Monthly Archives: May 2017

How I Swam, Biked, and Ran My Way to a 70 Lb. Weight Loss

Cris Wade, 47, 6'1", from Sacramento, California
Before: 235 lb., size 16/18
After: 165 lb., size 8/10
Total pounds lost: 70 lb.
Total sizes lost: 4

I never had weight problems until after I had children. Having two kids in two years—and leaning on a diet of fast food—made the numbers on the scale start to climb. By August 2008, I was 235 pounds, depressed, and low on energy. I realized that if I didn’t change, I would continue to feel miserable for years to come. So I went after something that seemed an audacious goal: running a half marathon. To complete one, I knew I needed to be healthier.

Starting from zero

My first step was tackling the two-mile loop in my neighborhood. I assumed a light jog would be effortless, but I struggled to make it past just two houses on my street. While part of me was humiliated, moving my body felt invigorating. Fortunately, my excitement won out, and I continued making my way around that same path daily, each time walking less and running more. I dropped pounds fast, thanks to regular runs and much smarter diet choices (I began swapping Taco Bell for grilled salmon and veggies). But I hit a snag when I suffered a hip injury right before my first half marathon in December 2008. Worried that I’d have to completely stop exercising, I was relieved when my doctor said I could still bike and swim while I recovered.

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Surprising myself

By March 2009, I was down to 165 pounds and finally able to run again, so I tackled my first half marathon. Bitten by the triple-sport bug (I fell in love with biking and swimming during my time off from running), I did my first triathlon just one month later. Since then I’ve completed countless races, including seven Ironman competitions, which consist of 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and 26.2 miles of running. How do I feel now when I think back to the day when I could barely make it down my street? Humbled, empowered, and, most important, unstoppable.

WATCH THE VIDEO: 12 Low-Calorie Foods That Boost Weight Loss

Cris's hacks for a killer body

Get grilling. I used to think boiled broccoli was the only way to eat veggies. Now I throw greens like artichokes and asparagus on the grill, which boosts their flavor and texture—and makes clean eating way more interesting.

Journal it. I record all my workouts in a spiral notebook. It sounds old school, but seeing my progress inspires me to keep pushing myself.

Buddy up. As the new owner of a gym (Kaia FIT Natomas) who also teaches group fitness classes, I've seen that having a support system to share your goals with makes you that much more likely to achieve them. My advice: Find a friend (or five) who will keep you accountable.

Wake up ready. My favorite coffee mug says "Suck It Up, Buttercup." It's the first thing I see in the morning, and it's a source of motivation that gets me moving.


As told to Anthea Levi

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Husband and Wife Lost More Than 200 Lbs. by Embracing Health Together: ‘We Keep Each Other Strong’

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This article originally appeared on 

At 311 lbs. and 5’8″, Brenda Bennett could no longer do some of the things she loved, like being active outdoors. “I remember hiking with my family in June 2014 and I was exhausted and couldn’t do the full hike,” says the Elko, Nevada mom of three.  “I was so upset about it. I was really mad at myself. I thought, ‘I can’t be like this anymore.’ ”

Around the same time, her husband Nathan was struggling with his weight. The 6’4″ former college athlete found himself at 405 lbs., despite lifting weights and doing Crossfit. “We weren’t eating healthy at home, so it didn’t translate into weight loss success,” says Brenda.

They decided to start making some lifestyle changes together. “We cut our sugar and started eating more vegetables — raw vegetables in salads and roasted vegetables,” says Brenda. “Whenever I could, I would take out a starch.” The couple also focused on clean eating.

Then came portion control. They tracked all meals and exercise on the app My Fitness Pal. “It helped us rein in the calorie consumption and beef up the exercise and energy we were burning so we could create the deficit necessary for weight loss,” Brenda explains. They also found motivation in social media, first following fitspiration accounts on Instagram and then creating their own — @brengetsfit and @nategetsfit — to share their struggles and successes.


