Photos: Before: Ruven Afanador. After: Ben Baker

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Shaniqua Garvin
Then: 226 lbs.
Now: 176 lbs.

A year ago, I wasn't thinking about anything except grieving the loss of my husband. O's challenge gave me something to focus on. Since last year, I've turned my health around: My cholesterol levels are normal, my body mass index is nearly normal (it was at an obese level when I started), and I'm no longer prediabetic. My doctor told me, "Whatever you did, keep it up."

My 7-year-old son is super stoked, too. He's been my little cheerleader, saying things like, "Wow, Mommy, your stomach looks so different now!" Even better, he understands how his own choices affect his health. If he asks for a doughnut and I tell him no, he understands why.

Lately I find myself doing things I couldn't have imagined doing before. At a party the other day, I just had a small taste of the cake, then stopped and said, "Okay, where are the vegetables?"

There have been other moments of realization: I used to think I couldn't fit in a New York City subway seat, considering the size of my hips and butt. But after I lost weight, my friends convinced me I could sit—and I did. And one day I was shopping and realized I can now fit into a size small.

I never dreamed I'd be a fan of exercise, but it's something I want to continue doing for the rest of my life. Going to the gym has become a way to channel my energy and process my feelings. My trainers even encouraged me to journal and think about how I'm doing emotionally, not just physically. I had to learn to let everything out. Once I did, I was more successful at work, in my personal life, and with my body. Everything just connected.


Get Strong and Fit
It's been a life-changing experience to work out at David Barton's TMPL Gym in New York City. They create something they call your metabolic activity profile, and use it to tailor a diet and exercise program for you. Mine included a small amount of cardio and plenty of strength training three or four times a week. My amazing trainer, Rob Hrapchak, was like my therapist and my support team all in one.

Don't Fear Fat
The metabolic specialist at TMPL customized an eating plan for me that changed depending on my physical activity and on constant physical assessments. Now I eat more protein and healthy fats. I enjoy putting a tablespoon of coconut oil in my morning coffee—it fills me up and helps curb my appetite.