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I Did It! Weight-Loss Success Stories


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Edgar Hernandez

Before he tried to start losing weight, Edgar says he hated going outside and dreaded eating lunch at school. One memory from his sophomore year stays with him. “This kid threw a pizza crust at the back of my head and said, ‘Are you going to eat that?’ I just walked out of the cafeteria.”

(CNN) – Edgar Hernandez didn’t expect to learn that he was pre-diabetic at age 16.

When his mother burst into tears at the doctor’s office, it hit him hard. He was 370 pounds and couldn’t stand to look at himself.

It was tough being a fat kid, but things became unbearable in high school. Edgar was seeing a therapist for depression symptoms. He was frequently bullied in gym class. Kids would point at his “fat wobbling everywhere,” especially as he struggled to keep up.

“I tried my best to ignore it. But there were times when I just gave in and started crying,” said Edgar, who lives in a suburb of St. Louis and is now 18.

Everyone in his family had a weight problem; his parents developed type 2 diabetes in their forties. But Edgar was the biggest.

“He would eat two really big burritos or sandwiches a day, packed with cheese, sour cream, a lot of bread, butter,” his older brother Mario said. “He would be watching TV, playing video games.”

After receiving the sobering blood test result at the doctor’s office, Edgar went home and cried. And then something new happened: He owned up to his weight problem.

“It was time to stop blaming others for my choices and make a choice to take responsibility,” he said.

He dried his tears, threw on his jacket and began jogging. He only got about half a mile before he stopped and threw up.

That was a year and a half ago. Edgar, who is 5-foot-9, went on to drop nearly 200 pounds. He now weighs 185 pounds. He has traded his double-XL shirts and size 48 pants for medium T-shirts and 33-inch pants.


It happened slowly at first.

After that gut-impulse jog in November 2012, Edgar started walking before or after school. As he could, he added distance until he was walking about two miles a day. He started to incorporate running intervals until, months later, he could run a full mile.

The weight began to come off, but the teen wasn’t seeing as much progress as he had hoped. It was his older brother, Mario, who helped him kick the weight loss into high gear.

Mario, who carried 235 pounds on his 5-foot-7 frame, was inspired by Edgar’s will to change. He took Edgar to the grocery store and together they overhauled the family’s pantry. Chicken breasts and fresh produce replaced the processed foods and sodas that were once the staple at home, Mario said.

Edgar’s typical breakfast became a peanut butter sandwich with honey and banana slices. Dinners usually featured a chicken breast with two cups of broccoli. He didn’t have a specific diet or calorie count; it was all about portion sizes, the teen said.

The brothers became each other’s support. They started running together in January 2013, buying sweatpants and thermal gear to keep them warm in the Illinois weather.

Mario has lost 70 pounds and continues to run alongside his brother, Edgar said.

The brothers, who live at home with their parents, have seen their weight loss inspire some changes for the whole family, Mario said. The family has cut down on eating out — once every couple of weeks, as opposed to four to five times a week.

“As a family, we go outside more, walk a little more. It shows because we have a lot more energy,” Mario said. “Even though other members haven’t lost as much weight, maybe five pounds, you can see it in their faces.”

These days, Edgar can’t get enough of running. His favorite activities are heavy cardio and weightlifting. The teen even ran his first half-marathon in April, and he’s planning another one soon.

“Running is what made me feel happy; I had gotten what they call ‘runner’s high’ and now running has become a lifestyle,” he said.

Edgar has also found his calling in his new healthy lifestyle. He will start college at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in the fall and plans to study exercise science.

For Mario, watching his little brother shed the pounds at such a young age has been a source of pride.

“If you would have told me three years ago that he’d be running a half-marathon, I wouldn’t believe you,” Mario said. “You see a completely different person that’s a lot happier, has more energy and is more active.”

Edgar couldn’t agree more.

“I wouldn’t even step out my door to get the mail before,” he said. “People don’t see the dark, sad side of me anymore. They see a bright, happy kid.”

For the people out there looking to lose weight, the teenager has the following advice: Don’t put it off. If you say you’re going to run, do it today, not tomorrow.

