Now: Mandy Lopez
Weight: 145 lb
Heaviest weight: 248 lb
Pounds lost: 103 lb
Biggest benefit: "All the energy and confidence I have to do what I want and wear what I want"
Celebrities (like these ones) seem to bounce back in no time after having a baby, but it took me years to lose weight after each of my pregnancies. At age 21, I was a "curvy" 175 pounds before I had my daughter, Taylor, but then the scale was stuck at 235 after she was born. My weight stayed there for about 4 years, until I finally made the time to join Weight Watchers. I was thrilled when, after fewer than 12 months of conscious eating, I was 5 pounds less than my pre-baby weight. I was sure I'd never be that heavy again.
That was 7 years ago, around the time I met my current husband. When we were dating, we were always active and social. But a few months into our relationship, I became pregnant with my second child. It was like deja vu. The weight I'd lost crept back on. But this time I gained around 80 pounds while carrying Tyson, my son.
The extra weight took a huge toll on me emotionally. I was so ashamed to weigh 248 pounds that I actually stopped leaving the house except when absolutely necessary. I felt as if everyone--from shop clerks to close friends--was judging me because of my weight. I even avoided going to the playground with my kids. The beach? Forget it. Everything seemed twice as hard with so many extra pounds. I felt like a failure.
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My wake-up call came 4 years ago, when I was 31 and my kids were 10 and 3. My father was diagnosed with lung cancer, which was sad but not a complete shock: He had smoked several packs a day for as long as I can remember. Ultimately, he recovered, but it was hard to see him get so sick. I had my own pack-a-day smoking habit, and I realized I never wanted my poor health to make my children suffer.
It took a year to kick smoking, but when I did, I didn't want to stop there. I was on a mission to get healthy, and eating right was next. In July 2009, I went on the Medifast diet plan and lost 50 pounds in 3 months by eating prepackaged meals and bars. But I craved whole foods, such as fresh veggies. My husband had also gained some weight over the years, so together we made a pact to learn to cook healthy food, from baked salmon to fresh fajitas, and serve it in controlled portions. The best part: Our new healthy habits started to rub off on our kids. Even though they'd been raised on drive-thru (like Taco Bell), they loved it all!