Photos: Before: Ruven Afanador. After: Ben Baker

Losing weight is a blast!
Said no one ever. But the women we first featured in our pages last April signed up to do it anyway, hoping the rewards would be worth it. What’s more, they agreed to track their progress and share their honest results for the rest of us to learn from. While there were a fair number of ups and downs, the conclusion is unanimous: Regardless of pounds lost, much—in the way of knowledge and perspective—was gained.

Oprah Weighs In

After spending literally years on more diets than I care to count, I finally made the shift from dieting to a lifestyle change. Everyone is different, but for me what's worked is Weight Watchers. It's given me the freedom I crave. I haven't had to sacrifice foods I love. Or feel deprived and punished. Today I'm more conscious about what I eat, balancing indulgent things with healthier options. I leave the table feeling satisfied—and to me, that's far more important than any number on the scale. Though as I write this, I have to say: Nearing the 45-pound weight loss mark is a great feeling!

Photos: Before: Ruven Afanador. After: Ben Baker

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.

Photos: Before: Ruven Afanador. After: Ben Baker

Jen Pastiglione-Brody
Then: 273 lbs.
Now: 250 lbs.

I feel much better physically after losing so much weight. Before, I'd get winded easily, and I always felt anxious. Now that's gone away, and I'm more limber, less achy.

Unfortunately, I'm still struggling with infertility, and that's been really hard. Last summer we tried our fourth round of in vitro fertilization. I'd lost 40 pounds since starting Weight Watchers in January 2016, and my husband and I were feeling optimistic. When the procedure didn't work, it was devastating. The doctor had told me he thought losing the extra weight might help; however, he also admitted that "overweight people get pregnant all the time."

Pizza is my favorite food. When I was heartbroken, all I wanted to do was eat more of it. In that state of uncertainty, it's so easy to lose motivation. But I'm still on Weight Watchers, and I've stayed focused on my goal. Now when I want pizza, I eat one slice instead of three.

I'm very proud that I've maintained my weight loss. In the past, if I slipped and made unhealthy choices, I'd give up. Now I'm on a mission. And I'm still hopeful that someday we'll be able to conceive.

Before the magazine came out, I panicked and thought, Millions of people will be looking at my body! But I've received so much support from family, friends, strangers, and the Weight Watchers community. My struggles with infertility especially seem to strike a chord. I was so afraid of putting myself out there, but all I got in response was love.

Photos: Before: Ruven Afanador. After: Ben Baker

Michelle Trotter
Then: 217 lbs.
Now: 202 lbs.

I said In last April's issue that I wanted to get down to 165 pounds. I've been eating better and training hard, but the needle on my scale has moved very little. Of course there's a part of me that's very frustrated I haven't reached the goal I set. But even though the weight hasn't come off the way I'd hoped, I still feel like I've accomplished something.

Since last year, I've developed a much healthier outlook on life and especially on my body, thanks to Camilla Mager, the therapist we met during the challenge, who's helping me sort out my eating issues. For the longest time, I'd identify certain foods as "good" or "bad" and view myself through that lens, too. Camilla has encouraged me not to look at things that way. She's also working with me on finding my voice. I think that in trying to be a good wife and mother, I kind of lost myself. I've got two little kids, and I'm often up with one of them in the middle of the night, then sleep-deprived the next day. I just finished nursing my youngest. But now, every day, I try to take about an hour to do something just for me.

I learned this past year that I'm really tough on myself. I've always thought, You'd be great...if you lost the weight. I know that's not true, but it's hard to let it go. I've made a lot of progress this year toward being more realistic. I spent many years in the modeling world, so I know what it's like to diet and exercise like crazy to get down to a goal weight. But at age 45, I don't think extreme or high-impact exercise is right for me. Lots of walking, yoga, stretching, and toning are what feel best. At this point, I feel strong. I feel happy. Real life is imperfect, and losing weight has been extra tough. I haven't lost sight of my goals; I just think I'm a work in progress.


Be Flexible
Twice a week I take Gyrotonic, which is like a combination of Pilates and strength training. It's all about stretching and being kind to my body.

Stay Focused
I meditate for ten minutes every morning, usually while I'm putting my kids down for their nap. I may have to do it while my son is falling asleep in my arms, but it works for me.

Photos: Before: Ruven Afanador. After: Ben Baker

Sabrina Havens
Then: 140.5 lbs.
Now: 127 lbs.

Since I've dropped the extra weight, people tell me "You look beautiful!" and "You look so sexy!" It's really nice to hear things like that, but it's even better when people say they've been inspired by my story. One woman I know told me, "I loved how you said that as a mom, you're doing this for your kids." It reminded me what's truly important.

I joined a gym in my neighborhood, even though I'd never worked out in my life. I always used to say, "If you see me running, you should run, too, because it means there's something chasing me." But suddenly I've become a gym person. There's a babysitter there I feel comfortable leaving my daughter with. Aside from helping tone my body, the gym gives me time to myself—always in short supply.

I still haven't found love, but my perspective has changed. A year or two ago, I'd go on a first date worrying about sucking in my gut and thinking, Is he gonna like me? Now I feel like a catch—why wouldn't somebody want to go out with me? When I walk into Starbucks, I can see heads turn. That didn't happen a year ago. My divorce was recently finalized, so I'm still on an emotional roller coaster. But the lows feel a lot less low, and the sad days have become a little shorter.

