Need a quick hit of inspiration? The stories behind these fit women's weight loss journeys will do the trick!
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When high school sweethearts Whitney and Scott got married, they did everything together—including gaining 20 pounds (each). But after losing his dad to cancer, Scott found fitness. He traded his high-stress job for a simpler one and learned everything he could about eating clean and exercising. Whitney was too shy to go to the gym at first, but soon became inspired by her husband's dedication. Today? The two are happy and healthy, cooking and working out together. "We have no desire to be fitness models or competitors, or even try to achieve that 'perfect' body," Whitney says. "We just want to be healthy enough to do the activities that we love!"
Photo: Whitney Carlson
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Six months after the birth of her daughter—a painful labor that ended in a C-section and was followed by a long recovery—Sarah Suski started aerial acrobatics. "At the time, I didn't realize how much of a challenge I was setting myself up for. I am short, asthmatic, and have weak joints. I had never seen myself as physically strong or capable," she says. But aerial acrobatics changed all of that. "It has taught me to value my muscles, to look for the things my body does well, and to appreciate it for the things that it can do."
Photo: Sarah Suski
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Nearly a decade ago, Mary Mack had a high-powered job and was living what most people would call a glamorous life. The problem? She wasn't happy and her health was suffering from heavy drinking and smoking. That's when she made a radical decision to change everything. "I left corporate America, quit smoking, and got sober. In the process, I lost 45 pounds and fell in love with fitness," she says. Now she's a personal trainer, wellness coach, and a competitive bodybuilder. "I've been sober for seven years," she adds proudly.
Photo: Mary Mack
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"I started my pregnancy with the goal of not gaining a lot of unnecessary baby weight. Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned," says Brooke Strait. By the time her baby was born, she'd gained over 60 pounds but was determined to get the weight off—in a healthy way. She jumped into CrossFit, bringing her baby with her to the gym. "I did Crossfit at least five times a week for one to two hours a day and ate healthy 80 percent of the time. It took a year to lose the weight, but it was worth it. I have struggled with weight my whole life, but I want to show my little girl that eating healthy and exercising are important parts of life."
Photo: Brooke Strait
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Tracy Cook has the kind of drive that led her to work 15-hour days, including weekends. "I had never been able to consistently stick with any type of fitness activity. My life centered around work and that is what had defined me," she says. But three years ago she decided make fitness a priority in order to keep up with her demanding schedule. She started running and using kettlebells, eventually lost 50 pounds, and completed 12 races—and she's become a competitive powerlifter. "My transformation is so much more than just physical. I have found a love of strength training and that is what truly makes me happy," she says.
Photo: Tracy Cook
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The mind is a powerful tool, as Bonnie Wilson has discovered. For years, she was stuck in the all-or-nothing mindset, saying she hated anything related to physical fitness. (She used to say she would only run if she were being chased!) Then a personal trainer friend told her this: "Stop worrying so much about the big goal and focus on making the next step in front of you the best one you can." Something in Bonnie clicked. Today, she's ran five full marathons and 17 halves.
Photo: Bonnie Wilson
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At 220 pounds and just 5'4" tall, everything felt hard for Diana Leszczynski. "I was extremely depressed, could barely walk steps, and had to sleep sitting up or else I would choke and gasp for air. I was a mess," she says. She tried every get-thin-quick scheme, only becoming more depressed when the scale refused to budge. So she started small. "I made the decision to incorporate exercise into every day. I stared with walking, then running, workout videos, classes, and strength training. The more I exercised, the better I felt." Now she's down 60 pounds and 78 inches, but the real accomplishment is how much better she feels. "I can sleep in a bed, I have energy, and I am no longer depressed. I can even jump again! Life is great."
Photo: Diana Leszczynski
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Alyssa Lupo-Zulueta moved to Hollywood to become an actress. But years in the business wrecked her self-esteem and body, thanks to never-ending diets. Eventually, she and her husband decided to get out. The change was great for her mind, but a series of challenging life events led her to gain 40 pounds. So she declared war on her body. She taught Pilates seven days a week and then did punishing hours-long workouts. But she just couldn't maintain it. "I had to learn to make peace with food and my body. I now work out reasonably, without punishing myself," she says. "I'm in the best physical, mental, and emotional shape of my life. Not my thinnest, but my healthiest!"
Photo: Alyssa Lupo-Zulueta
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Because of her obesity, Colleen Murphy had numberous health problems and was on seven daily medications by the time she was 25. Even worse, when she got pregnant, she was deemed "high risk". After her baby was born, she joined Weight Watchers and lost over 100 pounds, adding in exercise as soon as she was physically able. "Running became a new passion, so much so that when I became pregnant with my son I ran the entire pregnancy, even completing the Boston Marathon at 34 weeks," she says. "I had a low risk pregnancy and a healthy baby, and the best part is I now have to take zero daily medications!" (Psst...Here's How This Mom Beat Pregnancy Weight Gain.)
Photo: Colleen Murphy
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Like many young women, Charlie Watson loved spending her weekends smoking and drinking with friends. Then one of her best friends committed suicide after a long battle with depression. "It was the push I needed to do something positive. So I signed up to run a marathon in his memory," she says. She went from being unable to run for five minutes to completing her first marathon (now she's signed up for her fifth!). And while she now runs for herself, she still thinks of her friend during those long miles, adding, "I love that running makes me feel still connected to him."
Photo: Charlie Watson