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In 1994, Melonie Heaton weighed 225 pounds. She had no energy, could barely muster the stamina to climb the stairs at home, and had no desire to socialize with her friends.

Today, Melonie weighs in at a svelte 135 pounds. She slimmed down, she says, by learning to identify the emotional sources of her physical hunger. –

Melonie, a 38-year-old Seattle resident, had been overweight for as long as she could remember. “I’d been on the weight-loss roller coaster, trying every diet on the planet to slim down,” she says.

Then Melonie started walking for just a few minutes, a few days a week. “I was so physically out of shape that walking was the only thing that I thought I could tolerate,” she explains. “I’ll never forget my first walk. I was out of breath in 3 minutes. I had to be very patient with myself.”

Her patience paid off. Those 3-minute, 3-days-a-week walks gradually got longer and faster, and Melonie started dropping pounds. As a bonus, her energy level soared.

Inspired, she began looking for ways to improve her eating habits, too. Through what she calls a journey of self-exploration, she soon realized that she had fallen into a pattern of eating even when her body didn’t really want food. “I was misinterpreting feelings of fatigue, loneliness, dissatisfaction, or low motivation as hunger,” she recalls. “I discovered that in order to remodel myself outside, I first had to remodel myself inside.”

Melonie learned how to face her feelings head-on and how to remedy them without food. Now, whenever she has the urge to eat, she asks herself what she really needs. Is her hunger genuinely physical? Or are her emotions calling out for sustenance? “If I realize that

I’m bored, I get out a craft project or go shopping or find some g other constructive way to occupy my time,” she says. By learning to distinguish between physical and emotional Q 1 hunger, Melonie stopped eating for the wrong reasons. In 2 years, she lost 90 pounds. Now, even 3 years later, she can proudly say, “I no longer have a weight problem.”

WINNING ACTION

Feed your hunger, not your mood. This has been such an important lesson for me! I constantly found myself thinking about food or even rummaging through the kitchen for something to eat—all because I was really feeling sad, scared, lonely, or just plain bored. The next time you find yourself searching for something to eat, stop and ask yourself, “What do I really need right now?” You may realize that you don’t need food at all and that you’re really hungry for a chat with a good friend.

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