Once they got serious about dropping pounds, it took between 14-18 months for Brenda, 42, and Nathan, 45, to each lose about 130 lbs. naturally. Since then they have managed to keep it off through healthy eating and exercise. “Because of our schedules we don’t get to work out together very often, but we make sure one of us has the time to make it happen six days a week,” says Brenda. “We do have a little friendly competition, but as long as we’re both getting healthier, we’re both winning!”

She credits the joint effort for their success. “It was a big help to cheer each other on and not let the other person run down to the convenience store and cheat with whatever you can get your hands on,” she says, laughing. “We keep each other strong.”

And the Bennetts’ slow-and-steady approach has definitely paid off. “It’s fun to walk by a mirror and do a double take, like, whoa, that’s me!” says Brenda. But the aesthetics are only half of it.

“I love being able to do whatever I want physically, to be able to challenge myself and know that I will be able to do it and get better every single day. It’s so great to have the energy to keep up with teenagers and do all of the fun family stuff together.”

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How This Aspiring Nutritionist Lost 107 Lbs.— and Encouraged Her Family to Lose a Total of 275 Lbs.

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“Watch the full episodes of We Lost 100 Pounds! now on the new People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to or download the PEN app on your favorite device.

This article originally appeared on 

Hannah Jenkins says that she was never bullied for her size.

She reached her highest weight — 278 lbs. — when she was in seventh grade, but “growing up in the South, it wasn’t that out of the ordinary to be overweight,” she says. “We just had no idea that people ate any other way.”

Jenkins, now 22, says that overeating was just part of her daily routine. “Every day I would come home from school, watch TV with my sisters and eat a whole package of snack cakes,” she says. After dinner, she’d continue to snack on packaged foods like ramen with cheese and more snack cakes. But when she got to college, everything changed.

RELATED: Sneaky Things That Make You Eat More (Even When You're Not Hungry)

“The turning point for me was meeting so many new people and realizing ‘Wow, I’m really actually very uncomfortable,’ ” the Knoxville, Tennessee, resident says. “I kind of became comfortable in that shell back home. In college I was like, ‘I don’t want this to be my first impression to everybody.’ ”

On New Year’s Day in 2013, Jenkins started her weight loss journey. “I used My Fitness Pal app to log my food, workouts and all the water I drank,” she says. She started off doing about an hour a day of cardio — 45 minutes on the elliptical and 20 minutes on the exercise bike — and after a few months, she moved on to weight training three days a week for 30 minutes. It took her one full year to lose 102 lbs, and in December 2016, after she’d lost 106 lbs., she had a tummy tuck to remove excess skin.

RELATED: Woman Who Lost 130 Lbs. Shares Photo of Her Loose Skin: 'I Don't Want to Sugarcoat Anything'

Jenkins says that one reason she was able to lose the weight and keep it off was because she didn’t deprive herself. “I didn’t cut out anything completely; it’s about portion control,” she says. Now she loads up on protein for breakfast by eating either oatmeal with fruit and peanut butter or a protein shake, and sticks to lean proteins and small amounts of carbs like sweet potatoes and rice.

For more inspiring weight loss stories, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.

Education about health and wellness was a huge part of Jenkins’s success — she just graduated college with a degree in nutrition. “My goal in life is just to help other people lose weight, in any way, any kind of job that I might be able to do that. Even if it’s just one person, [I want] to help one person change their lives like I changed mine.”

She’s already inspiring those close to her: “My whole family is motivated to get healthy because of me: My twin sister lost 170 lbs., my little sister lost 50 lbs. and my dad has lost 55 lbs.!”

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‘I Lost 40 Pounds So I Could Donate My Kidney to My Friend’

I hadn't heard from my friend Chris in over three years when a post from him showed up in my Facebook feed last autumn: he needed a new kidney to live.

I could hardly believe it. When we worked together as restaurant servers 10 years ago outside of Pittsburgh, Chris played softball and volleyball. In his late 20s then, he was the picture of good health. Since that time, his health had gone downhill due to a potentially fatal condition called chronic kidney disease—which causes the kidneys to stop filtering blood as efficiently as they should. The only cure is a transplant.

