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Samantha Call: Lost 125 Lbs.
In 2008, Samantha Call lost her father to heart disease. He was 48 years-old and struggled with obsesity.
Call, who was 265 lbs. at the time, also struggled with her weight.
"I’ll never forget sitting with my [12-year-old] brother after my dad had passed, when he told me ‘Samantha, I don’t want you to die like daddy did,’ Call, now 33, told PEOPLE. "That broke my heart but gave me the drive that I needed to start my journey.”
In early 2009, Call found success with Atkins. And after a year and a half got down to 132 lbs. Call has maintained her weight loss for about seven years.
Now, she cooks healthy meals at home vegetables home with her fiancé and devotes an hour before work to exercise. Says the Callis, Maine resident: "It’s part of my daily routine."
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Jason Cohen: Lost 125 Lbs.
Jason Cohen always struggled with his weight. At his highest, he hit nearly 300 lbs.
"My entire life I always thought I would be big," said Cohen, 33, who ran, cycled, forged a weight-loss competition with a friend, and adopted a plant-based diet to help him slim down.
A big motivator to help him acheive and maintain his 125 lbs. weight loss is a private Facebook support group dubbed the "Missing Chins Run Club."
“When I see other members post a 7-mile run in the Facebook group, I don’t have any excuses,” said the Lafayette, Louisana resident. "Time to lace up and get out there."
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Jessica Beniquez: Lost 175 Lbs.
At over 320 lbs., Jessica Beniquez lived a sendetary lifestyle. "I laid in bed watching series after series on Netflix. All I did was eat, go to work and watch my shows," the 21-year-old tells PEOPLE.
Tired of feeling "lazy," she finally committed to her losing weight in February 2016. She ordered Herbalife shakes and "never looked back."
Sticking to a "strict" 1200-1500 calorie-per-day diet and joining a gym helped her lose 175 lbs.
Now, 145 lbs., Beniquez works at the front desk at her gym and hopes to become a certified trainer. She also continues to share her weight loss journey on Instagram.
"I never expected to be where I am today. I was shy, but now I have so much more confidence, I have so much more energy,” says the Spring Hill, Florida resident. “Before it took me 20 minutes to walk a mile and now I can run 5 miles in under 50 minutes…It’s crazy the things I can do now that I couldn’t do before."
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Laura Hyman: Lost 103 Lbs.
Laura Hyman's weight reached 264 lbs. because she was used to "talking care of everyone else but myself," the now 54-year-old grandmother tells PEOPLE.
Along with her husband Myron, Hyman has now lost over 100 lbs. using the Isagenix weight loss program, which the retired Indio, California couple started in 2015.
“[Isagenix] gave us a time schedule for our meals and snacks,” says Hyman, who now weighs 161 lbs. and eats five times a day: two shakes, two snacks and one full meal. “This system taught us that not only the food we are eating counts but the timing of when we are eating is so important.” Now after dinner, Hyman says, “the kitchen is closed.”
The couple also started a 16-week body transformation program at the beginning of their weight loss journeys. Hyman, who works out with a trainer 3 to 4 times per week, is now a finalist in her sixth Isabody Challenge.
"I fuel my body and don’t eat for emotional reasons,” she says. “I feel better than I did in my 20s."
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Jovana Borojevic: Lost 139 Lbs.
Although she was happy and confident in her body, Jovana Borojevic was shocked when she finally stepped on a scale.
“I never in my life imagined that I would see a ‘3’ in front of my weight,” Borojevic, who hit 304 lbs. and had developed fatty liver disease from her fast food-heavy diet, all while dealing with Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, tells PEOPLE. “From this day forward, something clicked in me and I changed my life around cold turkey.”
The digital marketing strategist, now 24, immediately cut out starchy carbs, refined foods, sugar and most packaged food. In a month she dropped almost 20 lbs., and started hitting the gym four to five times a week for weight training and cardio workouts.
Now a year and a half into her weight loss journey, Borojevic is down to 165 lbs., with a goal weight of about 150 lbs.
“It is SO IMPORTANT to focus on non-scale victories like how your clothes fit, how you feel, how many health issues you’ve reversed and saved yourself from and how happy you are!” she says.
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Allie Ruby: Lost 98 Lbs.
Allie Ruby was determined to lose weight — and get her long-desired six-pack — after her poor college eating habits left her at 225 lbs. But 98 lbs. later, she still wasn't happy.
“I always thought that I would love to have a six-pack, and when I got there last year, it wasn’t all the fireworks I thought it would be. I thought that would be a huge high, but it wasn’t,” Ruby, 28, tells PEOPLE.
