According to the American Heart Association, Nearly 70 percent of American adults are overweight. More than one-third of U.S. adults—that’s more than 78 million people—are obese. Obesity is linked to diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, sleep apnea and cancer.
Knowing that a healthy weight is beneficial is one thing, but actually getting there is another. Losing weight is difficult. Studies show that many dieters give up before reaching their goal weight. In fact, recent research shows that fewer people are even trying to shed pounds than in past years, perhaps because it is just so hard.
However, there are some amazing success stories out there. People who say that enough is enough, who take charge of their health and who refuse to give up defy the statistics. If you’re trying to get in shape, considering weight loss or simply love to celebrate the accomplishments of others, this list of people who beat the odds through blood, sweat, tears and sheer determination is sure to inspire and motivate you.
1. Lisa Fantocone
When Fantocone started, she weighed more than 350 pounds. She’s since lost about 170 pounds, bringing her down to about 180. What motivated her to start losing? “I decided the day after my youngest son’s first birthday that I couldn’t live like that,” she says. “I needed to do something for me.”
She approached losing weight in steps. “I started with changing my food habits,” says Fantocone, referring to a diet now heavy in protein, whole grain carbs and veggies, “and then added in some exercise once I felt like I was creating healthy food habits. I started slow. I decided to get a trainer and it was probably the best decision that I had made because it gave me a stronger sense of accountability.”
While Fantocone initially committed to exercising four days a week, she’s since upped it to five.
Her biggest obstacle has been time management, but the realization that she deserves to make herself a priority has helped her follow through.
“I think looking back the only thing I would say is you are more capable then you give yourself credit for,” she advises, “that your body is capable of going past your mental limits.”
2. Jack Abboudi
When Abboudi began his weight loss journey, he weighed in at 368 pounds. Over the next 18 months, he lost 161 pounds following a ketogenic diet and incorporating exercise.
He is currently a fit 207 pounds. Now, he is motivating others who hope to succeed in becoming fit, particularly through his Instagram account.
3. Harshi Suraweera
Suraweera weighed 107kg (about 235 pounds) when she started. After losing 42 kg (more than 92 pounds), she is now 65kg (about 143). She avoided all sugar, carbs and processed foods; ate at a deficit; and did cardio workouts six days a week.
It took Suraweera 10 months to lose the weight. She now focuses on strength training to tone and strengthen her body. She says that, even when she got down and wanted to quit, seeing results kept her motivated.
4. Lexi Reed
Reed weighed 485 pounds on January 1, 2016, when she made a New Year’s resolution to get fit. With simple diet and exercise, she lost 297 pounds and currently weighs a gorgeous 188 pounds. Her husband Danny joined her, losing 85 pounds as well.
Reed says that changing her relationship with food was the key. “I was always an emotional eater and everything always revolved around food,” she says. “I learned to love taking care of myself and going to the gym instead of using food as a crutch, or wasting time on the couch. I learned that friendships and relationships were more about the moments than about the plate.”
She recommends taking lots of progress photos and videos to keep the motivation going even if the scale doesn’t move.
5. Crystal Gage
Gage began her weight loss journey at 298 pounds. Over the course of 22 months, she lost nearly 150 pounds by counting calories and doing cardio such as walking, biking and taking Zumba classes. She currently follows the “If It Fits Your Macros” eating plan, loves CrossFit and is now a slim, strong and healthy 170 pounds.
Want to succeed like Crystal? “I think the most integral piece of advice that I can offer is this,” she says. “My past weight loss attempts were unsuccessful because I was glamoured by the illusion that there was a finish line. Like many, I assumed that once I lost the weight that I hoped to, I was done, and could resume living my life as I once had. That is not realistic. The moment I accepted that the changes I had to make to lose weight were permanent is the moment I began experiencing success. There is no finish line. This is a lifelong pursuit of being a healthier version of yourself.”
6. Tanisha Washington
Washington’s starting weight was 276 pounds. She lost 103 pounds, reaching a fit 173 pounds in just one year by adopting an Atkins low-carb lifestyle, balancing healthy fats, optimal protein and high-fiber carbohydrates with low-carb intake.
She shares that building motivation internally was her toughest obstacle when starting on her journey to health. “All my life, she says, “I was told I was ‘big-boned’ and created to be larger in size. I had a hard time believing it was possible to lose weight. But, with consistency and the proper education on nutrition from Atkins.com, I was able to achieve my weight loss goals.”
Her advice to anyone hoping to do the same? “Don’t Quit! Be consistent, you did not gain the weight overnight and you’re not going to lose it overnight. Keep pushing!”
7. Marco Cordova
At the age of 16, Cordova weighed 300 pounds. He decided to take control of his health and, by the time he was 18, he had lost 120 pounds to reach a fit 180.
Cordova says he didn’t follow any specific weight loss plan. “I simply made the choice to eat healthier and exercise,” he says. “I knew I had what it took and I never gave in. I now weight train five days a week and do cardio six times a week.”
His toughest challenge was resisting temptations. “I had to learn how to say no,” he admits. “When you’re young, it’s so hard to stay away from all the temptations so I learned to not always have to go out to eat with friends.”
8. Ashley Witter
Witter lost 95 pounds in 11 months, kicking off her weight loss journey with a four-week stay at a North Carolina wellness retreat called Structure House. After learning she was a stress eater, the program helped her develop a healthier mindset about eating. She lost the first 23 pounds at the facility and went on to shed an additional 72 pounds.
Along with changing the way she thought about eating, Witter discovered that, for her, exercise was key. “I was taught by Structure House to get at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a week,” she says. “I mix my workouts between cardio, strength training and flexibility exercises. I have also found in the past year that I really love boot camps and circuit training.”
Losing weight has truly changed Ashley’s life. “Now that I have learned how to take care of myself with proper nutrition and exercise, I’ve become extremely passionate about the material I learned at Structure House,” she says. “So much so that I decided to go back to school to get my health coaching and personal trainer certificates. I also teach health coaching at Kennesaw University, lead a weight loss challenge at my corporate job and run my own personal health coaching business.”
If she could go back in time, she would tell herself one thing: “To take a leap of faith and do what I needed to do to make myself happy. There is no reason to go through life unhappy and unhealthy.”
9. Julie Garte
Starting at just over 300 pounds, Garte lost 163 pounds over a period of four years to reach her current weight of 137. Her methods included bariatric surgery, working out daily with a personal trainer, watching what she ate and “blood, sweat and tears.”
Garte says her biggest challenge was her own negative thoughts. “I didn’t believe in myself or even that I deserved a better life,” she admits, “so I settled for obesity and depression. To overcome that was intense and took facing fears and really being honest with myself to make the change needed to succeed in weight loss and change. Negative self-talk kills any determination you can have.”
Her tip for those working on getting to a healthy weight? “Be patient and trust the process,” she says. “It takes time to lose weight just like it took time to gain it. Be kind and patient with yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you make mistakes just get back up and keep moving.”
10. Caleb Miles
“I ate protein and vegetables and exercised daily,” says Caleb, “running seven days a week and lifting weights five times a week. Admitting I had an unhealthy relationship with food was my greatest method. People concentrate on the physical part of losing weight, but weight gain is merely a manifestation of the underlying mental problem. Fix what is mentally wrong and the weight will follow.”
Rather than compare himself to others, Miles focuses on his own progress. “The only person I am competing with is myself from the day before,” he says. “Exercise is not a competition. It is not a temporary fix. It is a completely new way of life.”