Photo: Ruven Afanador

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Carolyn "Cookie" Minick Mason, South Orange, New Jersey
Age: 49
Height: 5'4"
Weight: 194
Goal: Live a healthier lifestyle and fit into all my clothes

My uncle used to say, "When you get old, sometimes you wake up and your hair hurts." I can relate. I'll be 50 this year, and sometimes I feel like I'm falling apart at the seams. Instead, I want to be fit and fabulous. As far as the fabulous part goes, I feel like I'm already there: My life is full of fantastic people and rich experiences. But I want to make healthier choices—opt for the fruit plate over the fruit pie.

When I was younger, at 130 or 140 pounds, I thought I was huge, a monstrosity. Now I haven't seen those numbers in so many years. In my 20s and 30s, I'd eat a baked potato with veggies for dinner, and poof, five pounds gone. Once I got married and had children, I couldn't get the weight to stay off. I was living the suburban life: always in my car, eating on the run, taking my kids to playdates.

Then, in May 2015, my father passed away. He'd grown up in the South, worked in tobacco fields and smoked for 60 years. Watching him battle cancer was beyond painful, and it made me realize how important it is to be around for my family. I want to be an advocate for my children and my mother—and love my husband—for as long as I possibly can.

Right now I need to prioritize my goals, and that's not natural for me. I'm the one you call and say, "Cookie, I need...." I've got to be comfortable saying no—to bad food, bad choices and even charity work, as much as I might want to help. It's hard to balance your needs against the interests of your children, your husband, your obligations. But I'm determined to make this about me for a change.

Ages and Stages
From top: Cookie's 2001 wedding, when she weighed about 150; the whole family at her husband's 40th birthday party in 2009.
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Photo: Courtesy of Carolyn "Cookie" Minick Mason

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Photo: Courtesy of Carolyn "Cookie" Minick Mason