“Don’t wait, because it will get worse,” he said. “You’ll start putting it off until something serious happens and when something serious happens, it will change your life.”

Visit Edgar Hernandez’s Facebook page or on Twitter @RunWithEdgar to follow his journey.

™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

‘All you have to do is care’: Woman loses 100 pounds


(CNN) – At the last minute, Morgan Victoria’s friend convinced her to attend their 10-year high school reunion. Victoria hadn’t had any intention of going to “such a silly thing,” but her friend’s significant other couldn’t make it and, well, peer pressure doesn’t end at 18.

Victoria balked as the former class president handed her a name tag. On it was Victoria’s senior photo. Walking around the event, something inside of her snapped.

“I’m wearing a picture of me 10 years younger and 100 pounds lighter,” Victoria remembers. “It was humiliating.”

“The next day I was like, ‘That’s it.’ “

At the August 2012 reunion, Victoria weighed 255 pounds and wore a size 18 dress. Over the next nine months, she lost more than 100 pounds by moving more and eating less.

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“There is no secret,” Victoria says about weight loss. “All you have to do is care. If you honestly care about yourself, if you honestly care about getting it done — that’s all you have to do.”

Victoria didn’t grow up overweight, though she sometimes felt like it in her athletic family. Her parents cooked healthy meals around the house, and Victoria swam competitively, played tennis and ran cross country until she left for college.

At the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, where she majored in communication arts (otherwise known as comic books and poetry, she jokes), she ate whatever she wanted. That included plenty of junk food.

“You eat the cheap stuff,” Victoria remembers. “It wasn’t like I was getting home from the studio and being like, ‘I need some lean protein and vegetables.’ “

When she graduated and struggled to find work, she ate even worse. Though she lived in Savannah, Georgia, a walking city, she never went to the gym and couldn’t combat the excess calories she was consuming.

At 5′ 8″, her body mass index was 38. (Over 30 is considered obese.)

In 2011, Victoria married Lyndsay Rosenlund in a small private ceremony with family and friends in Washington state. The couple moved to Atlanta and started going out for dinner frequently with friends.

But the day after her high school reunion, Victoria went into the pantry of their home and got rid of anything with more than a few ingredients on the label. She read about serving sizes and started using an app to count calories. She even bought a food scale.

“Honestly, all of it was kind of hard,” Victoria says. “At 255 pounds, you don’t actually want to do anything. … Exercising was hard because I was embarrassed. Nobody wants to be the fat girl working out.”

So she stayed out of the gym, and started walking with Rosenlund and their dogs, Giuseppe and Romona. She walked for about an hour every morning and an hour every night. Eventually she gained enough confidence to jog. Now she runs 5Ks.

“We tried running together when we first started our journey, but it turns out I hate running,” Rosenlund says. “However, we both enjoy hiking so we try and hike every chance we get.”

The couple also tried to limit how often they ate out. When they did go to a restaurant, they made a game plan and made smarter choices. Water instead of beer. Balsamic vinaigrette instead of ranch dressing.

Victoria swears she never goes hungry. She relies on big salads, air-popped corn and lean protein to keep her full without a lot of calories. With these simple strategies, she lost about 2 pounds a week. Rosenlund also lost 50 pounds.

Victoria now wears a size 6 and has maintained her final weight of 150 pounds for nearly a year.

“Morgan has a lot more energy and less anxiety,” Rosenlund says. “I think that the weight loss has definitely improved her outlook on life.”

“I feel amazing,” Victoria agrees. “You feel totally different about yourself. You shouldn’t feel all that from weight, but you do.”

™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


(CNN) – Jonathon Walters didn’t know where to begin. He just knew he had to start somewhere, or he wouldn’t be alive for much longer.

His weight had caused him problems for years. In high school, he was wearing size 50 pants. As a junior, sick of the bullies and comments from teachers, Walters went to his father and told him he was dropping out of school.

He recalls his dad saying, “John, quitting is unlike anything else in life. It is only hard the first time you do it. After that it is habit and almost impossible to break.”

His dad was right. Walters received his high school diploma through home schooling in 2006. But in the years that followed, he quit college and multiple jobs.