She started weightlifting, which kept her in amazing shape but pushed her weight up again, this time with muscle instead of fat. Seeing the numbers creep back up the scale caused self-doubt.
“If you have ever lost a substantial amount of weight then gained some back you probably have an idea of that devastating feeling of going backwards — I think those feelings were more painful at that time than when I was overweight,” Ruby wrote on Instagram, adding that it’s been helpful to practice mindfulness at this point in her journey. “I had to remember that a transformation is far deeper than physical.”
Now she's switched from weightlifting to powerlifting, which requires extra weight, and is much happier.
“It’s so different, because no one cares about your image. It’s all about how strong you are,” Ruby tells PEOPLE. “I love it.”
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Janice “JJ” Jobity: Lost 120 Lbs.
Jobity was always fit growing up, but when she was mistreated in a relationship, she turned to food to cope.
“I stopped caring for myself as much as I should have,” the Toronto-based finance project analyst, 36, told PEOPLE. “I was depressed. I just kind of tuned out of the world, and food became my everything."
By 2015, Jobity had hit her highest weight of 260 lbs. and started feeling excruciating stomach pain.
“When I went to my doctor they explained I had a stomach ulcer, and that all those years of soda had damaged my stomach,” she said.
Jobity decided to get healthy — mentally and physically. She started taking boot camp classes and sought counseling to deal with her emotional issues.
What She Eats Now: Jobity cut out fried food and soda and eats a diet focused on fruits, vegetables and lean protein. “I love salad and chicken,” she said. “Salad and chicken are my everything!”
Her Workouts Now: Jobity works out six days a week.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: “You have to fix what’s going on inside before you can fix the outside. The mind is a powerful thing through the weight loss journey, more than anything else. A lot of weight loss is mental.”
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Naomi Teeter: Lost 150 Lbs.
Teeter had struggled with her weight her whole life, and found herself weighing over 300 lbs. by the time she was 26. She ignored her mounting health problems — painful water retention in both her knees, eczema breakouts and nightly bouts of acid reflux — until a doctor's visit that inspired her to make a change.
She began keeping a food diary and joined a gym. Teeter, now 34, soon was physically capable of doing things she never thought possible, like running multiple half and full marathons, climbing a mountain and even sky diving. But it wasn't until she ran a naked 5k that she learned to truly embrace her body.
“It’s not often in your life that large groups of people openly accept you and cheer for you despite what your body looks like or your physical ability,” she told PEOPLE.
What She Eats Now: Teeter made healthy swaps for junk food and keeps track of her macronutrient intake.
Her Workouts Now: The Spokane, Washington-based health and weight loss strategy coach stays active with running, hiking and gym sessions.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: Don't stress too much about what you're eating — instead focus on how much you're eating. "I firmly believe that because I didn’t have strict food rules, it was easier for me to lose the weight quickly.”
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Tara Kavanagh: Lost 145 Lbs.
The 5’7″ self-employed mom-of-three from Rapid City, South Dakota, 35, was already over 200 lbs. when she started having children, but her pregnancy weight brought her up to 304 lbs. After having her second child, she knew she wanted to make a change.
“I wanted to be an active mother and be able to play with my kids," she told PEOPLE. "I also wanted to live my life, not just exist. I wanted to experience new things and felt my size was holding me back.”
Kavanagh decided she did not want to undergo weight loss surgery after seeing relatives who ended up gaining their weight back. Instead, she focused on finding workouts she actually enjoyed and tracking what she ate.
What She Eats Now: Kavanagh focuses on eating unprocessed, non-GMO and organic as much as possible, and follows the 80/20 rule when it comes to eating. “I still need my treats once in a while!” she said.
Her Workouts Now: She swears by Jillian Michaels' workouts. "I still do the same workouts as a fit person that I did as a 300-lb. person, I just up the intensity level now to get my killer workout!”
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: Find a workout you won't get bored with. “Jillian’s workouts are always fun and I look forward to doing them.”
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Helen Costa-Giles: Lost 90 Lbs.
For years, Helen Costa-Giles had no real motivation to lose some of her 220-lb. body weight, despite concerns from her doctor. But in 2014, her yearly checkup took a somber turn when the mom of two learned that she was on track to develop chronic health problems because of her size.
“My numbers were really off the charts and it scared the life out of me,” Costa-Giles, 38, tells PEOPLE. “That was exactly my turning point.”
