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Natalie Galyon 42, of Boulder, CO says her 30s were rough: She lost both of her parents and was working stressful 15-hour days, often using food to self-medicate. When she was 37, she found out that she had high cholesterol and high blood pressure and was at her heaviest weight (235 pounds). Her physician wanted to put her on medication, but she refused. "I wanted to at least try to change my lifestyle first," she says.

"If you attempt to do everything at once, you'll feel overwhelmed. Be OK with a slow progression—you'll get there."

How Natalie lost 102 pounds in 3 years

ACTIVITY "Walking felt like the easiest change to make, so I started going out near my home for just 10 minutes a day on a local trail along a river. Being in nature was key. Gradually, I increased from 10 minutes to 2 hours a day and added hilly hikes on the weekends. While I strolled, I listened to podcasts and soaked up the scenery."

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Ari Michaelson

FOOD "I toned down my portion sizes and realized that it was possible to feel full when eating less. I replaced carbohydrates with lean protein and vegetables, and created healthier recipes. For instance, I love pancakes, so now I make a protein-packed version with oatmeal, blueberries, egg whites and coconut oil."

SIGNS OF SUCCESS "My cholesterol and blood pressure are in healthy ranges—without medication. It's wild how much I've changed, not just physically but emotionally, too. I remember trying to hike when I was heavy—my knees hurt and I could barely breathe. I thought: I'll just look at nature; I don't have to walk in it. I can't believe the limited mindset I had. What was I thinking? I feel so much more confident and capable now."

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Jane Bianchi
Jane Bianchi is a writer and editor with more 13 years of experience specializing in health; she formerly worked as a health editor at Family Circle, and her work has appeared in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Esquire, and more.