Now, though, the comic book colorist from Benton, Illinois, is finally sticking with something. His father’s death motivated him to lose 200 pounds in the last nine months, and he says he isn’t looking back.

‘My world had collapsed’

On May 6, 2013, Walters received devastating news: His father had died from a heart attack. He was 53.

According to Walters, his father wasn’t overweight or really out of shape, so his death was unexpected.

“My world had collapsed,” Walters said.

Walters was despondent. He left his job as a telecommunications sales rep and didn’t speak to practically anyone besides his wife and three young boys.

Already heavy, Walters began packing on more weight in the weeks after his father died. He ate to numb the pain he felt, every night feeling the crushing weight laying heavy on his chest.

“At first I played the role of the victim and slowly let my obsession with food consume me,” he said. But then he had a realization about his father’s death.

It hit him that he too would “eventually run out of tomorrows.” On July 18, he woke up and decided he had had enough. He was done.

“I was done being a burden to my family. I was done feeling pain every second of every day. I was done being stared at in grocery stores. I was done being the regular customer at fast food restaurants. I was done being the unhealthy version of me.

“I was done quitting everything I started. I was going to not only lose the weight, I was going to obliterate it. I was going to stop giving up. I quit quitting.”

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Facing reality

Walters made a doctor’s appointment for the next day. He had no idea how he would do it, but he was determined to lose weight without surgery and knew he needed help. At the doctor’s office, he had to sit in the bench-style chairs because he was too large to fit in the regular seats.

Facing reality was hard. He weighed 477 pounds, had high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as a severe fatty liver.

He left the doctor’s office and started exercising the next day.

“I could barely walk without getting winded. After every time I went walking, I could feel pain in my legs and feet. It hurt so bad to keep going, but I knew it was temporary and giving up was permanent.”

Walters would walk a quarter mile, then rest for 5 minutes. Slowly, he worked himself up to greater distances. Soon, he was up to 3 miles a day and was down 50 pounds.

A few months later, he started running. Walters now runs 10 miles a day, lifts weights and works out on machines at the gym. He has completely changed his diet, lowering his carbohydrate intake, eating more vegetables and fruits, and increasing his protein consumption. He also cut out fried foods and soda.

The 6’3″ man currently weighs 270 pounds. He still wants to lose an additional 30 to 40 pounds, but at a much slower pace through weightlifting. He started a Facebook page to hold himself accountable and is inspired by all the messages he gets each day.

Terri Hartman, a nurse practitioner who worked with Walters early on in his diet, said she’s thrilled with his progress. Besides changing his own life, she’s seen his lifestyle changes inspire others, including his two sisters, to become healthy. Walters has found new strength and willpower, Hartman says — something that will aid him the rest of his life.

This time, Walters is determined not to quit.

“It isn’t about me anymore. My mission is to bring motivation to the masses and show them it doesn’t take any surgeries, pills or other products,” Walters said. “I have three boys and a wife that count on me daily. … Imagining my sons and wife without me, makes every ounce of effort I put in worth it.”

™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

(CNN) – If you’re overweight, slimming down will make you feel great, right? For John Janetzko, embracing his own body took more than just weight loss.

The 24-year-old chemistry Ph.D. candidate at Harvard is just under 6 feet tall, and struggled with his body image for years. Even after losing 125 pounds, he still felt fat, and pushed himself in unhealthy ways in terms of diet and fitness.

These days, at a lean 165 pounds, Janetzko feels more confident and generally better about himself.

“I feel more generically attractive in terms of what society’s views are,” he said. “But I guess I also feel like that was something I thought would be very quick, and would sort of happen right away.”

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Getting motivated

In childhood, Janetzko heard from his pediatrician that his weight wasn’t healthy so many times that he became desensitized to it. But as his father remembers it, he wasn’t ever really fat.

Intense studying and bad eating habits piled on pounds during college. By the fall of junior year, Janetzko weighed about 290 pounds.

“I would always be sort of afraid of how I thought people would think of me,” he said. “I always expected my girlfriend at the time would find someone better.”

