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Name: Sonja Atkins
Relationship status: Single
Kids: Son, Ryan, 19; grandson, Mikey, almost 2
City: Tallahassee, Florida
Occupation: Registered Nurse
Current Weight: 230
Goal Weight: 140
Favorite activities: Having fun with my son, grandson, and a plentiful supply of nieces and nephews, riding my new bike, singing with my grandmother, going to amusement and water parks.
Favorite healthy snack: Radishes. They are about 2 calories each and I keep them in the fridge and snack on them throughout the day, especially if I am not really hungry but I want to eat something.
Biggest food weakness: Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Reese's Easter peanut butter eggs, and any other type of candy.
Lowest weight ever as an adult: 140
Highest weight ever as an adult: 240
What diets have you tried before? I have tried eating healthy foods and controlling my portions but it was so overwhelming trying to figure it out on my own so I would just give up.
How do you want this program to change your life? I want to regain control of my life. I have achieved this in so many areas and I know once I get this weight off I can and will keep it off.
Who (or what) is your greatest inspiration? My son, Ryan. Although he started is family early (17) he continues to improve his life and the life of his son. He works full-time and attends college and still finds time to be with Mikey.
Proudest moment in your life (so far)? When I achieved my nursing degree. I was the first one in my immediate family to go to college and I was a single parent with a preschooler.
What makes you feel beautiful? Doing nice things for myself and other people. I think beautiful starts within.
Who is your style icon? Okay, I had to look up the word icon and I am still not sure what my answer is.
In what outfit do you most want to show off your new body? A beautiful sundress.
Where do you hope you'll be in five years? I want to at a place where I am confident that I can do anything I decide I want to do.
Name: Doreen Bocchino
Relationship status: Widowed for 4 years and currently with new boyfriend
Kids: Samantha, 13; Kelsey, 9
City: Bayonne, New Jersey
Occupation: Currently unemployed/Homemaker
Current weight: 170
Goal weight: 130
Favorite activities: Writing/dancing/going to the gym
Favorite healthy snack: Ice cold fruit salad
Biggest food weakness: Bagel with scallion cream cheese and jelly rings.
Lowest ever weight as an adult: 135
Highest ever weight as an adult: 189
What diets have you tried before? Nutrisystem/Weight Watchers/Atkins/South Beach
How do you want this program to change your life? To help me eat correctly, to be more healthy, have more energy, and help my daughter to eat correctly and lose weight.
Who (or what) is your greatest inspiration? God, first and foremost. Since my husband died my faith has become so much stronger and I know that as long as I believe it, and have faith, I can accomplish anything.
Proudest moment in your life (so far)? The birth of my daughters, the most amazing experience I've ever known.
What makes you feel beautiful? My boyfriend first, and then a total spa day, finishing off with a sexy outfit that actually looks good on this body.
Who's your style icon? I really have my own style but I guess if I had to say someone I would pick a celeb like Jessica Alba and Jennifer Lopez. I love a great pair of low-cut jeans during the day and a classy dress or pants suit to go out.
In what outfit do you most want to show off your new body? I would love to wear one of those mermaid type of dresses, ankle length, small slit in the side, maybe in a deep blue or black.
Where do you hope you'll be in five years? Married, healthy, in shape, and living in the home of my dreams!
Name: Sandy Boister
Relationship status: Married 12 years
Kids: 2 girls, 8 and 9
City: Athens, Texas
Occupation: Homemaker extraordinaire
Current weight: 184
Goal weight: 125
Favorite activities: Going to church, taking pictures of my girls and scrapbooking, going to antique stores with my husband, talking to my girlfriends (over lunch), reading
Favorite healthy snack: I don't like healthy snacks! That's why I'm 184 pounds!
Biggest food weakness: Any kind of dessert, all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet
Lowest ever weight as an adult: 125
Highest ever weight as an adult: 200
What diets have you tried before? Atkins, Weight Watchers, Slimfast, and the famous "Starve-yourself-because-your-high-school-reunion-is-in-3-weeks" diet.
How do you want this program to change your life? I want to feel in control of my eating. I want to have more energy for my family. After recently going through breast cancer treatment and having a double mastectomy, I have real body image issues. Getting back to a healthy weight and feeling attractive again would help me adjust to my new body and really would change my life.
Who (or what) is your greatest inspiration? I'm inspired by Christians who really walk the talk, like Beth Moore. Also my friend Anne, a pastor's wife and mother of three, who has a precious heart and more energy in her little finger than I have in my whole body, and who is probably a size 3. And Oprah can be pretty inspiring, too.
Proudest moment in your life (so far)? Graduating from college in my 30s with a 12-month-old and 8 months pregnant with my second baby.
What makes you feel beautiful? The way my sweet husband loves me through thick and thin, breasts or no breasts.