Determined, she immediately threw out all processed and preservative-filled foods, and started eating a clean diet. In just six months, with no exercise, she dropped close to 90 lbs. Costa-Giles then added weightlifting to her days, and fell in love.
“My body reacted very quickly to weightlifting, and I started to lean out,” she says. “The scale wasn’t making huge differences, but the inches were changing. I kind of got obsessed because for the first time in my life, my body was actually doing what I asked it to do.”
Costa-Giles now runs free exercise classes in her hometown of San Antonio at 4 a.m., four days a week, all while maintaining her full-time job in the automotive industry.
“I have two kids and a full-time job,” she says. “I know many people don’t start their fitness journeys because they have too many excuses. I like to share my story because it’s so relatable.”
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Dustin LaJaunie: Lost 150 Lbs.
Dustin LaJaunie has come along way from the 425 lbs. he weighed five years ago.
Now, he's lost 150 lbs. and counting with the help of his younger brother Josh LaJaunie, who started the private Facebook support group called "Missing Chins Run Club."
The group is a safe place for people to share their stories and struggles and to motivate one another to lose the weight.
Eating plan-based and running alongside his brother, Dustin compares the Missing Chins to the trips he and his brother used to take when going hunting. “But instead of gathering to go take life, we’re coming together to gain life."
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Marie Byrne: Lost 70 Lbs.
The Gloucester, U.K.-based nursery manager, 42, was a longtime emotional eater who found herself reaching a high weight of 223 lbs. at only 5'3″.
“My blood pressure was through the roof,” she told PEOPLE. “The doctor said that I was a heart attack or stroke waiting to happen. My mum had a stroke very young, and it scared us as a family. I didn’t want to put my family through the same thing, so knew I had to do something.”
Byrne credits doing at-home Jillian Michaels workouts and decreasing her portion sizes with helping her drop 70 lbs. She also says having a partner with Parkinson's disease inspired her to get her health on track.
"When we first got together he was going to Pilates and would walk his dog three times a day," she said. "He was way more active than me. What excuse did I have not to exercise when he didn’t make any excuses?”
What She Eats Now: Byrne counts calories and makes sure she eats three healthy meals each day.
Her Workouts Now: She continues to do Jillian Michaels workouts every morning at 5 a.m. before starting her day.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: Stick to your workout plan, even when you don't feel like it! “Sometimes I’m so tired, but once I get into my own head, I push on regardless of how my body feels."
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Brittany Greenslit: Lost 109 Lbs.
The office worker weighed 236 lbs. by the time she was pregnant with her first child due to poor eating habits and a lack of physical activity.
After complications from her c-section left her depressed, Greenslit, now 27, started walking and doing Pilates and yoga to help lift her mood. As soon as she was well enough, she began doing Jillian Michaels’ workout DVDs.
"No matter how sore I was after the workouts, I always showed up the next day ready for more," Greenslit told PEOPLE. "Her saying ‘Unless you faint, puke or die, keep going!’ became my motto.”
What She Eats Now: Greenslit eats lots of fruits, veggies and protein. If she goes out, she orders a chicken salad instead of her former go-to order of a cheeseburger and French fries.
Her Workouts Now: The St. Cloud, Minnesota-based mom-of-two mixes up Jillian Michaels workout DVDs and running.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: “When I’m challenged, I don’t back down.”
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Alicia Steele: Dropped from Size 10 to 2
The longtime on-air host gained weight when she went through menopause.
"I thought gaining weight and feeling less active as we reached our 50s and 60s (especially after menopause) was just the way it was,” Steele, 59, told PEOPLE.
She got inspired to lose weight when T-Tapp Method creator Teresa Tapp appeard on a PBS show she was hosting, and decided to give her DVDs a try.
Steele dropped four dress sizes using the program, and has kept the weight off for five years.
What She Eats Now: Steele “completely changed” her eating habits, and now eats “lots of colorful, fresh food.”
Her Workouts Now: She spends 15 to 20 minutes each day doing a workout from the T-Tapp DVDs.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: Try dry brushing. "This helps with exfoliation, detoxification and improving circulation, which improves fascia fitness.”
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Megan McGee: Lost 70 Lbs.
McGee began gaining weight when she got into an unhealthy relationship and stopped spending time with friends or going to the gym. After getting out of the relationship, she decided it was time to make a change — especially since she worked in the health profession.
“As a nurse, I wanted to be the healthiest version of myself that I could be,” she told PEOPLE. “I didn’t want to be a walking contradiction to my patients, promoting healthy living but not being healthy myself.”
The Middlesex, England-based nurse, 26, decided to join Slimming World to take control of her health.