The first stage of Janetzko’s weight loss came when he lived at home in Toronto during college. A friend encouraged Janetzko to go to the gym with him, even offering to buy him running shoes. Janetzko started going to the gym often, focusing on jogging and light weights.

Instead of greasy takeout meals from food stands, Janetzko started picking up leaner options such as grilled chicken and broccoli, and cooked more on weekends. His father helped cook when Janetzko was busy.

“I started with the idea that being very strict with my diet was the solution,” he said.

During his senior year, with graduate school applications and his father becoming ill, Janetzko slipped, forgoing the gym because there weren’t enough hours in the day. His weight fluctuated, never quite bouncing back as high as it was, but still reversing some of the progress he had made.

The move from Toronto to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a breakup from a long relationship also distracted him from healthy eating. He was about 240 pounds when he entered Harvard.

Graduate school jump-started his motivation again. He told himself: “I’ve had so many changes, and it’s really time to have an absolute fresh start.”

How he did it

During the summer of 2011, Janetzko went to the gym consistently and cooked at least four nights a week. He had in his head a “running clock” of calorie and protein limits for meal times, aiming for about 2,000 calories a day.

Breakfast was usually a protein shake. Lunch would be salad, sandwich or burrito. Dinner would be around 1,000 calories.

By the end of autumn of his first year at Harvard, he was closer to 200 pounds. On a visit home to Toronto, he ran his first 5K race, which motivated him to keep working on his fitness.

Janetzko also encouraged his roommates to go with him to exercise, and helped friends with their workouts and stretches.

“I guess that was a point where I was sort of feeling happy,” he said.

Focused on fitness, he competed in volleyball leagues, swam, and played squash and soccer.

By mid-2012, he was down to 170 pounds. Losing those last 60 to 70 pounds in Massachusetts brought about the most substantial physical changes in his fitness journey.

“I said, ‘What happened to you? Are they not feeding you?’ ” his father, Rainer Janetzko, remembers telling his son when he first visited after the weight loss.

Generally, though, Janetzko’s new physique looks good, his father said. “Now when he puts a suit on, he looks better.”

Going too far

Slim and athletic as he was, Janetzko still didn’t feel good about how he looked in May 2012. It was an awkward time he calls the “transition” — when he had lost a lot of weight, but his new body didn’t register in his mind as a positive image.

“I would wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and feel like ‘Oh God, I’m fat and ugly and this is terrible,’ ” he said.

At the same time, others told him he had gotten too skinny and didn’t need to get thinner. Objectively, he had reached his goal — but he couldn’t see that in his reflection. He thought his mirror image still needed to lose 10 or 20 more pounds.

Focused on weight loss and fitness, Janetzko didn’t pay close attention to his body’s signals that it was being pushed too hard. As he ate less and started running farther and faster, Janetzko noticed he would start to get dizzy or even fall. Last semester he collapsed outside of a laboratory.

“That was a scary time for a lot of people — my lab mates, my advisor and myself included,” he said. “If you don’t balance your diet properly (you) can’t go and work yourself really hard.”

His aversion to overeating had gone too far — his appetite for some foods had diminished. Friends even wondered if he had an eating disorder.

“There were days when I could barely finish half a sandwich,” he said. “I felt full but I clearly had not taken in all of the calories I need as a functioning person.”

He has since gone to nutritionists for help. He isn’t as rigid about what he eats anymore, and is more flexible about his workouts. He still minimizes fried foods but tries to be more varied with meals.

Embracing a new self

Body image disturbance isn’t unusual when people lose weight, said Emily Sandoz, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Often people have huge expectations about the life changes that will result from a weight loss that don’t actually happen.

“Their experience of themselves as fat extends far beyond their actual body,” she said. “People have to learn how to be in their skin in a new way.”

Sandoz’s approach to helping people with body image problems is to shift the focus to other areas of their lives that they care about, such as work or parenting. Mindfulness — the idea of being present and in the moment — is incorporated in her approach to helping clients be more accepting of their bodies.

Over time, Janetzko has been able to reconcile his weight with his body image — but there was no one moment where it suddenly clicked. Positive reinforcement from others and self-assurance have helped him feel better about himself.