Who's your style icon? Can you have a style icon when you live most days in sweats and a T-shirt? Okay, okay...Marge Simpson.
In what outfit do you most want to show off your new body? My "skinny" jeans and any top my girls would say I look "cool" in.
Where do you hope you'll be in five years? Vacationing on a beach in Hawaii with my family, feeling great in my new bathing suit, cancer free, and living at the very center of God's will for our lives.
Name: Emily Marie Boquet
Relationship status: Divorced
Kids: Two wonderful boys: Noah, 6; and Saban, 3
City: Grundy Center, Iowa
Occupation: Vocal Music Teacher
Current weight: 270
Goal weight: 170
Favorite activities: Playing with my boys and spending time with family, shopping, traveling, cooking (healthy from now on!), girls' night out, singing and playing piano, musicals, reading, and wine tastings
Favorite healthy snack: Green tea (is that a snack?), cottage cheese, whole-grain Wheat Thins.
Biggest food weakness: Chocolate of course!
Lowest ever weight as an adult: 160
Highest ever weight as an adult: 289
What diets have you tried before? Atkins protein diet, Advocare nutritional diet, The Zone low-fat diet, low-calorie diet. All these were combined with exercise.
How do you want this program to change your life? I am ready to make a lifelong commitment to my health, and the health of my family. I need the tools and support of this program to truly change the way I think about food. I also want to become an inspiration to others by being a real person, with real challenges, with real success.
Who (or what) is your greatest inspiration? My sister, Carmen Dick, who is and has always been in great shape (with four kids!) and all the people at the Grundy Center YMCA who are supportive and have been successful in their quests for personal and community-wide health.
Proudest moment in your life (so far)? Birth of my boys, winning this contest!
What makes you feel beautiful? Unfortunately not much the last few years. I would say a new outfit from Lane Bryant and when my children tell me they love me!
Who's your style icon? Kirstie Alley and Oprah
In what outfit do you most want to show off your new body? A great pair of jeans or a cool suit with a short skirt.
Where do you hope you'll be in five years? The fabulous, beautiful, and funny real-woman spokesperson for Jenny Craig, more famous than Jared from Subway! Or just maintaining a healthy weight and spending lots of time with my two boys!
Name: Sheila Hunt
Relationship status: Married for 24 years this May
Kids: 4 boys, ages 21, 19, 15, and almost 12
City: Marietta, Georgia
Occupation: Homemaker and substitute teacher in local high school
Current weight: 208
Goal weight: 150 or less
Favorite activities: Reading, biking, hiking, singing
Favorite healthy snack: Light, thick and creamy yogurt
Biggest food weakness: Sweets!!
Lowest ever weight as an adult: 135
Highest ever weight as an adult: presently at 208
What diets have you tried before? Atkins, Weight Watchers, Pineapple Diet, Nothing after 2:00 p.m. diet, 14-Day Fasting, Weigh Down Workshop, and Free to Be Thin
How do you want this program to change your life? Through the weight loss, I will be free to be myself and not be consumed with what I am going to wear each day so that I look cute not fat!
Who (or what) is your greatest inspiration? My husband, he has never said I need to lose weight and says he loves me the way I am but I want to be in better shape for him and my boys.
Proudest moment in your life (so far)? Seeing my sons develop into godly young men.
What makes you feel beautiful? By being put together from my hair, clothes, and accessories!
Who's your style icon? I would have to say I've watched Oprah for many years because she is a full-figured woman who dresses with style and changes her hairstyle often which I like to do as well.
In what outfit do you most want to show off your new body? A cute flirty dress, maybe halter style.
Where do you hope you'll be in five years? Still at my ideal weight, possibly a mother-in-law, with two sons already graduated from college, one in college, and the last one a junior in high school. Also, still singing the praises of Jenny Craig and Ladies' Home Journal for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I hope to touch many lives on my journal to my healthy weight!
Name: Crystal Kavallieros
Relationship status: Married
Kids: None yet, but I plan on having kids in three years or so.
City: Fort Collins, Colorado
Occupation: I am a graduate student at Colorado State University (I will be graduating in May). I also teach at the university.
Current weight: 275
Goal weight: 140
Favorite activities: I love to play volleyball, tennis, and racquetball.
Favorite healthy snack: I really like fruits and vegetables. A nice salad with a lot of different vegetables is always nice. I also like to eat berries with Splenda sprinkled on top.
Biggest food weakness: Pizza
Lowest ever weight as an adult: I think I started college weighing about 220 pounds.
Highest ever weight as an adult: Right now.
What diets have you tried before? I've tried the Atkins (low or no carb) Diet, Body for Life, Slim Fast, and many others but I can't remember the names.
