Photo: Ruven Afanador

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Princess Gardner, Roosevelt, New York
Age: 15
Height: 5'4"
Weight: 258
Goal: Weigh 140 to 150 pounds

Princess: I danced a lot when I was younger—jazz, tap, ballet, hip-hop, African—but I was limited because I didn't have enough stamina. At 10, I weighed 210 pounds, and my mom was really concerned. So we went to Body by Denise, a high-intensity group fitness class.

My first day, I struggled to keep up, but over time I moved to the front row. My mom was taking the class, too—she lost 160 pounds, and I lost 70. I was noticing all sorts of changes: I could breathe better, and I didn't need my asthma pump anymore. But when we moved from Queens to Long Island to live with my grandparents, my mom kept her weight off and I gained everything back. It's hard for me to resist sweets and processed food. My grandmother also makes tons of fried dishes for her huge Sunday dinners. Sometimes when I don't eat what she's made, I feel like I'm hurting her feelings.

I'm back at Body by Denise five days a week now. She gives clean-eating tips and weighs you at each class. Getting on that scale in front of "Auntie" Denise holds me accountable, and I know that's what's best for me.

Candice, Princess's Mom: I'm a nurse, and five years ago I was educating an overweight patient about hypertension and diabetes. At the time, I was close to 300 pounds, and I remember her smirking at me with a look that said, "You're telling me this?" It'd be like going to a hairdresser whose hair is a mess.

I carry so much guilt, since I introduced certain foods to Princess at a young age, and now she's addicted to them. Our conversations revolve around food: When she comes home from school, my first question is, "What did you eat today?" But she understands that this is a life-or-death issue: To weigh 260 pounds at any age puts so much strain on your joints, your heart.

This is a new beginning for Princess. I know there'll be progress, but it won't happen overnight. I have to allow her to make the right choices because she knows what she needs to do.

Watch Sabrina and Princess tell their stories at

My Mother, My Self
From top: Candice and Princess in their backyard, May 2014; at age 10

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Photo: Courtesy of Candice Griffin

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Photo: Courtesy of Candice Griffin