What She Eats Now: McGee went from skipping meals and snacking throughout the day to sticking to set meal times. “I eat a lot of the same meals as before, but I’ve learned how to make them differently so they’re healthier, like using lean meat and making sauces from scratch."
Her Workouts Now: McGee loves group exercise classes and also regularly meets with a personal trainer.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: Don't be afraid to make a change. "There is nothing to lose and so much life to gain.”
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Rebin Roy: Lost 126 Lbs.
Roy told PEOPLE she “could easily down a pitcher of margaritas and 20 buffalo wings at happy hour,” and smoked a pack-and-a-half to two packs of cigarettes every day for 14 years.
While she quit smoking after getting pregnant with her first child in 2003, she kept her unhealthy eating habits until she began having health problems after having her third child.
She joined Weight Watchers and dropped from 248 lbs. to 122 lbs. by watching her portions.
What She Eats Now: Roy eats six small meals a day and still allows herself the occasional fast food burger — but will only eat half.
Her Workouts Now: She stays motivated to stay in shape by competing in bodybuilding competitions.
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Hannah Jenkins: Lost 107 Lbs.
Jenkins, 22, says that overeating was just part of her daily routine. “Every day I would come home from school, watch TV with my sisters and eat a whole package of snack cakes,” she told PEOPLE. After dinner, she’d continue to snack on packaged foods like ramen with cheese and more snack cakes. But when she got to college, everything changed.
“The turning point for me was meeting so many new people and realizing ‘Wow, I’m really actually very uncomfortable,’ ” the Knoxville, Tennessee, resident says.
She started her weight loss journey on New Years' Day 2013.
What She Eats Now: Jenkins loads up on protein for breakfast by eating either oatmeal with fruit and peanut butter or a protein shake, and sticks to lean proteins and small amounts of carbs like sweet potatoes and rice.
Her Workouts Now: She does an hour of cardio a day plus strength training three days a week.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: “I used My Fitness Pal app to log my food, workouts and all the water I drank.”
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Tanisha Washington: Lost 103 Lbs.
The single mom had reached a high weight of 276 lbs. by age 21, but she had always struggled with her weight.
“I was always the big girl,” the Austin, Texas native, 25, told PEOPLE. “I even got the nickname ‘Twinkie’ in middle school. I have the most horrible memories because I was associated with all that weight I was carrying.”
Washington successfully lost 50 lbs. in college, but gained it back when she unexpectedly got pregnant her junior year. After giving birth, she decided to get healthy for herself and her baby.
What She Eats Now: Washington sticks to the low-carb, high-protein Atkins diet.
Her Workouts Now: Washington uses strength training to tone her body.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: “When I started eating leafy vegetables and proteins, I started to have more energy throughout the day, and it got easier.”
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Hollie Barrett: Lost 124 Lbs.
The superstore employee from Suffolk, England, 30, had reached a high weight of 249 lbs. and felt her weight was preventing her from being the hands-on mom she wanted to be.
“I felt like my weight was holding me back in every aspect of my life, especially when it came to doing things with my children,” she told PEOPLE. “I once chased my daughter Imogen up the stairs to bed and was so breathless I couldn’t speak properly to read her a bedtime story — it broke my heart.”
That experience jumpstarted her determination to lose weight. Barrett had recently seen a friend’s post on Facebook about their success with the weight loss program Slimming World, and decided to give it a try.
"I couldn’t believe that I didn’t have to starve myself to lose weight,” she said.
What She Eats Now: Barret sticks to the Slimming World food optimizing plan. "Salmon with wild rice and BBQ pulled pork are a couple of my favorites, and I still eat out regularly as well.”
Her Workouts Now: She stays active with long walks and jogs.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: Find a plan you can stick to. "I used to jump from fad diet to fad diet, and they were all so strict and hard to follow."
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Sarah Goodenough: Lost 158 Lbs.
At 299 lbs., Sarah Goodenough struggled with the physical demands of her job as a nurse, and experienced severe body pains and asthma.
"I thought that was going to be the norm for the rest of my life," Goodenough, 30, told PEOPLE.
Then she read a book called The China Study about the merits of a plant-based diet, and cut dairy and processed meat out of her diet. In a year she lost the majority of her weight through changes to her eating habits alone.
What She Eats Now: Goodenough sticks to a vegan diet.
Her Workouts Now: The Rochester, N.Y.-based nurse runs five to seven miles every day and also lifts weights.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: Get creative with your meals. "[Sticking to a vegan diet] became fun because I was trying new different recipes, and everything tasted different so it was cool and fun.”