How do you want this program to change your life? I want to be able to live life. I'm still very young (24) and don't want to miss out on having fun. I love being active but it's harder now that I'm heavier. I can't play as long or as hard as I'd like to.
Who (or what) is your greatest inspiration? My mom has always been my greatest inspiration when it comes to strength and perseverance. As for weight loss, I have four bathing suits I bought years ago and was never able to wear. I am determined to wear them this summer or next.
Proudest moment in your life (so far)? Graduating from college and being so close to getting my master's degree.
What makes you feel beautiful? Looking in the mirror and liking what I see. It doesn't happen often but there are some days when I look at myself and think, "Wow, I really am pretty."
Who's your style icon? I take my style from so many different places. However, I tend to look a lot at the styles and suggestions from TLC's What Not To Wear.
In what outfit do you most want to show off your new body? I'd like to wear a summery, feminine top that shows off my arms and back (I have a tattoo of a sun on my shoulder), with a pair of jeans or capris, and strappy high-heeled sandals.
Where do you hope you'll be in five years? I definitely want to be at my goal weight. I want to be working in a job that I love and have at least one child.
Name: Robin McGaha
Relationship status: Happily married for 17 1/2 years
Kids: Two girls, 13 and 11. Three boys, 8, 4, and 2.
City: Marietta, Georgia
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom
Current weight: 225
Goal weight: 140
Favorite activities: Spending time with my family, reading, surfin' the Internet, homeschooling my kids
Favorite healthy snack: Fresh strawberries
Biggest food weakness: Italian food
Lowest ever weight as an adult: 161
Highest ever weight as an adult: 232
What diets have you tried before? Just about everything! Cabbage Soup diet, First Place, Weight Watchers, Weigh Down, Body for Life, and Medifast. I actually did Jenny Craig 15 years ago and loved it, but had to quit because of the cost. Then I started having babies. I was somewhat successful on a few of those diets, but always gained it back, especially when I would have another baby. After five kids, nothing seemed to work for me because I'm an emotional eater. Having five kids is wonderful and fun, but stressful at times.
How do you want this program to change your life? My goal is to learn to eat healthy, lose weight, and be able to be active with my children. I want to learn to deal with my emotional eating problem and learn self control when it comes to portion size. I know I will feel better, look better, and be a happier, more energetic mom and wife. I want to be free from thinking about food and my weight all the time!
Who (or what) is your greatest inspiration? Jesus Christ is my personal Savior and I know I can only succeed with His strength, not my own.
Proudest moment in your life (so far)? Holding my babies for the first time after they were born.
What makes you feel beautiful? A new outfit that hides my flab, a good hair day, and the fact that I am a daughter of the King. Also, the fact that I have a wonderful husband and five precious children who adore me.
Who's your style icon? I don't really have one. I try to dress modestly, but a little bit trendy. I just want to be a cute mom, not a fashion model.
In what outfit do you most want to show off your new body? I know this is silly, but I can't wait to wear stylish jeans with a cute white T-shirt tucked in.
Where do you hope you'll be in five years? I hope that I will be a happy, healthy, mom who is a Christian role model to my children and an inspiration to other moms like me who have struggled with their weight. I hope all my struggles with weight and food will be long gone and I can age gracefully and healthily.
Name: Stephanie Meusel
Relationship status: Joyfully married
Kids: Not yet
City: Canton, Ohio
Occupation: Domestic engineer (aka full-time wife)
Current weight: 385
Goal weight: Short term: 299
Long term: 160
Favorite activities: Singing, shopping, video games
Favorite healthy snack: Veggies and lite ranch dip
Biggest food weakness: Fast food
Lowest ever weight as an adult: Probably about 285
Highest ever weight as an adult: My current weight, 385
What diets have you tried before? Weight Watchers, Atkins, Nutrisystem, South Beach, Ultra-Metabolism, Grapefruit, Hospital Programs
How do you want this program to change your life? I want to stop this path I am going down and turn around to go the other direction. I need to do this for MYSELF to feel better, be healthier, and lead the rest of my life happy and healthy.
Who (or what) is your greatest inspiration? My husband
Proudest moment in your life (so far)? Honestly, to decide to enter this contest, feel positive about winning, and I did!
What makes you feel beautiful? Taking time to pamper myself, get dressed up, hair done...the works!
Who's your style icon? Wow, nobody's asked me this...I'd have to say the elegance of Reese Witherspoon with the edginess of Gwen Stefani.
In what outfit do you most want to show off your new body? A SLEEVELESS fun dress!!
Where do you hope you'll be in five years? I hope I'll be maintaining my goal weight, living an active healthy lifestyle!
Name: Jaci Willoughby
Relationship status: Recently widowed -- my husband died from post-transplant lymphoma in June 2006.
Kids: One son
City: Orlando, Florida
Occupation: I write...yet to be paid as a writer...but I do consider myself one. Online media.
