Nancy, before and after

Current Weight: 173 pounds
Total Weight Loss: 530 pounds

For more than 12 years, Nancy rarely left her apartment. At her heaviest, she weighed more than 700 pounds and says she was too embarrassed to face the world. "I was in four walls in a very small space, and this was my world," she says. "It was my tomb."

At one point, Nancy says she realized she hadn't left her apartment in almost three years. Even life inside her small apartment became difficult when she hit her peak weight. "I would get winded just walking to the bathroom," she says. "As I was eating, I was thinking, 'You out-of-control slob. Why don't you have the ability to stop yourself?' I thought I was going to die. I never thought I'd claw my way out of it."

After years of being overweight, Nancy did claw her way out. Without diet pills or weight loss surgery, she lost a staggering 530 pounds! "All of us who struggle [to lose] 10 pounds, 5 pounds or 50 pounds, let Nancy be your 'she-ro' from this day forward," Oprah says.
Nancy shares her inspiration.

Nancy was inspired to take control of her life after receiving a computer from her sister on her 45th birthday. Bored and isolated, she logged on to the Internet and began communicating with people who had similar interests.

"I found political chat rooms, and I found people who enjoyed my wit," she says. "We just started exchanging e-mails, and it filled me. They couldn't dismiss me out of hand, because if they'd seen me, they would have rejected me."

The pounds began to melt away as Nancy reconnected with the outside world. "[My friends] nurtured me," she says. "They fed me something, and I learned something about ourselveswe are valuable only because we are human."

Nancy says she became obese "one cheeseburger at a time."

"You were gaining 50 pounds a year," Oprah says.

"Right, and it's not that hard to do," Nancy says. "You do that for 10 years, you're 500 pounds overweight."
Nancy reads her letter to Oprah.

After losing more than 500 pounds and cutting back on her three-pack-a-day smoking habit, Nancy says she feels good. "It's amazing. My knees are fine. My heart's fine," she says. "I'm an iron horse. What can I say?"

Though Nancy can't identify a painful experience that triggered her compulsive eating habits, she does remember her mother exhibiting similar behavior. "I used to watch my mother eat food when I was a little girl. When something went wrong, she would go into the kitchen," she says. "Maybe that's something that I learnedyou comfort yourself. Food's a comfort, but it's terrible the minute after you [eat] it."

Now, Nancy says she's in complete control of her eating. "I don't know how to explain it except that I really don't struggle to stay away from four pieces of cheesecake anymore," she says. "I don't deny myself oneI can have one. I just don't want four anymore."

In a letter Nancy wrote to The Oprah Winfrey Show, she reveals her new outlook on life. "I smile all the time now. Some think I'm crazy," she reads. "But I know a secret. There will always be a sunrise and a second chance if you believe. I believe. I believe in me."

Read Nancy's entire letter about her weight loss journey.
David, before and after

Current Weight: 250 pounds
Total Weight Lost: 380 pounds

David says his struggle with weight began after he was abused as a child. "I was molested by the first friend I ever made," he says. "From that point on, my trust in other people, in making new friends, just evaporated."

Turning to food for comfort, David was constantly teased and he eventually dropped out of high school. He isolated himself for the next 10 years, gaining so much weight that he considered replacing his clothing with an oversized sheet. "A decade went by, and I viewed the world through a bay window at my house," he says. "I just wanted to basically disappear."

Tipping the scales at more than 600 pounds, David says he became suicidal and desperate. That's when he decided to call his local TV station for help. Shortly thereafter, he was introduced to Chris Powell, a personal trainer who put him on a carb-cycling system to drop the weight. Eventually, David trained himself to switch between high and low-carb days to avoid plateaus in his weight loss. He also stopped binge eating at night, cut soda from his diet and began eating six to eight small meals a day.

David's efforts paid off! In just two years, he dropped 380 pounds. Now, he says he's experiencing life for the first time. "It's the greatest feeling in the world!" he says.
Bunny, before and after

Current Weight: 168 pounds
Total Weight Lost: 267 pounds

In 1998, Bunny promised her dying husband that she would lose weight. At the time, she weighed 435 pounds.

