But after losing a combined 405 pounds, not only do the women no longer fear the bikini, they decided to pose in often fear-inducing beachwear for People magazine's annual weight loss issue, which highlights those who've lost 100 pounds or more.
While Wyrick, Varnadore and Petrie used different methods for their massive weight loss, they've all been able to keep the pounds from reappearing for months and in one case years.
Rachael Wyrick's Weight Loss Story
Wyrick's weight-loss journey began in 2006 when she enrolled in LA Weight Loss, a program that relies on a healthy menu and weekly visits to a coach who provides support.
The 35-year-old Knoxville, Tenn., native relied on Southern comfort foods like macaroni and cheese for her daily regimen. Her turning point came when she saw her older family members develop illnesses like heart disease and hypertension. She realized it could happen to her too.
"After I had my son and quit nursing him, I decided it was time to get fit for my family," she said on "Good Morning America" today.
At 5 feet 7 inches, Wyrick weighed in at 252 pounds at her all-time heaviest weight. But in a little more than a year, she was able to shave off 112 pounds and get to a fit 140-pound figure. She did that in part by heading to the gym for walks after she put her children to bed.
For more than two years, the housewife has been able to keep the weight off by doing things like chewing gum when she cooks so that she doesn't keep sampling the food before it's time to eat.
The mother of 5-year-old Maddie Jo and 3-year-old Luke said she has no desire to lose any more weight.
Budget Tip: Wyrick cuts her weekly food bill by about $50 by packing healthy snacks, including all kinds of unsalted nuts and raisins.
Birdie Varnadore's Slim Down Journey
The stress of medical school led to Varnadore's poor eating habits and the beginning of her weight gain. She consumed lots of Chinese takeout, pizza and snacks while in school. Varnadore found herself 100 pounds overweight for a decade. At 292 pounds, Varnadore was the heaviest she had been in her life.
"I felt very self-conscious about my weight," the 35-year-old said on "GMA" today. "I felt extremely hypocritical asking my patients to lose weight when I wasn't taking care of myself."
The Orlando, Fla., resident had tried a variety of weight-loss programs to get fit, but she didn't have any sustained success until using a free diet Web site called SparkPeople.com, which offers an eating plan and exercise tips to get in shape. The site also connects dieters with one another.
The result was a weight loss total of 142 pounds, bringing her down to 150 pounds. The bonus was that the neurologist and mother of five was able to get her husband to drop 115 pounds too.
While the 5 feet 7 inch Varnadore admits she'd still like to slim down a little more, right now she's just trying to maintain her weight loss.
She still eats fast food but more carefully, and fruit has become her favorite dessert.
Varnadore lost so much weight that she decided to get a tummy tuck to get rid of the excess skin she had after her massive slim down.
Budget Tips: Varnadore makes her favorite cheap and healthy family meal, salsa chicken in a crock-pot with low-fat cream of mushroom soup and salsa. She also tells patients to exercise with cable TV fitness shows or lending workout videos at library.
Heather Petrie's Weight Loss Story
For 37-year-old Petrie, it was the potential loss of a child that served as the turning point in the battle of the bulge.
The Clive, Iowa, mother of two said she used her pregnancy as a license to eat. The result was a 100 pound weight gain that increased following the birth of her son.
"I almost miscarried my second child because of my weight," she said on "GMA" today.
The health scare ignited her passion, and Petrie went from 299 pounds at her heaviest to her current 148 pounds.
With the help of T-Tapp's Total System, Petrie was able to get in shape and keep off the pounds for 9½ years. The T-Tapp Total System is a series of workout DVDs that uses a variety of exercises to help users get into shape.
Today, she still enjoys red wine but doesn't go out of control, and if she puts a little weight back on she knows how to take it off.
Budget Tip: Instead of buying large movie theater popcorn to share with kids, Petrie brings one-half cup homemade trail mix made of bran cereal, dried fruit, coconut flakes, walnuts and dark chocolate. The price is only $20 for 3 month supply.