Chantel Hobbs1995: 326 lbs., Now: 154lbs.
"I think I had to go through being fat to get where I am today," says Chantel Hobbs, who at 34 is a Coral Springs, Fla., fitness instructor, marathon runner, mom of four – and 172 lbs. lighter than she was five years ago. Obese for more than half of her life (at age 15, she was already more than 200 lbs.), Hobbs retained more weight after each pregnancy. At age 29, however, she looked at her family and said, "I want to live longer."
Using a plan of her own design, she began in the gym, pedaling a recumbent bike for 30 minutes, six days a week. After a month she cut portion sizes but still ate favorites like fettuccini Alfredo; at 25 lbs. down she switched to six small meals and fewer carbs. All the while, says husband Keith, 34, a small-business owner, "she still baked and made normal dinners for us. It was unbelievable." By her 30th birthday, Chantel had shed 101 lbs. and today maintains her 154-lb. physique in part by weight training and teaching spinning classes. Is it easy? Not always. "There is no getting there,' no day I can stop working out and eat whatever I want," she says. "I pray all the time for God to keep me in check." But it is clear she's in it for the marathon, not the sprint. "Everybody has their sweet spot in life," says Hobbs. "This is mine."