Half Their Size

Half Their Size
THEN: Kristin (left), 339 lbs.; Karen, 308 lbs. NOW: Kristin, 157 lbs.; Karen, 157 lbs.

12/30/2004 AT 12:00 PM EST

Looking at old photos with her two young sons, LaWanda Baldwin stopped on a picture of a large woman. "Who's that?" one son asked. "That was me," said Baldwin, who once weighed double (330 lbs.) what she does today (165). How does a person lose half her size? "There's no mystery," says diet doctor Dean Ornish. "Burn more calories or eat fewer." Baldwin and eight others took that formula to heart, each making it her own. "Many programs work," says Lise Lynch, who dropped 125 lbs., "if you work at them." So they gave up fatty foods and made exercise a habit. The rewards were greater than new, smaller clothing. One woman, 122 lbs. lighter, is eyeing a new career. And after dropping 75 lbs., a former couch potato became a weekend wilderness guide. The message for 2005? Reshape your body, reshape your life.

Karen & Kristin Mendorf
On a vacation in Tennessee three years ago, Karen and Kristin Mendorf had an urge to go on a hike their parents had taken them on as children. They couldn't do it. At 300-plus lbs. each, they had to stop "at every rock and every bench – there were older people with canes passing us!" says Kristin, 36, an occupational therapy assistant. "We both said, 'This is crazy!' "

The sisters, who share a house in Raleigh, N.C., joined Weight Watchers the next month and began taking 5 a.m. walks before work. "Getting up that early was unfathomable at the time," says Karen, 39, a paralegal, whose sister often had to pull her from under the covers. Trading their hamburgers and fries for grilled chicken and vegetables was also an adjustment. But it paid off. Kristin lost 182 lbs. and reached her goal weight in just over two years. Karen lost 151 lbs. in the same period (she still wants to lose seven more to get to her goal weight of 150). "They can run for one or two hours nonstop now," says Wade Harris, a trainer they hired at their gym. "I'm still in awe." In fact, their success inspired their mother, Barbara, 63, to lose 75 lbs. of her own. "I see my daughters doing things they never would have done before," she says.

These days Karen and Kristin enjoy their newfound fitness by running 5K races, kayaking, snorkeling and salsa dancing. The one activity they still want to master? Dating. "Both of us are trying to change our self-image," says Karen. "I don't want to be this person in a tiny ball. I want to expand and grow and be someone who's comfortable with who she is."

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