People want to lose weight for a whole slew of different reasons. Some want to feel better about the way they look and give their self-esteem a boost, while others aim to stop using food as a coping mechanism for emotional struggles. No matter what reasons you have for wanting to shed some pounds or where you are in your journey, these inspiring weight loss success stories prove that it’s never too late to turn things around and get a new lease on life. The following people you’ll read more about here have battled—and overcome—difficult challenges, such as depression, anxiety, and feelings of self-worthlessness to achieve their weight loss goals. And you know what that means? You can do it, too!
1The doctor who lost 125 pounds after beating his food addiction
Kevin Gendreau, MD, 31, wrestled with a food addiction for more than a decade, and was 306 pounds at his heaviest.
“I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, hypertension, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, and sleep apnea, among other things,” Gendreau told Best Life in October. “I knew they were all because of my eating habits, but I just couldn’t stop.”
But when his sister was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2016, it became a wake-up call for him to make his physical health a priority. “What she was going through wasn’t her choice,” he said. “What I was doing to myself was.”
By cutting out all the junk food and replacing it with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and protein, Gendreau lost 125 pounds in 18 months.
“The best advice that I can give is to find a motivation to change,” he said. “For me, it was my sister getting sick and needing to be there for her kids, but it could be anything. Once you find that reason and commit to it, you’re good to go.”
2The 73-year-old woman who lost 55 pounds and became a viral sensation
Think it’s too late to change your body once you’re over 50? Think again. In October, 73-year-old Joan MacDonald became an internet inspiration after showing off her incredible transformation.
“For many decades, I was more often overweight than at a healthy weight,” MacDonald told The Daily Mail. “I was on medication for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and acid reflux. My arthritis was acting up pretty bad.”
Concerned about her health, MacDonald’s daughter taught her mom how to use her iPhone to track her meals and exercise activity. That tool helped drive her to eat more protein and healthy fats, and go to the gym four or five days a week. And after making those major changes to her lifestyle, MacDonald lost 55 pounds in a year, gained plenty of muscle, and now helps others reach their fitness goals, no matter how old they are.
“For those who truly feel at a loss, I’d say change one thing with your food intake, one exercise to do, and each week add something new,” she said. “Don’t expect miracles right away, take it slow and steady but keep building.”
3The woman who lost 190 pounds after overcoming an eating disorder
Amber Neale spent most of her young-adult life in a pattern of losing weight on various diets, and then gaining it all back. In January 2017, she hit 325 pounds—her second heaviest weight—and decided to seek treatment from a mental health professional to address her unhealthy eating habits.
“I realized I needed help when I found myself living the same dismal day over and over again—and food was my only oasis,” Neale told Women’s Health in April 2019. “It took therapy to make me realize how awful my eating habits had become: I ate from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed.”
Once she dealt with her anxiety, depression, and binge-eating disorder, Neale was able to cut out fast food, reduce her portion sizes, and start exercising daily for 45 minutes. She lost 190 pounds in two years, and today, she says she takes things “one meal, or one moment, at a time.”
4The man who lost 150 pounds thanks to his college professor
When Joey Morganelli was 16 years old, he watched his father die of a heart attack right in front of him, only three years after losing his mother to cancer. Looking for a way to cope with such tragedy and loss, he turned to food. By the time he graduated high school, he weighed 400 pounds.
Luckily, Morganelli had people around him who cared about his wellbeing and were concerned by what they saw. In his freshman year of college, his microbiology professor pulled him aside to express concerns about his health, and asked him to watch the 2011 documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. The film had a major effect on Morganelli and slowly but surely, he replaced fast food with healthy, home-cooked meals. Eventually, he became more committed, going on a vegan diet, and by mid-2018, he had lost 150 pounds.
In January 2019, he wrote on Instagram that even though losing weight is hard, what’s harder is facing yourself and dealing with the issues that drove you to overeat to begin with. “Give yourself a fair fight and take that blindfold off,” he wrote. “It will propel you into places you never thought you could be.”
