Lessons From Women Who Lost Half Their Body Weight

Jan. 3, 2006 — -- At a time when surgery and fad diets are becoming increasingly popular, two women first profiled in People magazine show us the battle of the bulge can still be won by old-fashioned healthy eating and exercise.

Between them, Angela Hefel and Kelly Meyers have lost close to 300 pounds, and have gone down almost half their former sizes. The two moms were inspired by their children to change their lifestyle, and both started down their path to massive weight loss the same way -- by putting one foot in front of the other.

Hefel hit her highest weight -- 297 pounds -- after her second pregnancy. With her 31st birthday approaching, she realized she was spending the best years of her life in the worst shape of her life.

"I have the two most beautiful, wonderful sons," Hefel said. "And I thought: 'These poor boys deserve a better mother.'"

Hefel joined Weight Watchers and started walking four times a week. Now, seven years later and 162 pounds lighter, Hefel has gone from a size 26 to a size 10.

Meyers was always on the heavy side, but she topped 300 pounds after two pregnancies spent on doctor-ordered bed rest. She started on her weight-loss program in 2002 by walking her daughter to school every day. She later joined a gym, and now she works at one.

When her husband came home from 11 months in Iraq in March 2004, he found his wife 100 pounds thinner. The weight kept coming off. Now Meyers weighs 163 pounds, and she says she's never been happier.

"My world has changed," Meyers said. "I used to be so afraid of things. Would I fit into a chair at a restaurant? Would I fit into clothes? I couldn't shop for clothes before, and I couldn't make it through the day without a nap. I did this very gradually, though, so it hasn't been a diet for me -- it's been a lifestyle change."

Both Meyers and Hefel said they beat their cravings by drinking water. Meyers drinks 64 ounces a day to make her feel full, and Hefel drinks a glass of water when she feels hungry, then waits 20 minutes. If she's still hungry, she snacks on small portions -- literally counting out 11 chips.

"I know my trigger time is in the afternoon," Hefel said. "I try to be out and about and busy at that time."

Meyers said she gave herself one day to eat whatever she wanted.

"If I have a craving for something, I never deprive myself," Meyers said. "If I want a cheeseburger, I eat a cheeseburger, but I exercise every day."

Meyers said that it was nice to fit into smaller clothes and shop at mainstream retail stores, but that it was not the most important thing.

"The one thing I've learned is that I want people's lasting impression of me not to be how I look, but how I treat people," Hefel said. "They can forget my face and my body in a second, but no matter how I look now -- fat or thin -- I want people to remember that I treated them kindly."