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Weight-Loss Success Stories: New Body, New Life

Losing weight has plenty of rewards: better health, more energy and (finally!) fitting into that little black dress. But sometimes, as these four women learned, it brings unexpected gifts as well.

By Norine Dworkin-McDaniel

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Rebecca Barnes
Mali Azima
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Rebecca Barnes

Age: 45

Occupation: Consultant

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Height: 5'1"

Previous Weight: 225 pounds

Current Weight: 133 pounds

Weight Lost: 92 pounds

Turning Point: Before I had kids I was an actress and never had a problem being the center of attention or walking into a party where I didn't know anyone. I could always make friends. But when my weight rose to 225, my personality changed. I started asking myself if I was the fattest woman in the room—and I usually was. I became less outgoing and more self-conscious.

How She Lost It: For three months I participated in the moms' edition of Atlanta's Biggest Loser, a local version of the national television show. We followed a 1,200-calorie-per-day diet with vegetables filling most of the plate. I learned how to eat more fiber, by sprinkling flaxseed on whole-grain rice and cooking with beans. In addition to our diet intervention we exercised with a trainer five days a week. At times the workouts were so tough I wanted to die right there on the mat. But I stubbornly kept going. In the end I was the "biggest loser" for my team, shedding 39 pounds in 12 weeks. Then I dropped another 53 pounds in the next 18 months.

What She Found: I discovered an inner athlete I didn't know existed. I surprised myself when I realized I actually liked exercise. In addition to my everyday routine—walking the dog 2 miles, running for 20 minutes, ab work, and a punching-bag session—I search for other opportunities to work out. When I'm with my kids, ages 11 and 7, at the playground, I run up and down steps, sprint laps, or do push-ups. If I'm stuck in the carpool line, I get out and do squats, push-ups, stretches, or lunges. Instead of feeling embarrassed I feel amazing, like I'm erasing a decade of not taking care of myself.

This experience didn't just change my life—it changed my family's too. During the contest I'd say, "I'm going for a walk." Then one kid would say, "I want to come." The next would chime in, "Me too!" And my husband would say, "I guess we're all going." Now, instead of hanging out in our home on the weekends, we're getting outside to play catch or kick a soccer ball. When my kids want to watch TV or play on the computer, I make them earn it by doing an obstacle course I set up where they have to run down the driveway, go up the stairs, around a tree, step through hula hoops, or jump over something. They love it! The best part? I can keep up with them again.

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