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Nathan & Brenda Bennett: Lost 130 & 131 Lbs.
In 2014, husband and wife Nathan, 45, and Brenda Bennett both found themselves struggling with their weight even though they led active lifestyles.
"We weren’t eating healthy at home, so it didn’t translate into weight loss success,” Brenda, 42, told PEOPLE.
The Bennetts cut out sugar and processed foods from their family meals, and began using My Fitness Pal to track their calories and exercise.
What They Eat Now: The couple focuses on clean eating and portion control.
Their Workouts Now: They both aim to work out six days a week, and turn their fitness sessions into a "friendly competition," says Brenda
Their Best Weight Loss Tip: Find an accountability partner. “It was a big help to cheer each other on and not let the other person run down to the convenience store and cheat with whatever you can get your hands on,” says Brenda. “We keep each other strong.”
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Jessica Battle: Lost 115 Lbs.
The Delaware-based paralegal had reached 280 lbs. by the time she was 20, but it wasn't until her father had heart surgery when she was 25 that she decided to take charge of her health.
"Learning that health issues ran in my family scared me," Battle, now 30, told PEOPLE. "I knew that doing some form of movement in my living room was better than nothing, so I went to my local superstore and bought workout DVDs."
She also began eating smaller portion sizes, and started an Instagram account, @join_jessica_xo, to help hold herself accountable.
What She Eats Now: Battle sticks to eating mostly vegetables, fruits and protein, and counts the amount of protein, fats and carbohydrates she eats every day.
Her Workouts Now: Battle does weight training workout DVDs at home.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: Make gradual changes. "Instead of eating an entire frozen pizza, I ate one slice of frozen pizza. For me, I knew that jumping right into eating only vegetables, fruit and lean proteins wasn't going to work."
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Karyl Mullins: Lost 100 Lbs.
When Mullins, 38, moved back to her hometown of Lexington, Kentucky, the dog groomer quickly gained 100 lbs. thanks to family gatherings that revolved around Southern cooking.
At 34, Mullins was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. “I was worried about leaving my family behind,” she told PEOPLE. She joined Weight Watchers to take control of her health.
What She Eats Now: Mullins eats small portions to stay within her Weight Watchers parameters.
Her Workouts Now: She takes kickboxing classes and has run a marathon.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: "I take collapsible measuring cups in my purse. It keeps me accountable."
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Gillian Faith: Lost 110 Lbs.
The British Columbia-based stay-at-home mom, 41, admits that she "stopped caring" about her body after having her first baby at age 21. After having her second child, Faith weighed 220 lbs. and says she was a "food addict."
After her third pregnancy and a divorce, Faith realized she needed to take control of her weight. However, she took things too far and developed anorexia and bulimia. In 2013, she started bodybuilding, which she credits with finally getting her health on track.
"Bodybuilding became an outlet for me to conquer my fears,” she told PEOPLE. “There was no more hiding."
What She Eats Now: Faith stays away from anything that comes "in a can or box" and avoids gluten, dairy and soy.
Her Workouts Now: She works out six days a week for an hour each time.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: "Don't just use the treadmill one way! I run backwards and do side shuffles at an incline. It really tones hamstrings and glutes."
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Rebecca Grafton: Lost 104 Lbs.
The insurance saleswoman, 25, shot up to 246 lbs. after spending a pastry-filled semester studying abroad in France during college, and continued to eat lots of baked goods after graduating.
In January 2013, she booked a trip to Jamaica and decided she wanted to lose weight so she wouldn't be self-conscious about how she looked in a bathing suit.
“I hit the ground running,” she told PEOPLE. “I used the app My Fitness Pal on my phone, and I plugged in how much weight I wanted to lose and how fast I wanted to lose it. They gave me a calorie target, and I followed it. I literally had to reteach myself to cook.”
What She Eats Now: She makes sure she gets enough protein and limits her carbs, but still allows herself wine on weekends.
Her Workouts Now: Grafton works out every day doing a mix of cardio and weights. Her favorite piece of exercise equipment is the StairMaster.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: "Don't give yourself the option to give up. If you usually slip on the weekend, commit to a Monday morning workout."
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Mackenzie Walker: Lost 102 Lbs.
The Windsor, Ontario-based student, 16, used to eat pizza for breakfast and drink as many as 15 cans of soda a day, reaching a high weight of 223 lbs. When her father had gastric bypass surgery, she changed her diet and began eating the small meals he was consuming.