RELATED: 12 Weight-Loss Secrets From Celebrity Chefs

I messaged Chris right back. He replied that he was trying to stay positive, but ti was a challenge trying to find a donor who shares his Type O blood, which is the least common type. I happen to have Type O blood as well. So without even thinking, I wrote, “I have two kidneys. Both work. You’re more than happy to have one.”

When he read my offer, Chris broke down and started crying, I found out later. His message to me in return said, “you have no idea the encouragement you just gave me.” Donating my kidney was not a hard decision for me. My thinking was, his life is as important as mine.

Becoming a donor

Soon after our conversation, I started the process of becoming a kidney donor. I got on the phone with Chris’s transplant coordinator, who took my medical history. That was followed by an entire day of testing at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a visit with a psychologist. Everyone wanted to make sure I was physically and mentally prepared to give up one of my kidneys, which I was.

The final step two months later involved speaking with the two surgeons scheduled to perform the operation. “It’s great that you want to do this,” both told me, “but you’re too heavy.” At 5 feet 7 inches tall, I weighed 218 pounds—but I needed to weigh less than 200 pounds to be approved as a donor, they said. 

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My first reaction was shock. I’m too fat to save someone’s life? I thought. The doctors explained that they made the call because being overweight put me at risk of having health problems down the road.

I was upset and felt terrible for Chris. But as hard is this was to hear, I had to admit that the doctors made a good point. The truth was, I had not taken good care of myself since my son, now 3, was born. I’d gained a lot of weight, but I didn’t have the motivation to start working out or change my eating habits. Yet now, I did have that motivation: Chris’s life depended on it.

Motivated to make changes

As a restaurant manager, I have access to plenty of healthy foods, but I was more prone to eating a plate of fried cheese sticks. So the first thing I did was give up all fried foods. Instead, I ate salads, grilled chicken, cottage cheese, and fresh fruit.

Next, I put an emphasis on getting active. My company happened to be holding a 5K a few weeks after I began my weight loss journey. How hard could it be? I thought as I signed up. Well, it was the worst thing ever. I was out of breath, my muscles ached, my knees hurt, and I was soaked in sweat. But I made it to the finish line. Afterward, I hung the medal in my car and vowed I would keep running until I could run 5K every day.

RELATED: Best Snacks for Weight Loss

As a working mom, my time is limited. But I made a point to get in a run, or at the very least a walk, every single day. I set my alarm clock for 30 minutes earlier than usual to do it in the morning, or I forced myself to be active late at night while my ex-husband watched our son. By the end of 2016, I was able to run 3 miles, no problem.

40 pounds later

My drive to lose weight started out as a temporary thing; I just wanted to get under that 200 pound cutoff and be able to donate my kidney to Chris. But every day, I woke up feeling better and better, and soon, my new eating and exercise habits were a regular part of my life. This spring, I joined two local running groups and even finished a half-marathon. Instead of dropping just 18 pounds, I’ve lost 40. I feel so much healthier and can’t imagine going back to how I used to be.

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I didn’t want to worry Chris, so I only told him recently that his doctors gave me the okay to donate my kidney. The transplant surgery is likely to happen this fall (doctors are trying to hold out until Chris' kidney functioning becomes truly critical). I’m not frightened by the surgery, which is generally considered pretty safe for donors. In fact, I’m less scared about that then I was running the half-marathon this spring!

The amazing thing about this story is that I went into it hoping to save a friend’s life—and in a way, he ended up saving mine.

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Woman Who Lost 130 Lbs. Shares Photo of Her Loose Skin: ‘I Don’t Want to Sugarcoat Anything’

This article originally appeared on

Jordaan Spark was 250 lbs. when she married her husband, and never thought he would be able to pick her up. So when she lost 130 lbs. after two years of dedicated diet and exercise and he was able to lift her, she wanted to share the milestone on Instagram — even though this meant putting her loose skin on display.