Bunny's weight loss journey didn't truly begin until many years later. In 2004, she says obesity-related health problems caused her to lose a job and admission to a university program. After hitting rock bottom, Bunny began a weight loss program that combined elements from Bob Greene's books and the Weight Watchers program.

Since making the commitment to lose weight, Bunny has lost 267 pounds. Now, she devotes her time to inspiring others. "You have the ability to change," she says. "Yes, it's hard work. You have to eat less and exercise the rest of your life. If you fail, struggle, you pick yourself up. It's possible."
Chris, before and after

Current Weight: 180 pounds
Total Weight Lost: 187 pounds

On July 29, 2003, Chris was in a hospital bed thinking about his death. He was scheduled to get gastric bypass surgery at 4 a.m. the next morning, and he found himself at a crossroads.

Chris could get the surgery, something he says he was afraid of, or he could continue to live his life as an obese man who weighed more than 350 pounds. Instead, he decided to choose a third optionsomething he hadn't really tried before. Chris became determined to lose the weighton his own.

After leaving the hospital, Chris researched nutrition and learned about the things he should be eating. He cut double cheeseburgers from his diet and became a vegetarian.

Exercise also became a part of Chris's routine. He started out slowly, but eventually, his workouts got more intense. Now, he combines weight training with cardio.

Surgery's no longer an option for Chris. He now weighs just 180 pounds and has a 36-inch waist!
Emily, before and after

Current Weight: 135 pounds
Total Weight Lost: 160 pounds

Emily says she's been overweight her entire life. "Being the fat kid is a horrible way to grow up," she says.

As a teenager, she says she watched from afar as friends went on dates and shopped for clothing. With no social life, Emily got a part-time job as a way to get out of the house on the weekendsbut she always chose to work at ice cream shops, restaurants and places that revolved around food.

Emily believes she's addicted to food, but she says she learned to control her eating when she joined Weight Watchers. By attending local meetings, Emily says she learned what to eat and what steps she needed to take to lose the pounds.

Now this elementary school teacher is also working part time for Weight Watchers to help support others on their weight loss journeys. Weighing in at just 135 pounds and engaged to be married, Emily says she's living life better than she ever has before.
Kelly, before and after

Current Weight: 140 pounds
Total Weight Loss: 121 pounds

As a child, Kelly was an active cheerleader who never needed to worry about her weight. After graduating from high school and moving on to college, she says the pounds started to pile on.

Kelly tried numerous diet plans, but nothing seemed to work. Sick of the constant failure, she says she decided to make the ultimate change and join Weight Watchers.

Little by little, Kelly began losing inches off her waist. "Baby steps is my secret," she says. "I changed my eating habits slowly. I started exercising slowly, and I just kept building up and building up." Now, she runs two miles every day and incorporates different types of cardio and weight training into her routine. In just 18 months, Kelly met her goal weight and went from a size 21 to a size 6!

Proud of her new figure, Kelly even posed for People magazine in a bikini!
Lynn, before and after

Current Weight: 131 pounds
Total Weight Lost: 165 pounds

Lynn has struggled with her weight most of her life, but 10 years ago, she says she lost all control and gained 106 pounds in a single yeartopping out at an all-time high of 296 pounds. "I stopped listening to my body," she says. "When it told me I was full, I would continue to eat. I was just eating to eat. I was addicted to carbohydrates."

Lynn began sleeping 12 to 14 hours a day and stopped going to her daughters' school plays. "I barely fit into the seats in the auditorium," she says. "I felt embarrassed for my children."

In 2005, Lynn says she had an aha! moment when she barely recognized herself in a photo. "I couldn't believe that was me," she says. "I knew the person in that photo was in trouble."

Soon after, Lynn joined Weight Watchers and began working out in increasingly intense intervals. After about one year of hard work and careful eating, she lost 165 pounds! "The person I am [on the] inside is the person I am on the outside now," she says. "I feel like I match now."

