Losing Large

01/02/2003 at 12:00 PM EST

Lisa and Tim Thompson

Then: Lisa: 282 lbs.
Tim: 275 lbs.

Now: Lisa: 155 lbs.
Tim: 180 lbs.

How: TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly)

The Payoff: No more cow jokes

When Lisa Thompson was 20, she worked at a diner in Eau Claire, Wis. Each time Thompson, then 260 lbs., went to place an order, she says, one of the cooks made fun of her, saying things like, "Oh, here's a cow at the trough!"

As a 265-lb. factory worker, her husband, Tim, had also been the butt of jokes. "One guy I used to work with," he says, "would moo and oink when I walked by."

Weight didn't stop the two, who met in February 1990, from finding love. "She had a pretty face and a kind heart," says Tim. Lisa felt the same way. "He was kind and courteous," she says. "I couldn't help but fall in love." When they wed in September 1995, he was 217 lbs. and she was down to 190. But after five years Lisa had added 92 lbs. to her 5'6" frame, and Tim, 6'2" with a 44-in. waist, weighed 275 lbs. "When you're overweight," she says, "you're always on a diet. But you never keep the weight off." In the fall of 2000 they took action. Says Lisa, 31, a computer programmer: "I knew I couldn't do it alone, so Tim said he'd go along."

Lisa found a local chapter of TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), which follows the USDA food pyramid. "We eat a lot of chicken breasts and steamed vegetables now," she says. They also walk, bicycle and go to the gym. In one year Lisa lost 127 lbs.; now, at 155, she wears a size 8. Tim, now 35, is 180 lbs. and has a 32-in. waist. One other plus: At a party in 2001, Lisa spotted the cook who had taunted her. "When he saw me, his jaw fell to the ground," she says. "Best of all, his girlfriend was fatter than me."

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