His message to others

Many of Janetzko’s old friends who see his recent photos on Facebook have contacted him to ask: “How did you do it?”

Janetzko’s bottom line is that he was intensely motivated.

“If you count your calories and you’re like, ‘I want to lose weight,’ you’re going to be stuck in that forever,” he said. “But I think if you can make changes in your lifestyle that you actually want to be doing, and then you’ll do those no matter what — you enjoy them — then you never have to feel like you’re trapped in a routine.”

™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

(CNN) – Inspiration can come from unlikely places. Brian Flemming found the will to change his life in a drawing game.

Flemming was addicted to alcohol, severely morbidly obese and full of self-pity when he met Jackie Eastham through a random match on Draw Something, the Pictionary-like mobile game. It was the spring of 2012. Most nights Flemming drank around a fifth vodka mixed with a liter of soda while he zoned out in front of the TV.

The last time he had been weighed, on a special scale at the hospital, he was 625 pounds.

Eastham lived in England and was 20 years Flemming’s senior. At first, the players shared casual banter between rounds. Their friendship eventually moved to Facebook, where they began to confide in each other.

Flemming was at a low point. Besides being an alcoholic and morbidly obese, he was pre-diabetic and had a recurring cellulitis infection.

Eastham was the first person he was totally honest with — no one in his life knew about the drinking. He expected sympathy.

But she wasn’t having it.

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“She said there were people struggling for their lives and then there’s you — you have all these opportunities and you’re throwing it all away,” said Flemming, 32, now a business relations representative and part-time music teacher in Canton, Michigan.

It was personal for Eastham, who lives with myotonic dystrophy, an inherited type of muscular dystrophy that causes progressive muscle weakness and can affect various systems and organs. Her symptoms have been relatively mild so far, but she never takes her health for granted.

“I just thought bloody hell, you’re a guy who’s 30 … and you’re wasting your life,” she said, remembering how she felt as the recipient of his drunken, maudlin messages. “My future is a lot gloomier. I’m trying to make the brightest future I can, and … you’re dragging yourself down.”

It was the wake-up call Flemming needed. He’d show her he could change. That day — October 13, 2012 — he vowed to quit drinking cold turkey.

That was the first step toward what would become a remarkable transformation. Less than two years later, Flemming has lost more than 380 pounds from his 6 foot 2 frame. He went from a size 60 waist to a size 38.

The days after he gave up alcohol were grueling, he said. He had cold sweats, shaky hands and couldn’t sleep. He kept busy to distract himself and found comfort in daily chats with Eastham.

They progressed from Facebook to Skype video chats, where Eastham said she was initially shocked by his size.

The weight began to fall off. Without the extra calories from alcohol, Flemming lost 100 pounds in a couple months. That was motivation enough to make other changes. He had been consuming upwards of 7,000 calories a day, according to an app he used to record his meals. He stopped eating fast food and cut out sugar and red meat.

Now, a typical day for Flemming starts with a few ounces of low or no-sodium turkey breast, a serving of dry cereal, a bowl of non-fat Greek yogurt with artificial sweetener and a glass of low-sodium vegetable juice.

For lunch and dinner, he often eats chicken and vegetables with rice. And every Friday night, he treats himself to a scoop of ice cream. Now that he’s doing more exercise, he’s not as strict about his diet.

Adding in physical activity was a gradual process. Flemming says he began by walking in place in his parents’ basement for five minutes a day every morning, adding minutes as he felt ready. When he was finally comfortable to exercise outside, he only went when it was dark and the neighbors couldn’t see him. Eastham kept him company on Skype sometimes while he walked.

“She was a huge motivation. She’d try to push me to walk a little further each time,” he said.

In July 2013, he walked his first half-marathon. Shortly after that he took up cycling, and then running, completing his third 5-kilometer run on his birthday a few weeks ago. He used running and calorie tracker apps to stay accountable and started seeing a psychotherapist to manage his depression and make sure he was approaching his weight loss in a healthy way.

Eastham said she encouraged it, not wanting him to be dependent on their friendship to stay sober and motivated.

Flemming is now down to 234 pounds, with about 30 pounds of excess skin around his waist. He’s trying to save the money for surgery to have it removed.

