Hobba knew she had to revolutionize her life. She joined Weight Watchers with her sister and her roommate. This helped her restructure both her eating and her social environment. “Having two people on board with me really helped,” she says. Sharing her meals with her roommate was especially valuable: the two agreed to buy only fruits, vegetables and lean meats, and to avoid cookies and crackers and other packaged foods with added sugars and fats; if these temptations weren’t in the house, they wouldn’t eat them. Hobba measured out portions ahead of time so she wouldn’t go back for seconds. “As soon as I was done eating dinner, I’d decide what I was going to eat the next night and pull it out of the freezer so it was ready to cook,” she says. “That way, when I came home from work tired and hungry, I wouldn’t just call for takeout.”
After the first week of the program, Hobba had lost four pounds. “That small success really fueled my efforts,” she says. “I realized I didn’t have to starve myself to lose weight. I could do this.” She began to eat small, healthy snacks, such as fruit, every couple of hours so that she never felt famished. When she was tempted by food outside her planned meals and snacks—the doughnuts or bagels someone brought to the hospital, for instance—she learned to ask herself, “Are you really hungry?” More often than not, the answer was “no.” She started taking her lunch to work and stopped bringing money so she couldn’t buy a cheeseburger from the cafeteria. (At the same time, Hobba began a regular program of walking on a treadmill, building up to 30 minutes a day. She bought Strong Women, Strong Bones by Miriam Nelson, an expert on nutrition and physical activity at Tufts University, and started strength-training twice a week, first with cans of beans and soda bottles, and then with real weights. From February to November of 2000, Hobba took off 60 pounds.
Hobba kept eating well and exercising. By age 35, two years after she began her journey, Hobba had lost 120 pounds. Her blood pressure had dropped from 140/90 to 120/70; her cholesterol was reduced from 229 to 169; and her migraines vanished. Two years after that, when she had hit her goal weight of 145 pounds, she decided to try running the Boston Marathon. “I knew I wasn’t fast enough to qualify, so I thought I’d do it for charity.” She saw an ad for the Tufts fundraising team, joined up and, to her delight, met Miriam Nelson, author of the Strong Women books and director of the John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Prevention at Tufts.