6The bride who lost 135 pounds and wore her dream wedding dress
When Mary Jane O’Toole got engaged to her longtime boyfriend in 2016, she couldn’t have been more excited about it. Weighing 281 pounds, however, made picking out a wedding dress somewhat of a disheartening process.
“I didn’t want to buy a plus-size wedding dress, because they cost way more than straight sizes,” O’Toole told People in April. “I felt like I was paying this fat tax—I didn’t have the ability to buy affordable clothes because I was bigger.”
When she and her husband-to-be saw photos of themselves from a trip to Disney World, they made the decision to lose weight together and began tracking their calories and meals with the the app LoseIt!
O’Toole lost 75 pounds in the first year, and another 25 once the couple began incorporating exercise into their routine. By the time the wedding rolled around earlier this year, she had lost a total of 135 pounds and was able to walk down the aisle in the dress of her dreams.
7The teen who lost 175 pounds and fell in love with fitness
Hunter Croteau had to go to the doctor to find out he was 367 pounds, because the scale at his home was no longer capable of weighing him. Once he graduated high school and with the help of his family, Croteau threw himself into a healthy diet. But two weeks in, he fell off the wagon.
“I knew lying in bed that night that I was not going to go back on the diet the next morning, and I needed to make a drastic step,” Croteau told Yahoo! Lifestyle in July. His doctor suggested getting sleeve gastrectomy, which typically removes 80 percent of the stomach and therefore limits the amount of food a person can consume.
Croteau decided to have the surgery, even though he was “extremely nervous” going into the operation. “You’re going into this building specifically because you’re fat,” he said. “It’s almost like you’re coming to terms with it in front of the world. You’re saying, ‘I need help. I can’t do this on my own.'”
About a month after the surgery, Croteau began going to the gym, and he became increasingly interested in the science of fitness. Thanks to his workout routine and portion control, he lost 175 pounds in eight months and is now studying to become a certified personal trainer.
While he believes that the surgery was “totally worth it,” Croteau also credits his love of exercise with helping him keep the weight off and stay in shape. “You need to fall into a habit of something you can maintain, something you enjoy,” he said.
8The woman who lost 220 pounds for her health
By the time she was 28, Stacy Blair was already beginning to have health problems due to her weight.
“I was taking medication for high blood pressure, my asthma was getting worse, and it was physically painful to walk or stand for more than five minutes,” Blair told Women’s Health in October.
For the first time in her life, she was motivated to lose weight not for the sake of looking good, but for personal wellness and improving her health—an approach that changed everything.
“I wanted to be able to play an active role in my little brothers’ lives rather than watching from the couch,” she said. “I wanted to be able to be a mom one day. I wanted to be able to move without being in pain. I wanted to live instead of just exist.”
Blair got started by counting calories and keeping a daily log of her meals, which led to her going on a keto diet that helped her lose 220 pounds in 17 months.
“At the end of the day when everything is all said and done, it’s not about the weight you lose, it’s about the life you gain,” she said.
9The mom who lost 80 pounds and discovered self-care
Stacey Welton, 50, knew she’d never be a gym aficionado—not with six kids and a full-time job as a teacher, at least. But once her weight began to give her health problems, she knew something had to give.
“I saw a picture of myself and wasn’t happy,” Welton told Best Life in July. “I knew that, as I was getting older, that the weight would continue to increase if I did nothing, so I made up my mind to change my life once and for all.”
She went on the Atkins diet, which had her eating fewer carbs—and in just eight months, she shed 80 pounds.
“I learned to eat to live, not live to eat,” Welton said. “I would say that weight loss is one of the very few areas where it’s OK to be selfish. It is about you. Whatever it costs, it’s worth the personal investment in you. This is the sacrifice that a mom has to make—not only for herself, but her family.”
10The man who lost 90 pounds with the help of his girlfriend
As a kid, Jared Sklar loved to play sports. But when the 27-year-old fell in love with his girlfriend, Samatha MacDonald, he gained some relationship weight. All those late nights spent snacking on the couch with his parter left him at 285 pounds, and when he opened up his refrigerator one day and saw pizza boxes from four different restaurants, he decided something had to change.
