Slimdown Special I Lost 100 Lbs!

updated 06/01/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/01/2009 01:00AM

Rachael Wyrick
AGE: 35
HEIGHT: 5'7"
HOMETOWN: Knoxville, Tenn.

BEFORE 252 LBS.
NOW 140 LBS.

Growing up in the South, we ate a lot of comfort foods: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese. I never really practiced portion control, so I was always a little heavy; I remember buying a plus-size wedding dress. But it didn't affect me because everyone in my family looked the same. As they've gotten older, though, they've gotten heart disease, hypertension—and I knew that was something that could happen to me. As a mother of two, I wanted to be active and healthy for my kids, so in 2006 I started LA Weight Loss. It took me a while to get the hang of grocery shopping for healthier foods, like baking a pan full of chicken breast and eating it on top of a salad, or eating fish. But now I love seared tuna. The challenge is when there's a birthday party with hot dogs and pizza. But I've learned I can still have those foods; I just have to keep an eye on how much. And I save up all my starchy favorites for the holidays!

$ BUDGET TIP $

Wyrick says she has cut her weekly food bill by about $50 by packing healthy snacks—such as nuts, raisins and crackers—for her kids instead of taking them for a pretzel and lemonade at the mall. And for those who don't want to spend $9 a week for LA Weight Loss, there are over a dozen recipes available for free at laweightloss.com, or you can buy the LA Lite Cookbook for $29.99 at latoyourdoor.com.

Birdie Varnedore
AGE: 35
HEIGHT: 5'7"
HOMETOWN: Orlando

BEFORE 292 LBS.
NOW 150 LBS.

Med school was pretty much studying and eating for me. I didn't know how to handle the stresses in a healthy way. I ate a lot of Chinese takeout, pizza. Nighttime was when my snacks came out; I could eat a whole bag of mini Snickers! Years later I became increasingly unhappy with my size, so one day I Googled "free diet Web site," and SparkPeople.com popped up. I started picking up tips from their articles, like counting calories. Meals are a work in progress, because I'm not a good cook, so I eat a lot of frozen diet meals for lunch. But I've learned to bake chicken, and I use every flavor of hot sauce to season the meat! I still do fast food sometimes, but it's carefully chosen, like a char-grilled chicken sandwich or one bean burrito. The one thing I do stay away from? Those 100-calorie snack packs. They are a trigger for me; if I eat one, I eat the entire box. So for dessert I have frozen yogurt instead. Before, when I walked into a room, I felt like everyone was thinking, "She's so big." But now I feel I deserve to get out there in a bikini. I've earned it!

$ BUDGET TIP $

Varnedore's favorite cheap and healthy meal for her family of seven is "salsa chicken": She throws chicken breasts (a 10-lb. bag costs $20 and lasts 2 weeks) into the Crock-Pot with low-fat cream of mushroom soup and salsa (bought during "buy one, get one free" deals at her supermarket). And while she's lucky enough to have an elliptical machine at home, she tells her patients to exercise (cost free!) with cable TV fitness shows or by renting workout videos at the library.

Heather Petrie

AGE: 37
HEIGHT: 5'10"
HOMETOWN: Clive, Iowa

BEFORE 299 LBS.
NOW 148 LBS.

I had always been chunky, but then when I got pregnant [with daughter Morgan, now 15], I took that as a license to eat. I thought, "Woo! I don't have to starve myself anymore." I'd eat doughnuts for breakfast and for lunch a foot-long sub and a large ice cream cone—I was eating until I couldn't breathe! I put on 100 lbs. I tried to lose it, but I did the same thing everybody does: I'd say, "I'll start my diet Monday"—then I'd blow it and say I'd start the next Monday. When I got pregnant again, all these horrible things went wrong because of my weight—I almost miscarried. I had to be on bed rest. I thought, "How could I do this to my child?" When I finally gave birth and got the go-ahead to exercise, I started to walk two miles every day and felt so much better. Then I started working out with T-Tapp's Total System, and lost 18 inches in a month. That was it for me! It's not like I don't go out and have some red wine. It's just now I won't go out of control—and if I put a little weight back on, I know what to do to take it back off.

$ BUDGET TIPS $

Instead of buying a large movie theater popcorn (over 1,000 calories!) to share with her two kids, Petrie brings with her ½ cup of homemade trail mix (350 calories) made of bran cereal, dried fruit, coconut flakes, walnuts and dark chocolate. Cost for a three-month supply? Only $20! And if you don't want to invest in the Total System DVD set ($145), download—for free!—exercises at t-tapp.com.

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