When she was growing up in a southern household, family meals were “all fattening and fried,” says Janene Campbell, 30, a Horn Lake, Miss., high school teacher. “Mama put sugar in everything. Everybody in my family was big and eating themselves to death.” Literally: In May 2002 her 300-lb. father, who suffered from diabetes and hypertension, died of congestive heart failure at age 62. That was when Campbell finally admitted to herself that she would suffer the same fate if she didn’t slim down. “I was 71 lbs. bigger than my dad was, and that freaked me out,” recalls the mother of 6-year-old twins Denise and Derrick. “I didn’t want my kids to see me like that.” In December 2004, she signed up at a local L.A. Weight Loss center, where she was assigned a counselor and placed on an individualized eating plan. Simply by cutting back on her salt and sugar intake (gone were the fried chicken and chocolate bars; in came broiled fish and sugar-free Jell-O), Campbell lost 10 lbs. the first week. “The first few weeks were hard—I was addicted to sugar!” she admits. “But when I saw the scale moving and my clothes fitting better, I thought, ‘I can stick to it.'” Over the next two years, she shed another 197 lbs. and today stays lean by filling her plate with fruits and vegetables and avoiding fried foods and sugar. When it comes to exercise, the 5’10” Campbell prefers chasing after her kids over a formal workout program—although she has inspired her husband, Eric, 32, to try a new fitness move. “What I really love is that he will pick me up,” she says. “That was always a girlie thing that I wanted my husband to do. Now he’s able to.”
THEN 371 lbs.
NOW! 164 lbs.
Ethelyn Abellanosa had long embraced being what she called a BBW (big beautiful woman). “My mom’s side of the family always struggled with their weight,” she says. “I was the fat kid and I accepted it. I just thought it was my fate to be heavy.” That changed in 2004, when, at age 34, she began showing possible early signs of diabetes—a disease that had contributed to the death of her father when he was only 65 years old. “I truly felt fear for my life,” says Abellanosa, 37, a museum administrator in Seattle. She signed up for the Weight Watchers Points plan in August 2004, trading rice and egg rolls for salmon and salad, and hit the gym, doing hour-long walks on the treadmill three to five times a week and water aerobics. It took almost two years, but in May 2006 the 5’7″ Abellanosa hit her goal weight of 158 lbs. Her work, though, isn’t done: She still attends weekly Weight Watchers meetings and speed-walks at least three times a week. Abellanosa has also made a few lifestyle adjustments. Take, for example, store turnstiles. “I could never go through them before—I had to use the gate for the disabled,” she says. “Now I’m like, ‘Oh my God! I’m going through!’ I love it.”
NOW! 158 lbs.
THEN 364 lbs.
As Charles Scott runs around a suburban Houston field coaching his 8-year-old daughter Katy’s soccer team, it is hard to believe that just 2½ years ago he weighed nearly 600 lbs.—and that the mere act of walking left him out of breath. “Katy deserved more than that,” says Scott, 47, a computer specialist and divorced single dad. So in May 2004 he began a medically supervised liquid protein diet at Methodist Hospital’s Weight Management Center. He dropped 80 lbs. in 13 weeks by downing protein shakes four times a day before transitioning to a diet of 1,600 to 1,800 calories a day. Adding resistance training helped Scott, 6’2″, melt away another 230 lbs. by last spring, and he is now working toward certification as a personal trainer. “I want to help others,” he says, “escape the hell I lived for so long.”
NOW! 217 lbs.
THEN 563 lbs.
She can slip easily into size 4 jeans, but there are still days when Mary Smith looks in the mirror and sees her formerly obese body staring back at her. “I don’t look in the mirror and say, ‘Look at that beautiful, skinny girl,'” says the Albuquerque nurse and mother of three, who became overweight at age 8. “I was fat for so long, sometimes it’s just hard to see myself any other way.” The scale, however, doesn’t lie. With the help of the Atkins diet, which she began in 2002 after being diagnosed as prediabetic, Smith dropped 70 lbs. in 12 months by swapping pasta and bread for a diet of mostly meat and green veggies. (She also cut back on high-sugar vegetables like carrots and beets.) Researching low-carb plans, including the Kimkins diet and lowcarbfriends.com for weight-loss tips, she lost another 40 lbs. in 13 months. Today the 5’3″ Smith, 40, stays slim by hiking with her husband, Richard, 47, and resists former favorites like corn bread by flashing back to some of her most painful memories. “Not being able to get a seat belt around my waist and having to rest my stomach on the steering wheel while driving,” she says, “I’ll tell you what, I don’t want to go back.”
NOW! 128 lbs.
THEN 253 lbs.
Puberty struck early for Tiana Silva, and by age 10, “I got a lot of attention from men I didn’t like,” she recalls. Her solution? Hide her new curves by gaining weight. She turned to twice-daily fast food and hit 200 lbs. by 12th grade. But it wasn’t until ’03, after Silva saw photos of herself at a bar mitzvah, that she realized how big she was. “I looked like two people!” recalls Silva, 27, who then weighed 310 lbs. She began walking 35 minutes twice a week, and cut her daily calorie intake from 4,000 to 2,000. Within a few months she upped her exercise to an hour of cardio, kickboxing and weights, and last winter the 5’8″ Long Island actress hit 155 lbs. “When I could cross my legs,” she says, “that was a ‘wow’ moment!”
NOW! 152 lbs.
THEN 310 lbs.