Barbara Kimberly Seigel
December 22, 2014 10:45 AM

Ready for some major New Year’s diet inspiration? PEOPLE magazine returns with its annual Half Their Size issue – featuring 17 amazing real-life stories of weight-loss success.

Showing off her newly-slim, 123-lb. body on the cover, Ashley Chung, 24, shares the moment she decided to overhaul her diet and get healthy.

“At the first fitting for my sister’s wedding in 2012, none of the bridesmaid dresses fit me,” says the entrepreneur, who weighed in at 252 lbs. “That jump-started my weight loss.”

Chung became a raw vegan, trading in daily restaurant indulgences for homemade kale chips – and she got her fiancé to join her in making healthy choices. “We keep each other on track,” says the former childhood soccer player, who now hikes and rides her bike.

Hairstylist Conner Rensch, 25, may now weigh in at a svelte 141 lbs., but she wasn’t always confident with how she looked either.

“From the time I was 6, I knew I was bigger than other kids,” admits Rensch. “I was bullied and would sneak food into the bathroom so people wouldn’t see me eat.”

When she returned home after her freshman year of college weighing 271 lbs., she knew she needed to make a change. With the help of a nutritionist, she traded her creamy, cheesy pasta indulgences for clean, non-processed foods, like lean protein and fresh fruits and veggies, and dropped 130 lbs.

Chung and Rensch are joined by 15 other inspirational men and women – including 59-year-old Nancy Perales, who now weighs 104 lbs., and Cecy Rios, 32, who ditched fast food for a 152-lb. weight loss.

For more amazing transformations, diet tips that really work and the hottest Hollywood slimdowns, check out PEOPLE’s Half Their Size issue, on newsstands Tuesday

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