Since losing the weight, she says her self-confidence has improved and just being able to cross her legs is a treat! To maintain her svelte 131-pound figure, Lynn does 45 to 55 minutes of cardio, 30 minutes of strength training and 20 minutes of core work, five times a week.
Jahi, before and after

Current Weight: 181 pounds
Total Weight Loss: 145 pounds

In 2004, Jahi says he had his lightbulb moment when walking around the back of his house to feed his dog left him winded and completely scared. In pain and out of breath, he says he realized he needed to make a changefast.

The next day, Jahi stepped on the treadmill and began walking. At first, he could only exercise for 15 minutes at a time, but he stuck with it. He also went to his local library and researched healthier eating habits. Within the first eight months, Jahi lost more than 100 pounds and has transformed his body into a muscle-building machine!

In April 2006, Jahi competed in his first bodybuilding contest and placed in the top four. Now, he says he feels truly blessed.
Barbara, before and after

Current Weight: 197 pounds
Total Weight Loss: 240 pounds

Barbara and her husband, both teachers, wanted children but were having trouble conceiving. When they decided to adopt, Barbara was told she'd need to get a physical firstsomething she dreaded. "When I saw the number on the scale it was 437.4 pounds and that was absolutely disgusting in my mind," she says. "I couldn't imagine that a human could get that way, and I stepped off and I cried."

For years, Barbara says her typical breakfast consisted of eggs, biscuits and muffins. Then, she'd snack on candy bars and chips throughout the day, and eat meat and potatoes at dinnertime. She says she felt out of control and helpless. "That unhappiness at that size was lack of control. I wasn't in charge of my life," she says. "Life was in charge of me, and it was running me."

Determined to make a change, Barbara went to a local hospital and took a series of nutrition classes. After her classes, she changed her diet to include good proteins like chicken, fish and turkey burgers, and lots of vegetables. Once she shed 65 pounds, Barbara and her husband began working with a personal trainer five times a week.

At every weight loss milestone, Barbara has rewarded herself. When she lost her first 100 pounds, she took a cruise. At 150 pounds, she competed in a beauty pageant and won "people's choice." Then, when she hit the 200-pound mark, Barbara went to Disney World!
Mandy, before and after

Current Weight: 170 pounds
Total Weight Lost: 227 pounds

At 5'4" and nearly 400 pounds, Mandy says she was mortified every time a chair collapsed beneath her at public events. It wasn't until Mandy saw Dr. Oz examining the internal organs of unhealthy people on The Oprah Show that she was encouraged to do something about her weight. "I thought, 'Oh, my God, I don't want to know what my organs look like on the inside,'" she says. "At that point, I thought, 'I'm not going to drop deadI've got to do something.'"

When Mandy went to her doctor to inquire about gastric bypass surgery, he told her she needed to lose weight before he could perform the surgery. Mandy reduced her sugar intake and switched to a diet low in carbohydrates.

Within just a few weeks, she dropped 25 pounds. Encouraged by her early success, Mandy decided to hold off on surgery to see if she could lose more weight on her own. She started walking on the treadmill at her local YMCA and maintained her low-carb eating habits. Sure enough, in just 18 months, Mandy lost 227 pounds on her own!

Mandy has kept the weight off for nearly two years by eating a healthy and balanced diet, taking part in outdoor activities like hiking, and getting her heart rate up several times a week with a cardio routine. "To start anything, you just have to get up and get going and find a plan that works for you," she says. "You have to make a commitment to yourself, and once you take control of your life and your health, the world around you will open up."
The Williams sisters, before and after

The Williams Sisters
Total Combined Weight Loss: 478 pounds

At almost 400 pounds, Dejeanette was forced to walk with a cane because her weight put pressure on her knees. That's when she decided to join Weight Watchers and improve her health.

Dejeanette convinced her four sisters, Pamela, Teri, Linda and Patricia, to join her on her weight loss journey and change their lifestyles as well. Sunday night dinners now include baked chicken instead of fried, and lots of veggies. "We changed our portion sizes, we changed how we cooked things," Dejeanette says. "It's amazing the natural flavor the sweet potato has without all the extra stuff on it."