“I’ve never had anyone pick me up since I was a kid, and I was around 250 lbs. when I reconnected with my husband, so I never would even let him try,” the Bastrop, Texas-based stay-at-home mom, 24, tells PEOPLE. “So when he picked me up with no hesitation, I was over the moon. I wanted to document it with a picture so that I could share my ‘non-scale victory’ with my weight loss community, because it’s a pretty big deal!”

The occasion happened while Spark was wearing a swimsuit, and admits she initially hesitated to share the photo.

“For a split second, I thought, ‘I can’t post this, my skin looks awful,’ but after that moment I posted it anyways because I’ve worked so hard to lose this weight,” she says. “I don’t want to sugarcoat anything. This is me and the skin I live in every day.”

Spark never expected her photo to go viral, but it now has over 48,000 likes.

RELATED: 9 Before-and-After Photos That Show Weight Is Just a Number

“I think it’s gone viral because it is so raw, and thousands of people are experiencing the same thing with weight loss and loose skin,” she says. “It kind of comes with the territory of losing over 130 lbs.!”

Spark had struggled with her weight since she was a kid, and before she decided to get healthy, she never really paid attention to what she ate.

“My diet consisted of fast food, chips, candy, soda — all the stuff that is awful for you,” she says. “I was pouring it into my body like nothing.”

It wasn’t until she had her first baby that Spark decided to change her unhealthy habits.

“I’ve always known I’ve needed to change, but wasn’t really motivated until we had our first son,” she says. “I was looking at holiday pictures, and I didn’t even recognize myself and how big I had gotten. I looked at our baby boy, broke down in tears, and said enough was enough. I’m not going to be that mom that doesn’t do anything with her kids, I wanted to be involved, I wanted to play with them and go on adventures with my family.”

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Spark changed her diet, and focused on eating a diet low in carbs and high in protein.

“I eat the same thing every day: eggs, chicken, tuna, salads, broccoli, almonds and pepperoni,” she says. “I’ve learned to eat to fuel my body, as opposed to eating for pleasure.”

Before deciding she wanted to get in shape, Spark says she “was not active at all,”  and her sedentary lifestyle had already begun negatively affecting her health.

“I hurt so badly — my back, knees, hips and pretty much every joint in my body,” she says. “Getting out of bed was a chore for me. I dreaded going to sleep because of how painful it was going to be in the morning.”

She slowly began easing herself into an exercise routine.

“I started doing an at-home work out DVD,” says Spark. “And I have two very active boys, so that’s my exercise lately: going on walks, playing ball in the yard, playing tag, etc. They are my exercise!”

While Spark is thrilled her husband can now pick her up, that’s just one of the reasons she’s happy with her weight loss transformation.

“The best part has been being able to play with my kids, or go on a paddleboat with my husband, or walking into a store and picking out a size that actually fits me!”

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Do Diet and Exercise Really Make You Fat? Experts Respond to the TED Talk People Are Buzzing About 

In his recent TEDx Talk, Jay Cardiello argued that when it comes to our health, we’ve got it all wrong: “Diet and exercise makes you fat,” the strength and conditioning coach told the audience. And the health and fitness industry? “It’s a complete lie.”

Cardiello, who has trained both professional athletes and stars like Sofia Vergara and Jennifer Lopez, went on to highlight the misconceptions the industry creates. Dietitians who devise complicated weight-loss strategies (“they swap this food for that food, you eat this, don’t eat this”) are confusing people, he said. Labels like “all natural” and “gluten-free” on packaged foods are designed to trick us. And wellness brands are out to profit from our health problems.

Take fads like juice cleanses, for example. They leave people undernourished and fatigued, not fit. “The industry plays upon our emotions,” Cardiello said.

RELATED: 22 Ways to Get Happy Now

Health’s contributing nutrition editor Cynthia Sass, RD, MPH, agrees with some of Cardiello’s grievances. She says it’s important that consumers be skeptical of products and plans that aren’t backed by science. But calling the entire industry a farce isn’t fair either.