She also used Instagram to find weight loss tips. "It turns out I wasn’t eating enough protein and needed to lift weights to gain muscle," said Walker, who now has a self-published memoir and offers online weight-loss coaching.
What She Eats Now: Walker tracks her proteins, fats and carbs — and still drinks diet soda to curb cravings.
Her Workouts Now: The teen uses strength training to stay toned.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: “Be willing to ask for help. I learned proper exercise just from asking people in the gym and on social media."
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Jana Roller: Lost 135 Lbs.
The professional photographer, 29 — who weighed 307 lbs. at her highest — decided to lose weight after a traumatic incident.
“My ‘aha’ moment was when I was at the park with my son,” she told PEOPLE. “He ran away from me and almost got hit by a car because I couldn’t catch him. I thought, ‘This needs to change right now.’ ”
Roller decided to take up bodybuilding, and trained for two years for her first competition. Her prep involved 5 a.m. workouts and a strict meal plan.
“When I look at [photos from the competition], I see the progress that I’ve made, but also I can see what I can do to improve in terms of where I want to take myself in competition,” she said. “Bodybuilding is amazing because you get sculpt and define yourself, and mold yourself into the person you know you’ve always been.”
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Jeanine McDonald: Lost 77 Lbs.
The mom-of-four, 39, fell into unhealthy eating habits after having kids.
“I made dinner for the boys and ate what they ate," she told PEOPLE. "I did not take the time to prepare healthy dinners, as it’s very hard when you’re a full-time employee and mother of four.”
When one of her sons told her she looked "really fat," she decided she needed to start making health a priority. On nights she has a sitter, McDonald hits the gym, and on other nights she does workouts at home once her kids are asleep.
“When I started going to the gym, I made a promise to myself: ‘If I’m not happy and healthy, my kids won’t be either,' " she said.
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Tim Kaufman: Lost 200 Lbs.
Thanks to running and a vegan diet, Tim Kaufman has gotten a grip on his health and even weaned himself off an addiction to painkillers.
Once weighing over 400 lbs., the Alden, New York resident has shed 200 lbs. and become part of what he calls s "tight knit group" dubbed "The Missing Chins Run Club." The private Facebook group allows members to share weight loss struggles and motivate each other in a safe space.
“It’s so cool to see new guys come in,” Kaufman said. “It takes you back and makes you appreciate the struggle.”
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Vanetza Cines: Lost 26 Lbs.
The military officer, 29, took up bodybuilding to be an inspiration to her troops.
“I was supposed to be a leader of soldiers, and I could barely pass the Army physical test," Cines — who weighed 200 lbs. at her highest — told PEOPLE. "I was embarrassed. My soldiers looked up to me and I had to counsel them when they couldn’t meet the standards, and yet I myself couldn’t meet the standards. I just felt like a hypocrite and a fake.”
In December 2015, Cines read about a Bodybuilding.com challenge and decided to take part in it. She started working out three times a day and saw real changes in her body for the first time.
"A lot of people think getting in shape is getting a six-pack, but that’s not what it’s about,” she says. “The best part of getting in shape is the self-confidence and my overall outlook on life."
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Alex Perrineau: Lost 142 Lbs.
The Los Angeles-based student, 22, reached 310 lbs. at her highest. The self-proclaimed "emotional eater" ate fast food for almost every meal, and was teased throughout school.
"Deep down, I knew wasn't comfortable living the way I was," she told PEOPLE. So she decided to try Jenny Craig to finally make a lasting change.
What She Eats Now: Perrineau eats Jenny Craig meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with healthy snacks in between.
Her Workouts Now: She works out six days a week, and does running for her cardio.
Her Best Weight Loss Tip: “Don't commit to something that feels like a burden. I love Jenny Craig because I don't have to think about what to cook. Experiment and find what works for you."
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Erika Cockrell: Lost 167 Lbs.
Cockrell, 30, had struggled with her weight since high school and "used food as an emotional pick-me-up" through the years as she dealt with her parents' divorce and problems with her own marriage.
When Cockrell reached 309 lbs., she decided to turn her life around and used My Fitness Pal to log her food intake.
“I’m a firm believer in finding what works for you. For me it was all calories in, calories out,” Cockrell told PEOPLE in the 2017 Half Their Size issue.“It’s like a eureka moment where you’re like, ‘I can do this.' "
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Joanne Raymond: Lost 133 Lbs.
Raymond, 49, had lost 100 lbs. twice before she decided she was finally going to keep the weight off for good.