Using diet, exercise and moral support, the five sisters have lost a total of 478 pounds! Pamela has lost 56 pounds, Dejeanette has lost 127 pounds, Teri has lost 116 pounds, Linda has lost 86 pounds and Patricia has lost 93 pounds.
Cathi, before and after

Current Weight: 190 pounds
Total Weight Lost: 340 pounds

When Cathi started her weight loss plan, she tipped the scales at more than 500 pounds. She admits she once ate whatever she wanted and didn't care what she put in her mouth. "My eating habits were so out of control, I once purchased a three-tiered vanilla wedding cake, put two fake names on it [and] brought it home," she says. "It's all I ate over a two-day period, with a gallon of milk."

At times, Cathi says she felt invisible. "I was constantly asked to step out of photographs. When you're 506 pounds, people have a tendency to actually not see you," she says. "I wanted to prove to myself that I was still here."

Determined to lose weight without gastric bypass surgery, Cathi spent nearly a year reading, researching and interviewing people to design the plan that would work for her. "I was so afraid I'd fail, but I wasn't going to start a temporary diet," she says. "I wanted to start a new routine I could stick with the rest of my life." She began eating sensibly and lost 90 pounds the first yearbut she says no one noticed.

Cathi began to incorporate exercise by slowly walking around the neighborhood. One morning she says someone threw a bottle at her out of a car windowthat's when she decided a cemetery would be a better place to begin her exercise program. "When I was at a cemetery, I realized it was a quiet, calm place that no one would see me," she says.

For seven months, Cathi walked in the cemetery. When the temperatures began to drop, she joined a gym, exercising at 4:30 a.m. in the hopes of avoiding other people. The early-morning gym crowd eventually broke down Cathi's wall of solitude, becoming her best friends and encouraging her to work out daily.

After losing more than 300 pounds, Cathi completed a marathon in 2005. "I feel invigorated, energized, empowered, emotionally and physically strong and powerful," she says. "I want others to get to this point and feel as fantastic as I do now!"
Donna, before and after

Current Weight: 165 pounds
Total Weight Loss: 165 pounds

Growing up, Donna constantly struggled with her weight. When she was just 9 months old, she says she was given the nickname "Fat Donna."

As an adult, Donna says she was a "sneak eater" who binged at night. Then, on September 11, 2001, the terrorist attacks gave Donna a wake-up call. "I couldn't climb stairs and when 9/11 happened, I read where many obese people were stuck in stairwells because they couldn't get down," she says. "I was one of those people. There was just something inside of me that said, 'You need to get moving.'"

At 330 pounds, Donna says she could barely walk, but she began an exercise program with a personal trainer. She also made drastic changes in her diet, eating mostly lean protein, multigrains and vegetables.

Now, Donna trains six days a week and has met her goal weight of 165 pounds. "I just believe in the power of movement," she says.
Artie, before and after

Current Weight: 218 pounds
Total Weight Lost: 112 pounds

Artie is a police sergeant in New York, and while working his usual midnight shifts, he says he found himself grabbing a lot of fast food on the go. Even though he hid his weight well on his 6'3" frame, he was up to 330 pounds and had a 50-inch waist.

Everything changed in January of 2007 when he saw Bob Greene on The Oprah Winfrey Show. The next day, Artie says he went out and bought Bob's book, The Best Life Diet. Artie put his treadmill in front of the television and began an exercise routine. Instead of watching sports while lounging on the couch, Artie now did it while exercising. "I started working out 30 to 40 minutes a day, and I've continued on since," he says.

Artie has also stopped eating two hours before he goes to bed, which he says has made all the difference in his weight loss journey. Now, instead of filling up on fast food and drinking 64-ounce sodas, Artie eats vegetables and fish and drinks plenty of water. At 218 pounds, he says he has more energy, is sleeping well for the first time, and the pain in his back and legs is now gone. "I've never felt better in my life," he says.

Right after starting the program, one of Artie's six siblings died from throat cancer. "I came to the conclusion that we're all going to die from something, but I didn't want it to be something I had control over," he says.

Artie dedicates all his progress to his brother. "I'd say, 'You have to stop smoking, bro.' And he'd say, 'You have to stop eating, bro,'" he says. "I've reached my goal, but I stay on the healthy plan because I don't want to lose the memory of my brother and let him down."

See how the Best Life Challengers turned their lives around
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.