From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
LOST 136 LBS.

Kaitlyn Ekstrom

LOST 131 LBS.

Ginger Stauffacher

LOST 175 LBS.

Kodi Seaton

LOST 185 LBS.

Debbie Lazinsky

LOST 121 LBS.

Sharee Samuels

ATE A BOX OF WAFFLES AS ASIDE DISH

KAITLYN EKSTROM

WAS 263 LBS.

NOW 127 LBS.

Age: 31 Height: 5'6"

Lives in: Spencer, Mass.

Job: Fitness director at a retirement community

HER BAD HABITS

At age 12, I weighed 120 lbs. and got the idea I was fat. So I gave up dancing and soccer and gained 10 lbs. a year for the next 12 years. I'd have a box of frozen waffles with butter and syrup as a side dish with dinner.

HER TURNING POINT

My mom has been battling cancer, and when it returned in '06, my family focused on eating healthy to help her. I learned how to cook lean proteins and greens. We needed a bit of joy, so we adopted a border collie mix, Charlie. I had to walk him eight times a day. In a little over a month, I lost 30 lbs. It was a wake-up call that I could change.

HER LIFE NOW

I teach 25 exercise classes a week. Once I'd lost 100 lbs., I also taught a class to help cancer survivors get into shape, because my mom's fearlessness has been my inspiration in all of this.

How She Did It

• Eliminated white flour and refined sugar from her diet.

• Gave herself a cheat day every two weeks.

• Read Louise Hay's book I Can Do It to "replace negative thoughts about my body with something positive."

BEFORE 263 LBS.

GORGED ON 2 LBS. OF CANDY IN 30 MINUTES

GINGER STAUFFACHER

WAS 263 LBS.

NOW 132 LBS.

Age: 38

Height: 5'9"

Lives in: Cuba City, Wis.

Job: Angus beef and grain farmer

WHAT WENT WRONG

After gaining 50 lbs. during my third pregnancy, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which makes losing weight hard. I was like, "Why try? This is my green light to eat!" At the store I would grab three bags of candy and eat all of them on the drive home, which was half an hour. This happened two to three times a week. In four months I gained over 100 lbs.

TURNING POINT

In 2011 I woke up at 2 a.m. sweating. My heart was racing out of my chest. I assumed I was having a heart attack. I thought about not seeing my kids [Abbey, 15, Tyler, 13, and Ryan, 11] graduate. I couldn't bear it. Doctors said it was a racing heart, and I thought, "I'm never going through that again."

HER LIFE NOW

I started out by doing a 10-minute workout video. Now I run four to six miles a day, and I just did a half marathon. I have so much energy, and my husband [Tim, 41] has a new, improved employee on our farm!

How She Did It

• Slimmed down on Jenny Craig and maintained her weight loss for more than a year.

• "I was a stress cooker. But I bought myself a Kindle to read more instead of cook."

BEFORE 263 LBS.

WORE A SIZE 24 AS A TEEN

SHAREE SAMUELS

WAS 256 LBS.

NOW 135 LBS.

Age: 24

Height: 5'8"

Lives in: Federal Way, Wash.

Job: Graduate student

HER BAD HABITS

I never remember being below 200 lbs. My parents encouraged healthy eating, but I would sneak food before they came home from work and after they went to bed. I could eat an entire pack of cookies. At 17, I broke down shopping because I was so frustrated that they don't make cute clothes for teens in a size 24.

HER LIFE-CHANGING TRIP

In 2010 I studied abroad in Scotland, and I really learned what eating healthy meant. Without all my favorite prepared American foods, I started eating vegetables and walking everywhere. When I came back, I lost 68 lbs. I never remember feeling so light.

HER LIFE NOW

I've been teaching Zumba for four years now and follow a vegan diet. I had loose skin, so I got a tummy tuck. In August I got married to my husband [Andre, 27], who also lost 93 lbs. Both of us are the fittest we have ever been!

How She Did It

• Followed a vegan diet inspired by the book Skinny Bitch.

• Tried new work-outs such as cycling or the DVD series Insanity.

• Stayed patient with the scale. "It doesn't matter how long it takes to get there, as long as the scale is moving in the right direction."

BEFORE 256 LBS.

DRANK 2 LITERS OF SODA DAILY

KODI SEATON

WAS 350 LBS.

NOW 175 LBS.

Age: 31

Height: 5'11"

Lives in: Washington, D.C.

Job: Creative officer at a nonprofit

HIS PAINFUL PAST

I suffered sexual abuse as a child, and what I learned in therapy was that to make myself unattractive to the person who abused me, I used food. I would drink 80 oz. of soda every day. I would eat beef nachos at 11 p.m. before bed. I was wearing size-54 jeans that were like drapes!

HIS TURNING POINT

When I was 25, my doctor told me that, with my parents' history of hypertension, high blood pressure and diabetes, I was living really selfishly. No one had ever spoken to me like that before. I felt that I owed it to myself not to be a victim anymore. I moved to D.C. and decided to walk to work every day. I lost 11 lbs. my first week.

HIS LIFE NOW

I run half marathons every year. I'm a size 32 and rewarded myself with a new wardrobe. Everything before was about not wanting to be seen. Now I think it's cool I can be an example for someone else.

How He Did It

• Made meals, like 4 oz. of chicken with broccoli and brown rice, that added up to a 2,000 calorie daily diet.

• Added 20 minutes of walking after splurging on a brownie.

• Created monthly playlists with pals for his workouts.

BEFORE 350 LBS.

BROKE A CHAIR AT A RELATIVE'S HOME

DEBBIE LAZINSKY

WAS 318 LBS.

NOW 133 LBS.

Age: 58

Height: 5'3"

Lives in: Wheatley Heights, N.Y.

Job: Health coach

HER EMOTIONAL EATING

I struggled with weight my whole life and had trouble conceiving. When I was 33, I lost 125 lbs. and got pregnant. I had a miscarriage eight weeks in, and it sent me into a depression. I gained 185 lbs. by medicating with food. At my brother's house, I was sitting on a chair having dinner, and I started to hear a creak. Then all of a sudden, I disappeared under the table. From that day forward, I had to make sure any chair I sat on would hold me.

HER TURNING POINT

Five years ago I stepped on the scale and saw a neon-red number flashing: 318. I thought it was the time! My doctor said I was going to die before 60 and wanted me to do weight-loss surgery. That scared me.

HER LIFE NOW

My first time at the gym, I climbed on the elliptical, and after a minute I thought I needed the paramedics. At 53 I had arthritis, high blood pressure. Now I work out with a 25-year-old. Age is never a factor for me.

How She Did It

• Followed the Volumetrics Diet, supplementing her meals with fruits and vegetables.

• Committed to five hours of cardio and two full-body workouts a week.

• Rewarded herself for every 10 lbs. she lost - but not with food. "I started with a manicure, then a pedicure."

BEFORE 318 LBS.