MISSISSIPPI ON A DIET

TANYA BURNETT
244 LBS.

MELODY OSBORN
260 LBS.

NEDRA JACKSON
226 LBS.

ROB DYESS
281 LBS.

MISTY & JASON NALL
253 & 250 LBS.

APRIL KING
268 LBS.

GENA HILL
230 LBS.

TANYA BURNETT

AGE 42
HOMETOWN PICAYUNE
OCCUPATION PROCUREMENT SPECIALIST

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Burnett had to find a new job and suffered an anxiety attack, while her husband, William, 43, found himself with a temporary commute to Oxnard, Calif. This stress led the already overweight Burnett, the 5'9" mother of two kids, to pack on another 15 lbs. "It was just mental, dealing with the unknown," she says. "But I believe that when you go through things, it's not coincidence. I want to be an inspiration."

The Hurricane Katrina Survivor
RECENTLY LOST 33 LBS.—THEN GOT STUCK

GENA HILL

AGE 39
HOMETOWN ETHEL
OCCUPATION OFFICE MANAGER

During her days on the state beauty pageant circuit—she counts Kosciusko's Miss Sweetheart among her titles—Hill says she was used to hearing "ugly things" about her body from competitors. But lately she has heard this insulting phrase: "Packed on a few pounds, haven't you, honey?" Sighs the 5'3" Hill, who has gained 95 lbs. since giving birth to sons Connor, 13, and Walker, 5, with husband Roger, 41: "I've had enough! I don't want to be this way the rest of my life. I'd like to look nice again."

The Former Beauty Queen
"TO BE A SIZE 10 WOULD BE FABULOUS"

ROB DYESS

AGE 40
HOMETOWN RIDGELAND
OCCUPATION SALESMAN

As a traveling salesman who often treats clients to meals all over the state, Dyess is a walking Zagat guide to Mississippi fine dining. "This," he says, gesturing to his body, "is not from McDonald's. I'm eating steak!" But a little too much of it—especially considering his "I hate exercise" mentality. Worried about how his new regime will affect wife Beth, 39, and son Henry, 2, the 5'11" Dyess says, "My hope would be that I'd be able to take care of myself better—but not sacrifice time with them."

The Dad Next Door
HE AND HIS WIFE ARE EXPECTING BABY NO. 2

NEDRA JACKSON

AGE 28
HOMETOWN CHARLESTON
OCCUPATION BOYS & GIRLS CLUB PROGRAM DIRECTOR

"I've always been what we call 'thick,'" says the 5'7" Jackson, save for her years as a Navy petty officer, when boot camp trimmed her down to 158 lbs. Now, two years after leaving the military, Jackson is at her heaviest weight ever ("It's out of control," she says) and ready to start training again—and not just for herself. At her job, "I have children who look to me as a role model, who also have insecurities about their weight," she says. "I'd like to be a living example to let them know they can do it."

The Ex-Navy Officer
WANTS TO BE FIT BEFORE HAVING A FAMILY

APRIL KING

AGE 29
HOMETOWN JACKSON
OCCUPATION ACCOUNTANT

With her 30th birthday approaching, the 4'11" King admits there's something that's been on her mind. "Shucks—I want to be able to get married and have kids!" she says. Until now, King says, her weight has kept her from "really looking," adding that she has never had a serious boyfriend. She is, however, in touch with her body, having taken belly dancing classes the last few years. "That's my passion," she says.

The Wannabe Bride
WAS ONLY 16 WHEN HER MOTHER DIED

MELODY OSBORN
AGE 28
HOMETOWN HOLLY SPRINGS
OCCUPATION PETSMART SALON MANAGER

Although Osborn says her daughters—Catherine, 8, Tabetha, 5, and Hannah, 3—"like me big, squishy, fluffy and jolly," the divorced mom would prefer to be less teddy bear, more Energizer Bunny. "I'm pretty grumpy right now because I'm so tired," says the 5'7" Osborn, who hopes to drop 80 lbs. so she can "run and play. I wouldn't dread a day where you have to walk for hours." Plus, she'd be better able to enjoy her favorite hobby: horseback riding. "We just went on a trail ride in the Ozark Mountains," she says. "There were people 70 years old out there—and I'm the one who's tired!"

The Single Mom
GAINED 100 LBS. IN HER FIRST PREGNANCY

MISTY & JASON NALL
AGEs 29 & 35
HOMETOWN CLEVELAND
OCCUPATIONS STAY-AT-HOME MOM & FOOD SERVICES DIRECTOR AT DELTA STATE UNIVERSITY

While Jason admits he made it to 250 lbs. with "a lot of fast food and very little effort," Misty's weight gain resulted from heartache: In 1998, after her 2-year-old son from a previous relationship died from complications that resulted from a car crash, Misty experienced "a lot of depression, which led to eating," she says. Life improved after she met Jason in 2001 (they wed four years later), and the couple is thrilled about going on a diet. But their kids Ethan, 10 (Misty's son from a previous relationship), and Hannah, 3, aren't as excited to give up the family dinners at Wendy's. "We told them it was going to be a family thing," Misty says, laughing, "and Ethan was like, 'Why'd you sign us up?'"

The Fast Food Family
WANT TO LOSE A TOTAL OF 180 LBS.