Current weight: 288 pounds
Goal weight: 160 pounds -- so you can see I have my work cut out for me.
Favorite activities: I blog, therefore I am. I do a lot of crafts -- mostly cross stitching and paper crafts. I LOVE music, and I am a reality TV show junkie. I'll be adding exercise to this very soon as well! I just have to convince myself it's a "favorite activity."
Favorite healthy snack: Jaci Sundae! Trail Mix: 2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips, 22 salted almonds, 2 tablespoons dried cranberries. Top 1/4 cup fat-free frozen vanilla yogurt with the Trail Mix. Just 200 calories and YUMMY!
Biggest food weakness: Pizza, ice cream, and diet soda...oh the perfect meal when you're lost on a deserted island.
Lowest ever weight as an adult: 150 pounds -- when I was 21 -- before I had hypothyroidism.
Highest ever weight as an adult: I'm at my highest weight now -- 288 pounds.
What diets have you tried before? I think the question is what haven't I tried!
How do you want this program to change your life? I was just diagnosed with high blood pressure, so this change first and foremost is about getting healthy! I also want to be fit for the first time in my adult life -- I have a rare opportunity to start all over and be whoever I want to be.
Who (or what) is your greatest inspiration? My greatest inspiration in life is Bono -- the lead singer of the group U2. #1 his voice and music are amazing ... that's what made me fall in love with him back in 1985. But I admire him even more now for his work in AIDS and debt relief for Africa. He makes me want to be a better person in life. My greatest inspirations in weight loss are my online support group buddies. We're fighting the war on fat together -- they are all an amazing group of people and they make me want to be just like them!
Proudest moment in your life (so far)? I am the first person -- from both parents' families -- to graduate from college. I am proud of the woman I grew up to be.
What makes you feel beautiful? Knowing that inner strength and character is what makes you a beautiful person. Helping others to find that inner strength makes me feel beautiful.
Who's your style icon? Style -- hahahahaha! Do sweat pants and T-shirts count as "style"? This is where I need help at Ladies' Home Journal the most! Help me! I have no style!
In what outfit do you most want to show off your new body? I'd say a dress -- but I really am not a girlie girl. I want to look cute in everyday casual clothes because that's what fits my personality the best. I live in Florida and have been afraid to wear shorts out in public for years. So that's what I want: cute shorts and a summer top. To have the confidence to wear those again would be a wondrous thing!
Where do you hope you'll be in five years? In five years time I hope to be fit and healthy. I hope to have a career in writing -- perhaps as a Web producer for a local newspaper or television station -- or even as a writer for a popular magazine. That might mean taking a few more college classes, but it's a dream I've had for quite some time now.
Name: Jaime Withers
Relationship status: Engaged
City: Lexington, Kentucky
Occupation: Starbucks barista/Soon-to-be student
Current weight: 220
Goal weight: 120
Favorite activities: Reading all types of books, watching movies, swimming, playing with my dog (Maxx), tennis, and cheering for my Kentucky Wildcats!
Favorite healthy snack: Fresh fruits and veggies
Biggest food weakness: This is a hard one because I thoroughly love to cook meals from scratch. So obviously anything home-cooked plus cheeseburgers and french fries, and steaks with loaded baked potatoes!
Lowest ever weight as an adult: 115
Highest ever weight as an adult: 220
What diets have you tried before? Slimfast, Phen-Fen diet pills, low-fat/low-calorie diets
How do you want this program to change your life? First and foremost, I want this program to teach me how to live a healthy life. I hope to not only look better, but also feel better, both physically and emotionally, in order to be my best self.
Who (or what) is your greatest inspiration? My mother has always, and will always, be my greatest inspiration. She's quite simply a magnificent person in every sense of the word. My mom has gone through a lot of "battles" in her life, but she manages to keep on going, all while maintaining the most amazing attitude. If I become only half the woman she is, I will be greatly blessed in my life. She is also the person who found out about the New Year, New You contest and helped me film my video.
Proudest moment in your life (so far)? The proudest moment in my life occurred quite recently when I had the courage to give up a career in which I was very successful, though miserable, in order to complete my college education. I'll be enrolled in college before this year is out!
What makes you feel beautiful? My fiance always makes me feel beautiful, even when I don't think I am. It's not even in his words, but mainly how he looks at me ... like the most beautiful woman in the world!
Who's your style icon? I've never really had a "style icon." Usually I buy classic clothes that are attractive and flattering on me.
In what outfit do you most want to show off your new body? That's easy...a bikini!!!
Where do you hope you'll be in five years? In five years I hope to be maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle, have a college degree, be happily married, own a home, and be settled into a rewarding, successful career.
Originally published on LHJ.com, April 2007.