This past December, he went to Europe and finally met Eastham in person, where he was able to climb the Eiffel Tower after barely being able to walk up a flight of stairs less than two years earlier. They continue to talk every day — and are still playing Draw Something.

Flemming now hopes to go back to school to become a therapist specializing in weight loss, depression and anxiety.

“Jackie is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I feel that she saved my life, even though she would never take credit,” Flemming wrote in a blog post.

“Brian is so inspiring,” Eastham said. “I hope he gets what he wants out of life.”

Visit Brian Flemming’s Facebook group to follow his journey. He invites readers to share their own stories about weight loss, addiction and eating disorders there.

™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

(CNN) – Teena Henson’s “journey to life” began with a newspaper ad.

She remembers wishing they had an Anytime Fitness in her hometown of Gilmer, Texas. She specifically wanted to join Anytime Fitness because it is open 24/7 and is made for men and women of all levels of fitness.

“Then there was an ad in the local paper that Anytime Fitness was opening,” she said. “It was like, ‘Here it is; it’s in your hands. Now, what are you going to do with it?'”

Determined to get herself on the right track, Henson signed up at the gym while it was still under construction.

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It was March 2011; Henson was 5-foot-4 and 332 pounds. She knew that her poor diet and inactivity were not the path to a long, healthy life. She didn’t suffer from any serious health problems, but her parents and three brothers were all diabetic so she knew the potential consequences.

Henson, 54, is very close with her family. Loved ones, especially her mom, would often approach her with concerns about her health, telling her she should lose weight.

“I think the older I got, the more concerned my mom became because she knew she wouldn’t be there to take care of me,” Henson says. “She was my No. 1 supporter on my plan to exercise and lose weight.”

In the past, Henson would put herself on diets to make everyone happy, but they wouldn’t last long.

There was an endless array of rules, from eating nothing but grapefruits to nothing but carbs, until she realized that “diets” just weren’t for her.

“For me, ‘diet’ is a four-letter word for failure,” she said.

What she was looking for was a lifestyle change. And not because her friends and family wanted it for her, but because she wanted it for herself.

With Anytime Fitness’ hours, Henson had no trouble finding time to work out. She goes to the gym every day after work for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. She even created a mantra:

“I have a desire to work out. I keep a determination to work out. I created a discipline to work out, and I choose to work out.”

What she struggled with most was changing her eating habits.

She started by cutting out soft drinks and dropped 18 pounds in the first month.

Her mom, known as Mama Henson to many of Henson’s friends, cheered her on daily and was excited to see her daughter start to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

“Every day she would ask me, ‘How much you lose today?’ I would laugh and say, ‘Mom, I can’t lose every day.’ But she would tell me that I was trying and that’s all that matters,” said Henson.

After cutting out soda, Henson started making healthier food choices.

She continued to eat at fast food restaurants because it was convenient, switching out fried chicken for grilled, a side of fries for a side salad.

By December 2011, Henson was down 64 pounds and healthier than ever. Unfortunately, her mom’s health was deteriorating. Mama Henson had suffered several seizures and mini-strokes that severely weakened her.

Henson’s healthier lifestyle would help provide the mental and physical strength she would need in the final months caring for her mother.

Two months before her mother died, Henson remembers walking into the house after a workout. She had lost 100 pounds at this point. Her mother looked up at her and said, “You’re pretty.”

“We both just started crying,” Henson said. “I don’t have a clue why she said it; it was a memorable moment.”

Mama Henson passed away in August 2012.

Whenever Henson loses sight of why she’s working out or skipping sweets, she thinks of her mom’s smile and how much she wanted her daughter to be happy.

“I knew she was proud of me for losing the weight,” Henson said. “I know she felt I was going to be OK now that I had lost the weight.”

In the past year, Henson has made even more changes to her diet. She has started to eat products like quinoa, whole wheat bread and fresh vegetables.

“There was a time when you couldn’t have gotten broccoli anywhere near me.” But now she roasts it and includes it in her meals for the week. She cooks in bulk on the weekends, freezing meals in individual containers for during the week so she knows exactly how many calories she’s eating. She aims to eat 1,200 calories a day.