The Allentown, Pennsylvania-based real estate agent realized that her yo-yo dieting was not only negatively affecting her self-esteem, but also her health. In 2013, she started feeling sick all the time — she had constant headaches, trouble sleeping and pain in her knees. Her doctor told her all her problems were weight-related.
Raymond — who weighed 249 lbs. at her highest weight — decided to overhaul her bad eating habits, replacing pasta with spiralized zucchini squash and Chinese takeout with healthy homemade chicken and broccoli.
“Even though I’ll be 50 in May, my body is the best it has been in my entire adult life,” she told PEOPLE in the 2017 Half Their Size issue. “I’m so proud.”
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Christina Jordan: Lost 134 Lbs.
Jordan, 34, hit her low point when she was kicked off a Disneyland ride after being unable to buckle the seatbelt.
“I started reading everything I could find on holistic nutrition,” the mom-of-three said in PEOPLE's 2017 Half Their Size issue. “I decided to stop stressing about being skinny, and just focus on being healthy — wherever my body decided to take me.”
Jordan — who weighed 271 lbs. at her heaviest — began eating five to six meals a day that each include a lean protein, a complex carbohydrate and a healthy fat.
“I realized that I would be the best mom and the best wife, by being the best me.”
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Diana Anguh: Lost 140 Lbs.
Anguh's fast food habits lead her to reach 275 lbs. when she was in high school.
"I would buy a whole box of pizza and eat it all by myself really quickly so no one knew, and hide the boxes under my bed," the executive chef, 24, told PEOPLE in the 2017 Half Their Size issue.
After being dateless at prom, Anguh decided to start working out, and hit the gym every day. She also began cooking her own meals rather than binging on fast food. After 16 months of hard work, Anguh hit her goal weight of 135 lbs.
“My life has drastically changed — I feel like I’m more confident in going for what I want.”
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Lindita Halimi: Lost 130 Lbs.
Growing up in war-torn Kosovo, Halimi, now 27, often didn't know when her next meal would be. When the war ended, Halimi overcompensated by eating whole pizzas and entire jars of Nutella.
The singer reached 250 lbs. between the ages of 17 and 20, and was bullied for her weight, with classmates calling her an elephant. When a woman on the bus mistook Halimi for a pregnant person, she decided she needed to lose weight.
The former American Idol contest learned how to get healthy by Googling weight loss tips and found healthy cooking tutorials on YouTube.
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Ashley O'Reilly: Lost 135 Lbs.
O'Reilly, 21, started putting on weight when she got her driver license at 16 and began frequenting fast food restaurants, getting up to 250 lbs. in two years.
After hitting a low point during her sophomore year of college when a friend refused to be seen sitting next to her in class, O'Reilly decided to try Nutrisystem. Her new diet coupled with exercise helped her drop 135 lbs.
“I’m in so much better health now, but the big thing is I feel good about myself," the nursing student said in this year's Half Their Size issue. "I have this confidence that I never had before."
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Adrienne Osuna: Lost 2 Lbs. (and Gained Muscle!)
Osuna is proof that physical transformations don't always correlate with the number on the scale.
"Women should go based on how they feel and look," the Santa Maria, California-based photographer told PEOPLE. "Freedom from the scale is so liberating!”
Osuna — who weighed 182 lbs. at her highest and now weighs 180 lbs. — weight lifts four days a week and only does cardio twice a week. She also practices intermittent fasting, which means she does not eat from 7 p.m. to 11 a.m. six days a week, although she does allow herself coffee with cream in the morning.
“I finally decided I was going to focus on what my body could do and what it’s capable of instead of what it weighed,” she said.
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Michael Lachowicz: Lost 194 Lbs.
The professional chef hit 432 lbs. thanks to a combination of unhealthy lifestyle factors.
“My addiction is food, booze and narcotics,” Lachowicz, 46, told PEOPLE in the 2017 Half Their Size issue. “Everything worked in tandem. Drugs and alcohol reduced my inhibitions, so I didn’t have a lot of remorse about eating ridiculous amounts of food.”
Entering rehab and getting sober was an essential part of his weight loss journey. Lachowicz now works out six days a week and sticks to 1,800 to 1,900 calories per day.
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Justin Lacy: Lost 290 Lbs.
At over 500 lbs., Justin Lacy had a wake up call when his mother had a stroke three years ago.
"I thought, wow, I’m extremely selfish," said Lacy, 32. "Soon my family’s going to be crying around my hospital bed."
So the Dexter, Missouri resident took up a plant-based diet, cycling and running to bring his weight down 290 lbs.