“It’s pretty embarrassing, but it’s the truth,” Sklar told CNN in August. “I just opened the door, and I was just like, ‘What are we doing here?'”
Sklar and MacDonald decided to give intermittent fasting a try, eating all of their meals between noon and 8 p.m. They immediately noticed that their energy levels increased, and with even more of a drive to be active, the couple used the buddy system to go to the gym six days a week for 45 minutes of indoor cycling.
“We pushed each in our weak areas,” MacDonald said. “We were on different pages initially but pushed each other to be on the same page, and that was a huge help.”
MacDonald lost 12 pounds, and said that the mental health benefits of going to the gym are the real win for her. Meanwhile, Sklar lost 95 pounds in about seven months, and is now a fitness instructor teaching indoor cycling classes.
“It was hugely beneficial to have a support system with me,” he said. “There are always going to be those days where you want to cheat and have a pizza, and just having a support system to keep you in check and being responsible for keeping somebody else in check was really important to me.”
11The mom who lost 76 pounds and became a wellness coach
At nearly 200 pounds, Jennifer Riviera no longer had the energy to play with her 13-year-old son—and her weight was also taking a toll on her marriage.
“My husband and I weren’t getting along because frankly, I made it really hard to love me because I stopped loving myself,” Riviera told People in August. “Everybody became more important than I did and fast food became my way of life.”
Then, two years ago, she saw a friend post about her weight loss journey and found it inspiring. Her friend recommended Isagenix—a dietary supplement brand that makes meal replacement shakes. Now 115 pounds, Riviera is a full-time health and wellness coach who loves yoga. She says she continues to drink at least one Isagenix shake per day and, most importantly, she now has the energy to play with her son.
12The man who lost 150 pounds thanks to math
At 6’7″ and 400 pounds, DeAndré Upshaw was a big presence in any room he walked into. And while he loved the spotlight and didn’t necessarily hate the way he looked, the 30-year-old knew that his weight could pose certain health risks as time went on. So, rather than going on some of the fad diets that he had experimented with in the past, Upshaw began doing more math and started meticulously counting calories. “The coolest thing about calories in, calories out is that it was math,” he told Men’s Health in January.
He also avoided escalators and elevators, and used a Fitbit to ensure that he took at least 10,000 steps a day. As a result, Upshaw lost 150 pounds in just one year, and now, he hopes to inspire others to put in the hard but rewarding work it takes to make a weight loss transformation. “I didn’t lose 150 pounds once,” he said. “I lost one pound 150 times.”
13The woman who lost 135 pounds on her own terms
Growing up, Vanessa Flores was always overweight. She tried several fad diets to slim down, but nothing stuck—a vegan diet helped her lose 60 pounds but proved difficult to maintain. But when she switched to a low-carb diet, which allowed her to have more carbs on days when she worked out, it was a whole different story. Since making that lifestyle change in 2013, Flores has lost 135 pounds, and she’s still going.
“I think I started my weight loss journey for the wrong reasons,” she told Women’s Health in January. “Deep down, I just wanted a boyfriend and wanted to be prettier. But since then, I’ve realized my weight loss means so much more than that. I’ve not only gained more confidence, but I feel healthier than ever. Now, I feel like I can do anything—in a relationship or not.”
14The woman who lost 101 pounds after being turned down from an amusement park ride
By the time Sophie Trewick, 23, was in college, she weighed 331 pounds. But a 2017 trip to an amusement park was the last straw for the co-ed. “The staff at the theme park gave us all fast track passes so I didn’t have to queue to see if I’d fit on each rollercoaster,” Trewick told The Daily Mail in April. “One of my friends actually said to me ‘I am glad you are fat as we get to jump straight to the front.’ I went home that day distraught, and knew I had to change.”
She cut out the junk food, began exercising three times a week, and joined the UK weight-loss organization Slimming World. According to a recent Instagram post, she’s lost 101 pounds since 2017.
