BURN FAT! SUPPRESS YOUR APPETITE! If only it were as simple as the sellers of quick-weight-loss products would have us believe. These five women all hoped that dropping pounds would be easy--and all turned to diet pills. What they learned: Even if pills seemed to work, it wasn't for long, and often the price was miserable side effects. In time, they each found a sound weight-loss program based on nutritionally balanced menus and, in most cases, exercise as well. And when they did, a funny thing happened: They finally lost the weight that had plagued them. Here, their inspiring stories.
Annie Benneth Lost 75 lbs.
"I made up my mind that I had to put my health first"
--Annie Bennett, 31, Portland, OR
A (TOO) SWEET START When I was growing up, fast food, sodas, and other sugary stuff was my family's basic diet. In my early 20s, when I reached 190 pounds, I started taking Metabolife. In four months, I lost 30 pounds. But back then, Metabolife had ephedra in it [the FDA banned the stimulant in 2004 due to heart-related side effects], and I was jittery all day. And moody--I picked so many fights with my boyfriend then, it's a miracle he still wanted to be with me.
THE SCARE I started having heart palpitations. After four months, I couldn't stand the way I was feeling, so I quit Metabolife. Once I did, I quickly regained all the weight--plus 20 pounds. That was discouraging.
MY DIY PLAN I went online and researched different foods and how they affect our bodies. Based on what I learned, I created a list of items I could eat--fruit, veggies, lean meats, fish, and whole grains-then made up menus from that list. The first week was tough-I went from five sodas a day to none--but I dropped seven pounds. That, plus my fiance's encouragement, was just the motivation I needed. My confidence soared as I kept losing--23 pounds the first month and a steady 10 pounds a month after that. I began to exercise, too, and after I was married and had kids, I'd walk an hour every day with my younger child in a stroller. Now I also do more recreational things, like playing golf.
GOING GREEN At first, I was a wreck when I went out to dinner, agonizing about the sauce in every dish. My solution was boring, but it worked: I stuck to salads topped with a lean protein like grilled chicken. That way, I could stop trying to decode the menu and focus on my friends.
THEN 210 * Size 16
NOW 135 Size 4 (height: 5'8")
Cheyenne Luken Lost 100 lbs.
"I'm not on a diet. It's a lifestyle-one I want to keep"
--Cheyenne Luken, 40, Flowery Branch, GA
THE YO-YO QUEEN Since my teen years, my weight has gone up and down. I have two daughters, 14 and 8, and with each pregnancy I gained and lost and then gained it all back again. I tried Dexatrim several times, but instead of losing my appetite, I found the pills made me so shaky I was even hungrier. I hit my heaviest weight--257--in 2004, when I moved to Georgia and gave up smoking.
MISSING THE PARTY In 2006, I made an excuse to skip my husband's company Christmas party because I was afraid I'd be remembered as "Vern's wife, the fat lady." Then I asked him for the present I most wanted: to join LA Weight Loss, a program based on customized meal plans and one-on-one counseling sessions. What really helped was having to keep a strict food log. If I didn't lose weight one week, my counselor would go through my diary and pinpoint exactly where I'd gone off-track. I worked more protein into my diet, and as many fruits and veggies as I could, and when I craved a sweet, I'd eat one of the plan's healthy snack bars. It took a year of steady loss, but one morning, when I reached my goal of 145 pounds, I woke up and it hit me: "I'm thin!"
SISTER ACT I walk about a mile each morning, which takes me 15 minutes. Often, while I'm doing it, I call my sister, who's taking her own walk in South Dakota, and we catch up with each other's lives.
BEST COMPLIMENT A friend I hadn't seen in a long while greeted me very coolly when we ran into each other. She'd had no idea who I was, she later explained to me.
THEN 257 * SIZE 22 NOW 157 Size 10 (height: 5'9")
PHOTOGRAPHS BY HILMAR
Sarah Napier Lost 76 lbs.
"The closer I got to my goal, the easier it became"
--Sarah Napier, 30, Garner, NC
A BAD HABIT I began taking Dexatrim in eighth grade. Even though I weighed only 110 to 120, I wanted to lose five pounds. Plus, looking back, I think diet pills were like legalized "speed." I was very busy in high school--played sports, had tons of friends-and I depended on the "up" feeling I got from the pills to keep me going. In college, I switched to Metabolife and later to Hydroxycut. I wasn't quite as thin, about 10 or 15 pounds heavier, and diet pills seemed to keep my weight down.