He also became a member of the private Facebook group, “Missing Chins Run Club,” a place where people can swap weight loss stores and struggles.
Now, Lacy is training for marathons.
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Kim Carter Martinez: Lost 170 Lbs.
When Carter Martinez hit her highest weight of 344 lbs., her mobility became limited not only because of her weight, but because of her struggle with arthritis. In order to be eligible for knee replacement surgery to help alleviate her arthritis pain, the Oakland, California-based labor union employee was told she needed to lose 50 lbs.
Carter Martinez, 41, made “a lot of small changes" to lose the weight, like giving up Starbucks and cooking more meals at home. Eventually, she began following a paleo diet, and progressed from doing Richard Simmons videos in her garage to going to the gym daily.
“Life was really hard before — there were so many times that I had to say no to social situations because I couldn’t walk around, but now I don’t have to say no to things anymore,” she told PEOPLE. “I can pick what I want to do and be able to do it.”
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Jennifer Ginley: Lost 135 Lbs.
Ginley, 26, was so self-conscious about her weight that she did not want her longtime boyfriend to propose to her, because she didn’t want to be an overweight bride.
In May 2015, Ginley joined U.K. weight loss program Slimming World (now also available in the U.S.) with her mother and sister, and says preparing healthy meals in advance helped her to drop from 270 lbs. to 135 lbs.
"I reached my target weight just over a year after joining, and just before Christmas [my boyfriend] Luke asked me to marry him at Harry Potter Studios in London (I love Harry Potter)!" she told PEOPLE. "It was such an incredible feeling to be able to say ‘Yes!’ without even a second thought about my weight, and I can’t wait to go dress shopping.”
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Alexa Saddington: Lost 85 Lbs.
Saddington, 34, dropped the weight with the Cambridge Weight Plan, which sets you up with a consultant who creates custom meal plans that include ready-made healthy meals.
“It has changed my life,” Saddington, who cut out alcoholic cider, chips, candy and takeout and replaced them with healthy foods, told PEOPLE.
The U.K.-based administrative assistant — who weighed 242 lbs. at her highest weight — also began working out three days a week, and has lost 85 lbs. since the end of 2015.
“I feel like a different person,” she said. “I always wanted to go to Ibiza but I never had the self-confidence to go, and never felt like I would fit in. I just booked to go with my sister for a week. I feel like that would be a great way to end my weight loss journey.”
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Emily Powers: Lost 120 Lbs.
Powers, 24, was inspired to get healthy for her three children.
"They deserved more," the daycare worker who was 273 lbs. at her highest weight told PEOPLE. "I could barely even take my kids for a walk. At the park, I’d sit on the bench and watch them rather than play with them.”
Powers began logging her food intake using the Lose It! app, and says it helped keep her accountable. Now she eats a lot of lean meats and vegetables, and works out three times a week.
“I like that my kids are used to hearing ‘yes’ a lot more,” said Powers. “Before, I could never take them to the park and run around with them and be the mom that I wanted to be. Now there’s no limitations.”
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Peggy Pullen: Lost 80 Lbs.
Pullen, 48, first put on weight due to medical complications stemming from her first pregnancy, but it wasn't until a boy at a local pool called her a hippopotamus in front of her whole family that she felt inspired to lose weight.
“It was in front of my children,” she told PEOPLE. “It was horrible. I went home and cried a lot, but I realized kids learn from what you do, not what you say — and that’s what kept me pushing.”
Pullen decided to try bodybuilding, and turned to Arnold Schwarzenegger for her inspiration.
“I started watching some of his motivational videos and using his workout videos," she said. "It really helped me because there were so many times that I thought, I can’t do this, it’s too hard.”
Now she works out six days a week. “I’ll be 49 this year, and I feel like I look a lot younger. It’s the secret of youth!”
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Katie Hug: Lost 130 Lbs.
Hug had reached a high weight of 270 lbs. in 2012, but it wasn't until her doctor told her that she was morbidly obese that it hit her that her health was at risk.
To lose weight and get healthy, Hug, now 34, began tracking her food intake and became more aware of how much sugar, fat and carbs she was consuming. But the biggest change in her lifestyle came from discovering her love of fitness.
“[When I was heavier] I didn’t find any joy in it, it wasn’t fun for me,” she told PEOPLE.
Now she does cardio five days a week and strength training two to three days a week, and even teaches fitness classes as a certified personal trainer.
“You start to feel that serotonin and dopamine and all that from exercise, and I didn’t have that before,” she said of learning to love working out. “I used that as the outlet for stress, anxiety, depression. That made a huge difference.”
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