I work as an acupuncturist, and patients always ask me how I lost the weight. I can tell them about my diet and exercise regime, but really, motivation is what made the difference. You have to want it.

Photos: Before: Ruven Afanador. After: Ben Baker

Caroline "Cookie" Minick Mason
Then: 194 lbs.
Now: 170 lbs.

When the weight loss challenge started, I said I wanted to be "fit and fabulous." Check and check! I'm now taking a much healthier approach to my weight as well as to my time, and I'm making self-care a bigger priority. I'm happy to report that I do feel stronger and fitter—I feel like I'm setting a good example for my kids.

Now, in terms of my weight, I'm not yet where I want to be, but I'm happy with how far I've come. The lifestyle changes I could make 15 years ago to instantly drop pounds just don't work the same at 50. Fortunately, my age also brings perspective: I'm able to look at the whole picture and give myself a break.

I think I'm a realistic representation of most women—our weight goes up and down, and it's very hard to get rid of those last ten pounds. Do I still plan to try? Of course. I'm only partway through this journey, and I'm learning to accept myself and my progress a little more each day.


Eat Your Veggies
We do Meatless Mondays at home as a family to help our kids pick up healthier habits: My baked sweet-potato casserole is a crowd favorite.

Call In the Pros
Personal trainers can be expensive, but mine keep me accountable. They'll text daily: "Cookie, when can you come in?" That helps me stay on track.

Stash Snacks
Since I'm always in the car, I keep it stocked with healthy snacks to stop me from going into the fast food drive-through.

Photos: Before: Ruven Afanador. After: Ben Baker

Bobbi Alison
Then: 372 lbs.
Now: 344 lbs.

In my first interview, I talked about wanting to unzip my body and step out. But it soon became clear to me that I had to own who I was and learn to love that person before I could address how and why I was eating.

One thing I've tried is looking in the mirror every day and saying "I love you." When I first started doing it, I wore sunglasses so I didn't have to look myself in the eye. But sunglasses or not, it really works. We're all beautiful, no matter our size, and it's important to feel beautiful. These days I'm more comfortable in my body, and I'm able to move better.

I promised myself this would be the year I'd get over some of my fears. I've always had anxiety over flying—I worried people would give me dirty looks because I'm heavy. But I traveled to South Carolina for the birth of my third grandchild—it was the first time I'd ever flown by myself. It was better than I expected.

I'd like to lose more weight, to be more physically comfortable in a seat on an airplane or in a theater—but as long as I'm healthy and I can do what I want without embarrassment, that's okay for now. It took me decades to get this way. So I'm going at my own pace.

Here's some exciting news: I got engaged! We'd dated for five years but broke up in 2014. We stayed in touch and last year started spending more time together. One day I looked at him and said, "Oh my God. I know what was missing, and it wasn't about you. I just didn't love myself enough to let you love me." We're getting married July 7.

Photos: Before: Ruven Afanador. After: Ben Baker

Jenny Hutt
Then: 133 lbs.
Now: 128 lbs.

My son has been visiting colleges, so our whole family recently went to Chicago and Palo Alto, California. We hit up lots of famous restaurants. I ate...and I was fine! It was like I was choosing the joy of being with my family over what the scale would say the next day. Anyone who remembers me talking about my anxiety surrounding food and weight knows that for me, that's huge.

This whole experience has been a success because I've been able to maintain the weight I'd previously lost, and drop an additional five pounds, and learn some things about myself, too. It was extremely tough at first to feel so vulnerable and put my life out there for everyone to read about. But the intensity of that experience made me realize something: I don't need to be accountable to anyone other than me. I'm tired of worrying so much about what I look like to everybody else.

Being a woman in this culture can be brutal: My weight and self-worth have been intertwined for so long. But now I realize that my worth is made up of who I am, who I love, who loves me, and how I can contribute to the world. I think I'm always going to be a freak about the numbers on the scale, but I've become less neurotic about daily fluctuations. There's more to life than how my body looks naked, so I'll just be the best I can be. I'm good.


Amp Up the Plants
I'm a vegetarian and an off-and-on vegan, and I ate more plant-based meals this year. I find that the fewer animal products I eat, the easier it is to manage my weight.

Fast All Night
Not eating for 12 hours every day is nonnegotiable. So if I have my last bite of food at 6 p.m., I don't have another until after 6 the next morning to give my body a reset.

Spin at Home
I love my Peloton bike (, which features online streaming spin classes. It's expensive, but knowing that I don't have to go out to take a fun class is the greatest.

Photos: Before: Ruven Afanador. After: Ben Baker

Lindsay Gutierrez
Then: 268 lbs.
Now: 238 lbs.

For many women, our weight is like a deep, dark secret. Having mine printed in a magazine for the world to see was pretty scary. But once it happened, I felt strangely free. The number lost some power.

My weight has fluctuated over the past year. More important than the pounds I've lost, I've noticed a difference in my body. Being Latina, I still have my curves. But by eating better and exercising more, I've lost inches all over. The gym is now a big part of my life.

I recently bought a pair of size 14 jeans. I don't remember the last time I wore that size! That helps keep me motivated.

Last year I talked about having failed the fitness evaluation for my dream job with the Department of Homeland Security. Since then, my current position in Uber's corporate office has become really busy, and I haven't been able to retake the test to work in Customs and Border Protection. I still want that job, though, and I plan to get it. Physically, I think I'm 65 percent there, and 2017 is the year I'm going to make it happen.