In less than three years, Henson has lost 166 pounds, or 50% of her body weight. On March 8, she celebrated the three-year anniversary of her first step into Anytime Fitness.

Losing the weight has helped her find an inner strength. It allows her to see a glimpse of the strong, accomplished woman her mother always saw.

One of Henson’s passions has been participating in 5K walks for charity. Since she started working out three years ago, she has participated in five walks and recently finished one in 46 minutes, her personal best.

Henson’s transformation has been so complete that her doctor, who has been monitoring her progress since she started losing weight, uses her pictures to show patients what a little determination can do.

“The smallest of changes one can make in their present lifestyle can garner big changes,” Henson said, “not only in the physical body, but in the mind.”

™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

(CNN) – Misty and Larry Shaffer have been together since high school. She went to his senior prom; he went to her junior and senior proms. They got married in October 2008.

He never said anything about her being overweight.

When Larry, an Army specialist, was deployed to Afghanistan for a year in 2012, Misty decided she wanted to get in shape.

She weighed about 260 pounds when he left, and less than 155 pounds when he returned.

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“I just sat in bed one night and was like, ‘I can do this,'” she said. “‘I need to do this.'”

Shaffer, now 25 and living in Leland, North Carolina, has struggled with her weight her whole life, even as a child.

Each time she had tried dieting in the past, she would relapse. Before she became pregnant with her daughter, Nevaeh, she took diet pills and lost 60 pounds. But all that — and more — came back after she stopped taking the pills. At her heaviest, she weighed around 300 pounds. She’s 5 feet 6 inches tall.

“I would eat when I was bored. I’d eat three huge meals a day, and then snack in between. Sad or happy, I’d turn to food for everything.”

Shaffer felt tired all the time. People picked on her. She wanted to surprise her husband, and work toward a better life for herself and her family.

Her primary mission: Cut out all the junk. She stopped drinking soda, and tried to limit her liquids to water and coffee.

The first three to four months were the hardest, she said. Once she got past that, she started craving more healthy foods and water. It got to the point where, if she drank a diet soda, it made her so thirsty that she didn’t even want it.

Shaffer’s job presented its own challenges; she’s a personal shopper at a supermarket. At lunch time, the hot fried chicken “just smells so good,” she said. But the supermarket also offers a large, well-kept salad bar, as well as warm vegetables on the hot bar and oven-baked chicken.

A typical breakfast for Shaffer is oatmeal with fruit or a cereal bar. On her days off, she’ll cook up sausage, eggs or pancakes, but she’ll watch her portion size. Around 10 a.m. she has a snack, such as fruit or carrots.

Lunch is a salad or half a sandwich with some kind of vegetable or fruit. An afternoon snack might be yogurt.

For dinner, she eats a lean meat (like ground turkey or a boneless, skinless chicken breast), a vegetable and a very small portion of starch.

The big day, Larry Shaffer’s return, was May 15, 2013. The soldier had never seen his wife weigh less than 220 pounds, even in high school.

When she saw him at the airport, Misty Shaffer didn’t know what to say or do. She just ran and jumped into his arms.

Her husband was speechless, uttering only one word: “Wow.”

It was the first time he had ever picked her up. Before, he hadn’t been able to lift her off the ground even a little, she said.

That moment was worth everything.

“A lot of people look at it like, ‘Why is that such a big deal?'” she said. “But (when) you never thought you’d see that moment, that somebody can pick you up … it is a big deal.”

The other big part of the surprise: She had bought a new house while he was away.

Since then, Shaffer has been able to keep the weight off.

When her husband left she was a size 22 to 24; now she can wear a women’s size 6. She’s especially loving how much money she saves on smaller clothes. Khakis, for example, used to cost $80, but she found a pair for her new physique for only $7.

She said her husband’s eating habits haven’t changed much; he likes her cooking, but he’ll help himself to ice cream or cake afterward. Sometimes she will join him. But she’s not too tempted to go back to her old ways of eating.

“I’ve seen how hard I worked, and what I had to go through to get to this point,” she said.

She’s still in disbelief when her husband picks her up.

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