15The woman who lost 150 pounds despite her thyroid condition
When she was eight years old, Desiree Alexis-Kae Mize was diagnosed with hypothyroidism—a condition that affects approximately three million Americans and causes a variety of symptoms, including a slow metabolism. Remaining active often helped her lose weight, but eventually she’d gain it all back. By 21, Mize weighed 260 pounds, and her doctor suggested gastric bypass surgery, which would reduce the size of her stomach, making it easier to practice portion control.
At first, Mize felt like getting surgery would be the easy way out, but she decided to go through with it after hearing the inspiring success stories of women whose lives were changed by the procedure.
“I also learned that the surgery would help me with portion control, but my weight-loss would still require the discipline that I’d been working on my entire life,” she told Women’s Health in April. “The only difference was this time, I’d actually see results.”
A year after the surgery, Mize has lost 150 pounds and continues to exercise and maintain a healthy diet. While the surgery got the ball rolling, it’s been her responsibility to keep it moving forward, and she’s proud to be doing the work.
“I feel like I’m finally happy and confident with myself and my body,” she said. “I know gastric bypass surgery isn’t the best choice for everyone, but it was the right choice for me, and it definitely wasn’t the ‘easy way out.’ It not only helped me see results I never thought were possible because of my health condition—but it has also helped me stay healthier by keeping my weight in check.”
16The man who lost over 100 pounds and became a bodybuilder
Many of us wake up on New Year’s Day with the resolution to lose weight and get fit. But Quantel Thomas actually did it. Overweight since childhood and 300 pounds by the time he was 18, Thomas kicked off 2017 by starting a routine that found him at the gym six days a week, helping him to lose 180 pounds in 10 months.
Now weighing 204 pounds, he continues his bodybuilding and fitness regimen, and can bench press 285 pounds and deadlift up to 475 pounds. “To be able to love myself, that’s the true, ultimate milestone achieved to this day,” Thomas told Men’s Health in November.
17The woman who lost 80 pounds and became a social media influencer
Randi Vasquez always struggled with her weight, but it never really bothered her until she got out of her “post-grad slump” in 2014 and realized her boozy brunches and weekend binges had brought her up to 240 pounds.
“I stared at myself in the mirror with tears in my eyes and asked myself, ‘How did I let myself get like this?” Vasquez told Women’s Health in March. “I always tried to blame it on my genes, but really, I was obsessed with fast food and I wasn’t working out.”
She kept trying to adopt healthier eating habits, and while she did lose some weight, it wasn’t nearly as much as she wanted. Then her friend recommended Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide program. From the first 28-minute workout, she was hooked.
“It was never easy, but I saw my body and mindset change so much and that kept me going,” she said. “For the first time ever, I totally believed in myself and knew that I was capable of my weight loss goals.” Her fitness regime inspired her to eat healthy, too. She does the Whole 30 diet when she falls off track and needs to get back to good patterns. All in all, Vasquez has lost 80 pounds, and gained more than 70,000 Instagram followers in the process.
“I’ve gotten out of my comfort zone and experienced a whole life that I never thought I’d be a part of,” she recently wrote on Instagram. “While my belly may be a little fluffier today, I’m happy from where I started and eager to see where I’ll end up.”
18The dad who lost 92 pounds to be a better father
In 2017, Jeremiah Peterson, 40, went on a hiking trip with his family and quickly found that he couldn’t keep up with his young children.
“I had a kind of ‘aha’ moment,” Peterson told The New Haven Register in April. “I reflected on what my life had been. I thought about what my life was at that very moment, and saw what I wanted my life to be.”
At the time, his days were consumed by the antiques store he had opened with his wife, and his evenings were spent sitting around drinking beer. Weighing 290 pounds at the time, he decided to make some changes by going on the keto diet, cutting out all alcohol, and hiking in the great outdoors. Once he was in better shape, he began lifting weights again, and his body transformation has garnered him more than 113,000 Instagram followers. He certainly looks like he could run after his kids without losing his breath now.
“The road to your dreams isn’t always going to be easy to accomplish,” Peterson recently wrote on Instagram. “Just remember this if you get lost along the way: that anything worth having doesn’t come easy. You have to be willing to dig down deep and do the work and most importantly never give up.”