A HEALTHY BARGAIN I quit the pills in 2003, when I was pregnant, and my weight ballooned to 185 pounds. So I started again about a year and half later, after I'd weaned my daughter. But it was tougher, and I couldn't lose the baby weight. With pregnancy number two, in 2007, I went up to 225 pounds. Six weeks after I had my son, when I still weighed 195, I told my husband that I wanted to join the Jenny Craig weight-loss program. He agreed, on one condition: no diet pills.
THE "EAT! EAT!" SOLUTION Because I was nursing, I started at 2,000 calories a day. To keep my blood sugar from spiking and dipping, as it had done on the pills, I ate frequently. It was amazing how much better I felt having a steady energy level. After I weaned the baby, I dropped to 1,500 calories, then 1,200. It became easy to eat right, and I was losing at least five pounds a month. A year later, I reached my goal weight: 125.
THE BEST HIGH Last year I started running. Then I was injured, which frustrated me more than any sugar cravings had. Finally, I got the right shoe insert, trained again--and placed in a local 5K race.
THEN 195 * SIZE 18 NOW 119 Size 2 (height: 5'4")
Donna Burke Lost 100 lbs.
"I can do more for myself now, and in my world, that's huge"
--Donna Burke, 42, North Bellmore, NY
AN EXTRA CHALLENGE I was born with muscular dystrophy and have been unable to walk or stand since I was 4. I use a power chair, since I don't have the arm strength to push a manual one. Needless to say, I don't move much, so by the time I was 29, I weighed 190. My doctor prescribed Fen-Phen, which was very popular then. [The drug was removed from the market in 1997 after reports linked it to heart-valve damage.] I took it for a year and lost 50 pounds. But the pills made me ill, and when I stopped them, I regained it all. Soon after, I had to give up my job as a 911 operator because of health problems. I could no longer drive and became more of a burden on my husband.
A WOMAN'S BEST FRIEND Getting a service dog--my beautiful golden retriever, Haley--is what inspired me. I'd been so depressed, but I wanted to improve my health so I could take care of her in the way she deserved. When I saw an ad for NutriSystem--a weight-loss program that delivers healthy meals to your home-I was ready to try. And when I lost 15 pounds in the first six weeks, I was even more motivated.
HAPPY GAINS I dropped five or so pounds a month; in 18 months I hit 97 (I'm now at 90). NutriSystem's online community keeps me engaged and lifts my spirits. My best moment: When another disabled woman e-mailed me, "Knowing you did this without exercise makes me believe I can do it, too."
THEN 190 * SIZE 20 NOW 90 Size 2 (height: 4'11")
Kimberly Daur Lost 61 lbs.
"My secret: I give in to my cravings-in moderation"
--Kimberly Daur, 27 Trumbull, CT
TEEN TRIALS Like most girls, I tried different diets in high school--none for very long--hoping to lose the weight I'd put on from the big carbladen meals my grandmother cooked for the family. Then, when I got to college, I began taking diet pills. I'd go from one trendy pill to the next: Stacker 2, Trimspa, Herbalife. With each, I'd lose a few pounds, but none of the pills suppressed my appetite for very long, so I'd gain the weight back. Eventually, I hit 213 pounds.
THE QUESTION THAT DID IT In 2007 my mother signed up for Jenny Craig and asked if I would go with her. She just looked me in the eye and said, "Kim, don't you think it's time you did something about your health?" At first I was offended. But then I realized this was the chance I needed.
SMALL MEALS, BIG ADJUSTMENT I was eating 1,500 calories a day--including many of the plan's premade meals. Typically, I'd have things like a muffin, yogurt, and fruit for breakfast; vegetable soup and fruit for lunch; and baked chicken, rice, and vegetables for dinner. Still, it was all I could do not to dive into a bag of chips. I just ate lots of low-cal fruits and veggies--and prayed it would get easier. After a week, it did. Five months later, I'd lost 61 pounds--and I've kept it off since. One thing that's helped: My mum and I started a friendly competition, which has kept me motivated.
MY CRAVINGS CURE I need to know that if I'm desperate for a treat, I can have one. If I want M&M's, I just eat them. Not every day and not the entire bag, but I will have a handful and then count that as my snack.
THEN 213 * SIZE 16
Now 152 Size 6 (height: 5'9")
Bollinger, Caroline. "'I'm done with diet pills!' Meet five women who gave up the gimmicks--and lost 412 pounds.(Annie Bennett, Cheyenne, Sarah Napier, and Donna Burke)." Good Housekeeping June 2009: 136+. General OneFile. Web. 6 Nov. 2009.
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