From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
HER FIRST TIME IN JEANS!

THEN 700 LBS!

When the stylist first presented a pair of jeans to try on, Ruby Gettinger quickly dismissed the denim. "I was saying, 'There's no way I'm putting these on,'" recalls Gettinger, who, after much persuasion, finally gave in. As she started to pull on the size 26 Avenue jeans, "I was thinking, 'Oh my gosh, these are actually going up my thighs!'" When she fastened the button at the waist, "I was screaming," she says. "Instead of wearing tents and these big ol' blanket-like things, it's like I'm normal...." She pauses as her voice cracks. "For the first time, I felt like I was wearing what everybody else can wear."

Her journey to shed pounds and be just like everybody else is exactly what makes Gettinger, 46, stand out. At 487 lbs., the Georgia native started chronicling her quest to lose weight last year on the hit Style Network show Ruby. Now, with the second season ending on Sept. 6 and her book Ruby's Diary hitting shelves on Sept. 8, Gettinger is not only about 160 lbs. lighter and rocking jeans, she's letting loose and checking things off her "Dream List," such as horseback riding. "My weight stopped me from doing everything, but I'm no longer limited," says Gettinger, who weighed more than 700 lbs. at her heaviest. "The fact that I can move and breathe [easier] now is amazing."

Her success has not been without struggles. In January Gettinger's father, James, died from diabetes, and five months later she also lost Lucy, her 9-year-old Yorkshire terrier. To cope, "I was just eating what I wanted to eat," says Gettinger, who snacked constantly on chocolate protein bars. After she plateaued at about 357 lbs. for three months, a crew member finally confronted Gettinger in May and told her she was slipping. Angry at first, she realized he was right. When she resumed her daily 1,700 calorie diet on the Ourlife Fresh meal program and started writing in her food journal again, "the weight started pouring off," she says.

She also credits her new trainers—Drew and Shazi Edmonds—for getting her back on track. In addition to her hour-long workouts four to five times a week, Gettinger has started incorporating other firsts into her exercise routine such as dancing, boxing and riding a bike. "I'm really like a child," she says. "Everything is new to me."