January 14, 2008 12:00 PM

ANDY SORRELLS

AGE 30

OCCUPATION Loan Processor

NOW!

220 LBS.

HEIGHT 6’3″ SIZE 36

BEFORE

500 LBS.

SIZE 60

HIS TURNING POINT

“I started to see Maggie lose weight. Something about her just changed. She was happier. She wasn’t worried about food, and so she had more time for me, for her family. And of course, I was like, ‘Well, wait a second. I’ll try that.'”

MAGGIE SORRELLS

AGE 34

OCCUPATION Receptionist

NOW!

160 LBS.

HEIGHT 5’6″ SIZE 8

BEFORE

440 LBS.

SIZE 34

HER TURNING POINT

“I didn’t know I was 440 lbs., because I weighed myself on our household scale and it only went up to 300 lbs. Then one day I was in a hospital and I got on the scale and it said 440 lbs. and I started crying. That was a wake-up call.”

Andy and Maggie Sorrells are used to people staring at them in restaurants. But whereas it was once the size of their bodies—he used to weigh 500 lbs., she topped out at 440 lbs.—that attracted attention, on a recent trip to a barbecue joint near their Franklin, Tenn., home, it’s the size of their order that gets the waitress buzzing. “Ya’ll gonna split this?” she asks, puzzled, after Andy orders just one large baked potato, a garden salad and a lunch platter of chicken tenders and ribs for him and Maggie to share. Says Andy, as the waitress walks off: “That always happens to us. It’s almost like they’re saying, ‘Do you know what you’re doing?'”

Indeed they do. During the past four years or so, the Sorrellses have lost a combined total of 560 lbs.—280 lbs. each—using the Weigh Down Workshop, a faith-based weight-loss program that encourages dieters to use prayer to help them eat only when they are hungry and to divide their meals in half. “It’s really just moderation and portion control,” says Maggie. Andy adds, “We had to learn to appreciate the taste of something without eating 20 at the same time.”

Maggie had to learn to appreciate even more than that, however. Like many women who have gone on a diet with their husbands, Maggie discovered that not only did she have to eat less than Andy to lose weight, she also did not shed the pounds as quickly. (See box.) “A man will say, ‘I’ll just cut out soda and start exercising,’ and boom! That will do it,” notes Tara Gidus, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “Whereas a woman could try to lose weight for years and not see results.”

At the barbecue joint, for example, Andy eats two ribs, two chicken tenders, 2/3 of the salad, the baked potato and nearly all of a slice of pecan pie. Maggie, on the other hand, has one rib and one piece of chicken, a few spoonfuls of salad and baked potato and only two bites of pie. It’s the same scene at home, where Andy might have about a cup of Maggie’s homemade chicken and broccoli casserole, and she will stick to a half cup. He also dishes out his portions on dinner plates, while she eats off smaller salad plates. “I definitely need less food than him, that’s for sure,” she says.

And even though Maggie started dieting first—around Christmas 2002—Andy, who came onboard two months later, had already lost a whopping 75 lbs. by April of 2003. “It flew off him!” she says with a laugh. And Maggie? By contrast, that same month, she was down 60 lbs. “It was harder for me,” she admits. “I definitely feel like I had to fight for it.”

It didn’t help that Maggie has given birth to two babies—Lily, 2, and Jacob, 5 months—in the past few years. Still, today she is only 20 lbs. away from her goal weight of 140 lbs. and says that her husband, who has maintained his weight at 220 lbs. since May 2004, remains “my biggest cheerleader.” Andy says, “Even though I was ahead, we both had the same purpose: We wanted to lose weight.”

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