Shelley Stafford, 38, Scottsdale, AZ
Time Required to Reach Goal 1 year, 10 months
Lesson Learned "Find someone to challenge and encourage you, even if it's just by e-mail."
Secret Weapon An Igloo Playmate cooler. "I cook healthy meals on Sundays and pack one each weekday so there's no excuse to hit the drive-thru."
Weight before 178
Weight after 123
Chelle Stafford's weight had seesawed with her mood since college. In 2000, after her divorce, she dropped to a dangerous 98 pounds; six months later, she was fudging her weight on her driver's license as 145, knowing it was closer to 155 or 160. In December 2006, she hit 178, her highest non-pregnancy weight.
In 2006, Stafford was shopping for a New Year's Eve outfit, but nothing in her current size 16 fit. She called her new husband (she'd remarried earlier that year) from the dressing room, sobbing, but he couldn't console her. "My husband always found me attractive, but every so often I'd look in the mirror and think, 'This is not attractive; this is not OK.'"
Stafford went to her local Bally Total Fitness on January 2, 2007, and signed up with personal trainer Tabitha Citro. At first, she struggled through two minutes on an elliptical machine, but with Citro's help, she worked up to regular 20-minute cardio sessions five times a week. She started strength training and kept a food diary. "My salt intake was the biggest shock," Stafford says. "I wondered why I hadn't had a heart attack yet." She kicked a fast-food habit by preparing healthy foods at home. In five months, Stafford dropped three sizes and was even too slim for her "skinny clothes." She hit her goal weight of 130 by March 2008 and had shed another seven pounds by November.
Stafford can breathe easier, literally. An asthma sufferer who used to puff from an inhaler daily, she says, "Now I use it so rarely that half the time I don't even know where it is."
Don't let injuries sideline you "When I tore my patellar tendon, I used a rowing machine, which didn't strain my knee, rather than quit exercising."
Chocolate is a right "I keep a bag of Godiva dark chocolate pearls to handle cravings."
Keep records "I'll look at my logs and photos and see how my attitude has changed along with my body."