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"I Lost 120 Pounds"


It Started Early

"I grew up in a household where you ate whatever you wanted," says Jackie Stees, 30. By the time she was in second grade, she could no longer fit into jeans in the children's clothing store. In junior high she had to shop for plus-size clothes at Lane Bryant, and by her late teens she weighed 250 pounds. Her weight fluctuated throughout her twenties; at one point the scale climbed to 270 pounds.

Turning Point

In December 2011, Jackie's husband gave her a gift card for Victoria's Secret. "Nothing fit me," Jackie says. "I bought bath stuff and left the store in tears." She decided it was time to break free from a lifetime of being overweight. "A few days later, I went for a run," Jackie says. "Well, it was more like a shuffle." But it was a start, and she kept at it.

Smart Steps

One morning in March 2012, Jackie bumped into Jennifer, a fellow member of her town's moms' club. "When I told her I had started running, she said she would join me," Jackie says. At first, the two "walk ran" from telephone pole to telephone pole, gasping for breath. "When I wanted to quit, Jennifer pushed me, and when she wanted to quit, I pushed her," Jackie says. "Little by little, we ran farther and farther. We ran in scorching sun and bitter cold, talking, laughing, and confiding in each other." Jackie also began changing her diet. Out went the processed foods; in came lots of fresh veggies and fruit.

Sweet Success

Dropping weight at a steady clip of eight to 10 pounds a month, Jackie reached her goal of 150 pounds in a year. Now she's paying it forward by meeting members of her moms' club at the high school track several times a week. Jackie helps them set weight-loss goals, suggests workouts, and encourages them to buddy up for walks and runs. "I keep myself motivated by learning to do all the things, like horseback riding, that I've wanted to try for so long but couldn't because of my weight," she says.

What Worked for Me

Scale secret: "For the first 30 pounds, I didn't weigh myself, so small fluctuations wouldn't disappoint me."

Morning motivation: "I hung my skinny jeans next to my bedroom mirror so they were the first thing I saw in the morning."

Snack strategy: "Before every bite, I would ask myself, Is this going to help me nutritionally or hinder me? After a while, making healthy choices became a habit."

My mantra: "Fear nothing, and just go for it."