Every New Year, many people vow to get in shape.
It's a vow that Ginger Stauffacher, Marqkria McMiller and Kait Ekstrom made to themselves and kept. In fact, the three women were so determined that they each lost half their body weight.
Their stories are featured in People magazine's 12 th annual special issue celebrating people who have lost half their size and sharing the tips and tricks that helped them do it. The three women, who lost a combined total of nearly 600 pounds, appeared on "Good Morning America" on Thursday to talk about how they did it.
Chest Pains Scared Her Straight
Stauffacher's weight gain began after a diagnosis of hypothyroidism.
The 38-year-old married mother of three from Cuba City, Wis., said the condition gave her the green light to eat "as much as I wanted" and she gained 100 pounds in four months, ballooning to 263 pounds. She would sneak fast food and candy during trips to the grocery store.
"I'd buy two to three pounds of candy and make sure I had it eaten by the time I got home," Stauffacher, a grain and beef farmer, said. "Everything went in the garbage, my husband had no clue."
One night she had horrible chest pains, and that scared her straight.
"I thought for sure I was having a heart attack," she said. "I was afraid I wasn't going to see my kids again. I decided I had to get healthy. I wasn't going to wait for the big one … so I went to Jenny Craig and the rest is history."
She lost 131 pounds, and now weighs 132 pounds. When she reached her goal weight in 2011, she maintained it by eating pre-packaged, pre-measured meals, and never leaves her home without healthy snacks, such as string cheese, baby carrots and homemade brownies with pumpkin.
'Food Became My Best Friend'
McMiller's weight struggles began early. The 28-year-old mother of two had heart surgery when she was 5 years old, and her mother limited her activities as a result.
"Because I wasn't going outside to play with friends like I used to, food became my best friend," McMiller, a pharmacy technician from Columbus, Ga., said.
She was teased, and turned to food for comfort
"It was everything," she said. "Sugars, carbs, pizza … anything I could get my hands on I overindulged. I was trapped. I was a prisoner in my own body. I thought about food 24/7."
When she was 19, McMiller weighed 407 pounds, and she gained another 65 pounds when she was pregnant with her first child, for a total of 472 pounds at her heaviest.
At a doctor's appointment, McMiller's doctor told her if she didn't change her ways, she wouldn't make it to 21 years old.
"So the day that I left that office, my goal was, I wanted to live," she said.
She learned about nutrition and the importance of portion control - she used her children's plastic divider dishes and cups to measure appropriate portions, and also took up walking.
She lost a total of 323 pounds, and now weighs 147 pounds.
A Box of Waffles for Dessert
Kait Ekstrom's long battle with her weight started when the Spencer, Mass., woman was 12 years now.
"I hit puberty before my peers did … and the fact that I was bigger with a woman's body made me think I was fat," she said, adding that she gave up dance and soccer because she was embarrassed about her body.
Ekstrom, who is a fitness director at retirement community, steadily gained 10 pounds a year for 10 years, until she peaked at 263 pounds.
"I would eat a normal dinner with my family - then I would take a box of waffles and eat that for dessert. Or as just a snack. I loved pop tarts," she said.
Her turning point came when her mother was diagnosed with cancer.
"Because my mom was going through chemo, my family was trying to eat better. And we adopted a dog to have a little happiness and I'd walk him up to eight times a day," the 31-year-old said.
Ekstrom lost 136 pounds and now weighs 127 pounds. She teaches 25 workout classes per week.