Then: 204 lbs.
Now: 129 lbs.
Motivation: Weight-induced headaches and vision problems
A skinny kid in Miami who could eat anything – including her Cuban family’s specialty, fried bananas – and not gain an ounce, Canino was shocked to discover that as an adult she had put on 80 lbs. during her first pregnancy and couldn’t easily lose them after the birth of son Nikko, now 16. She went to Jenny Craig in 1988 and hit 115 lbs., but after the birth of her second son, Andrew, two years later, she again ballooned to 184. Using the now-banned drug combination fenphen helped, but without the pills, back came the weight. By the time her third son, Ryan, was born in 1994, she was carrying 174 lbs. on her 5’2″ frame. “I got lazy,” says Canino, now 39 and living with her kids and husband Hector, also 39, a seafood distributor, in a Los Angeles suburb. “I concentrated on my children and I lost myself.”
As a result her self-image suffered. She skipped a friend’s wed- ding rather than be seen in plus-size formal wear. “I knew I wouldn’t look good,” she says. “I stayed home and cried.” Plus, as Canino got heavier, her shapely little sister, actress Eva Mendes (Stuck on You), was becoming famous. “I’ve never been envious of Eva,” says Canino. But she would see her sister in magazines and think, “I used to look this good. What happened to me?”
Her health deteriorated too. Her knees and back often ached so much in the morning she literally had to crawl to the bathroom. And in September ’01 she was diagnosed with pseudotumor cerebri, a condition common to obese women that results in migraines, vomiting and, in rare instances, blindness from pressure on the optic nerve. “That scared me into losing weight,” says Canino, who soon signed up at Lindora, a program characterized by a low-carb diet, lots of lettuce, daily weigh-ins and vitamin B12 shots administered by a nurse. She paid $1,200 for the first 10 weeks and found the plan initially difficult for a woman who “loved Big Macs with fries, pies and cheesecake.” She learned to replace those with salads at the drive-thru and to curb bread, rice and pasta, all of which were forbidden in the plan’s first stage. But shedding weight motivated her. She dropped 10 lbs in two weeks and started exercising, first walking, then jogging, then circuit training at a Curves gym.
In eight months she met her goal of 125 lbs., lost the pseudotumor symptoms and gained a new wardrobe filled with size sixes. “I knew she would lose the weight,” says Mendes, who recently spent the holidays with her sister’s family. “It was so inspiring.” Canino has inspired husband Hector too. His reaction? “Wow! There’s my wife who looks 20 years old again! Let’s get down to it! Now, I’ve got to stay on my toes and stay in shape.”
Then: 241 lbs.
Now: 140 lbs.
How: Physicians Weight Loss Centers, walking daily
Motivation: Turning 30
I’m an emotional eater,” admits Smith, 31. “When I was sad or angry, I’d comfort myself with food.” But as the 5’6″ East Canton, Ohio, mom edged up from 125 lbs. (her 1991 wedding weight) to 241 after the 1995 birth of her second son, she found that pizza and chocolate were ultimately more destructive than comforting. The added weight meant she couldn’t join her boys and husband, Troy, 34, a construction worker, in any physical activity. This sedentary life dampened her general outlook. “She wasn’t the go-getter she was raised to be,” says Smith’s mom, Deborah Mohr. “Her self-esteem suffered.” So did her health. At 29, she had high blood pressure and high cholesterol and faced 30 worrying that she might not see her kids grow up. “I wanted to stick around,” says Smith, who went to a local branch of Physicians Weight Loss Centers, which had helped Mohr lose 40 lbs. Of the four plans the program offers, Smith chose the high-fiber/low-fat diet. She bought their protein snacks (bars, shakes) but cooked meals herself, based on their portion sizes. “When you start measuring,” says Smith, “it’s eye-opening. I used to consume probably four times as much food as I needed.” The revelation didn’t make those first weeks any easier – Smith often felt hungry eating only 3 ozs. of meat and a half cup of strawberries for dinner. For exercise, she joined her mother on three-to-four-mile walks several days a week. And when she needed comfort, she replaced pizza with prayer. “I’d talk the problem out and pray a lot,” says Smith who, after seven months away, returned to her old church. “People I knew were introducing themselves,” she marvels. Now maintaining at 140 lbs., she has a new goal: graduating from nursing school in June. “I’d never have the courage without first losing the weight,” says Smith, who, when she’s not studying, can be found playing with her kids. “They love to joke around now about how they can lift me up.”
Then: 325 lbs.
Now: 205 lbs.
How: Jenny Craig and swimming
Motivation: To get back in the pool
The trouble started on the 1999 honeymoon. Though his new bride didn’t mind the extra pounds Grey carried on his 6′ frame, she learned on their first night together that his weight made his snoring sound like a lawn mower. Grey solved the problem – sleep apnea, which can cause heart failure as well as snoring – with a doctor-ordered machine to keep his airways open. Still, “going to bed and hooking myself up,” says Grey, 38, a Fort Worth, Texas, business analyst, wasn’t exactly romantic.
Job stress had led him to eat fast food on the run and to skip exercise, which caused his weight to rise from 220 to 325 in five years. His waist expanded from 36 in. to 52 in., and his marriage suffered. Though he and Angela, 39, a dental assistant, would still shop together, says Grey, “it’s embarrassing when your wife is 5’7″, 120 lbs., and has to carry all the groceries.” His response made the situation worse: “I turned to eating and watching TV.”
In February 2003, he walked into a Jenny Craig and joined that day. “I’ve never had anybody stay on the program so steadfastly,” says Craig’s Mary Painter. Eating six small packaged meals a day, he began dropping an average of 4.5 lbs. a week for five months. Now at 205, he cooks Craig’s recipes. A competitive swimmer in college (despite being chubby since childhood), Grey started doing laps daily in a community pool in April ’03. “I could see him falling back in love with the sport,” says fellow swimmer Bob Carter. Grey has also rekindled another love. Now, he says, “Angela can hug me.”
Then: 358 lbs.
Now: 159 lbs.
How: A hospital-supervised program
What she’s learned: “Until you’re ready, it’s not going to happen.”
When her son Michael was little, Zonfrillo, now 39, refused to take him to the beach. A diet dropout, she had ballooned to 358 lbs. by April 1998.
That month, Zonfrillo (an office manager in Providence) was eating pie at her desk when she thought, “What am I doing?” Dialing the weight-loss program at a local hospital, “I felt like it was my last resort,” she says.
Her junk food gave way to five nutrition-packed shakes a day (800 calories total). After 5 months, she’d shed 108 lbs. Now 159, Zonfrillo, 5’3″, is hoping to reach her ideal weight of 140 and is working with a trainer. A proud Michael, 17, recently hugged her and said, “Mom, the best part is that now I can get my arms around you.”