then I eat." Although McCarthy admits she is growing slightly impatient for the weight to drop off, May keeps her on track by reminding her that the faster she loses weight, the more the body starts to conserve. McCarthy is currently losing a healthy average of two pounds per week. "She's just got such a great spirit," May said. "Am I Hungry? is about being in charge and being mindful. I loved that she was willing to take charge because in the beginning giving up deprivation and counting was scary for her." In March, McCarthy will move into a new condo and begin a career at Charles Schwab in Phoenix, but has no plans to drop her healthy lifestyle. She will participate in Lady Fitness Boot Camp, a program closer to her new home, and continue to practice the Am I Hungry? eating style. "I think she's really learned a long-term approach," May said. "She knows this is what she's going to do for the rest of her life." Congratulations and good luck, Colleen, from the AFN staff.

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