Seven years ago, at the beginning of their friendship, Ann Moyer and Diane Ritchie shared something in common neither of them wanted. They were both morbidly obese.
Moyer, 43, weighed in at nearly 340 pounds and relied on a mechanical-arm-like gripper tool to complete everyday tasks around her home.
"It's supposed to be used for if you need to get something high off the shelf, but I took it to a whole new level," she recalled. "I did all my housework with my gripper. I could sit in my recliner and just handle my business."
Moyer, also suffering from sleep apnea, reached the point where she knew she had to do something. So she called her friend Ritchie, 38 and at the time living in Chicago, and told her she was going on a diet.
"After I got off the phone with her I was sitting on our living room couch next to my husband and I said, 'You know what, it's time for me to do the same thing,'" said Ritchie.
Moyer downloaded an app on her phone to track her calories while Ritchie followed the South Beach Diet. The two friends, who, as military wives, lived in separate cities, kept each other on track through daily phone calls.
They also followed these five, no-break rules: no white flour; no potatoes, corn or peas; save your lightest meals for the end of the day; always have healthy snacks available; pay attention to serving size.
Together the pair lost more than 280 pounds as a result. Moyer shed 171 pounds in just over two years and Ritchie dropped 111 pounds in 10 months.
"Ann and I have a favorite saying [that] this never would have happened if we hadn't been here together doing it together," said Ritchie.
"We talked on the phone at least three to four times per day and we did weekly weigh-ins every Monday and Friday," she said. "Every time I had a hard time I called my sponsor, because that's what we called each other, and anytime she had a hard time she would call me."
The two friends now both live in Chesapeake, Va., and no longer have to rely on long-distance phone calls to hold themselves accountable. As neighbors, they cook together, share meals and work out together.
"It didn't start out being some magnificent thing," Moyer said. "It started real small and it just built and built and built."
"I know that we're going to be all right, and I feel like she was a huge part of saving my life," she said.