“There are many qualified nutrition and fitness practitioners that are motivated by helping people live healthier lives,” Sass says. As for food labels, Sass agrees they can be misleading: “Gluten-free” doesn’t automatically make a food healthy, for example. “Gluten-free foods can contain refined grains like white rice, added sugars, and lack nutrients.”

“But not every food labeled ‘gluten-free’ falls into this category,” she adds.

There is one diet plan that Cardiello does recommend: “Eat as if you have one day to live, or there’s a health scare.” In his TEDx talk, Cardiello made the case that staying healthy is simple as long as we get enough sleep, drink water, eat vegetables, surround ourselves with people that believe in us, and give to others.

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And fitness isn’t about push-ups and squats, Cardiello adds. “It’s about the quality of life that you’re living.” 

Los Angeles-based celebrity trainer Mike Donavanik is only half on-board with that notion: “I agree that everyone strives for a better quality of life—but doing exercises like push-ups and squats is what will give you that,” he says. 

Cardiello goes so far to say “the answer to fitness is walking”—a claim Donavanik strongly disagrees with. “Walking is not going to be enough,” the trainer told Health. “If you want more out of life, you have to work out hard and put in the effort,” he says. “There’s just no way around it.”

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The Healthiest Way to Do Intermittent Fasting, According to a Nutritionist

You’ve probably been hearing some buzz about intermittent fasting–the weight loss method that alternates fasting days and non-fasting days–especially since there’s been more and more research on its potential to help people slim down.

For example, in a new study published in JAMA, researchers divided obese men and women into two groups: One followed a traditional calorie-restricted eating plan, and the other group practiced intermittent fasting. After one year, the participants in both groups experienced similar results in terms of total weight loss, blood pressure, heart rate, triglycerides, fasting blood sugar and insulin levels, insulin resistance, and markers for inflammation.

The researchers noted, however, that the participants in the intermittent fasting group had a higher dropout rate (38% compared to 29%), which suggests that the eating plan may be less sustainable over time. In my practice I find that the approach isn’t for everyone. That said, if you’re interested in trying it—or you’ve already started—here are six strategies I recommend to maximize your results, and help you stick it out.

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Make every calorie count

There isn’t one standard protocol for intermittent fasting. But many plans limit total calories to just 500 on fasting days—which is why it’s important to make food quality a priority, and squeeze the most nutrition possible out of your meals and snacks. That means nixing processed foods, and focusing on fresh, healthy fare. Yes, you can technically afford to eat a 100-calorie snack pack of mini-chocolate chips cookies. But spending those same 100 calories on veggies and an organic egg delivers a broad spectrum of nutrients your body needs for energy, immunity, and digestive health. Bottom line: A calorie isn’t just a calorie, and quality is king.

Don’t fast on active days

It’s crucial to make sure you’re giving your body enough food to fuel upcoming activities. So if you’re going to fast Mondays and Wednesdays, don’t put more demands on your body with an intense spin class, or other serious workout. Make fasting days your rest days. Or at the very most, plan to do some stretching or light yoga.

In other words, timing matters. Think of your body like a car: You need to fill the gas tank before you go for a long drive, not the next day. The difference between a car and your body, however, is a car with no fuel will stop, while you can push your under-nourished body to keep moving. But slogging through workouts will only wear your body out, and up your risk of injury.

RELATED: What to Eat Before and After Every Kind of Workout

Focus on satiating foods

Certain foods tend to keep us feeling full longer than others. Generally, satiating nutrients include protein, good fat, and fiber. Think pulses (the umbrella term for beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas), eggs, poultry and seafood, nuts and seeds, avocado, and extra virgin olive oil.

Be sure to eat these foods on fasting days. Yes, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil packs 120 calories out of your 500. But using it to sauté or dress veggies will significantly boost how full you feel after a meal–and prevent lingering, gnawing hunger.

Up your volume

Larger portions don’t always mean more calories. It depends on what you’re eating. For example, three cups of popped popcorn (about the size of three baseballs) counts as a serving of whole grain; but it’s a much larger volume than a half cup of brown rice, which also counts as one serving of whole grain. Bonus: You can eat the popcorn one piece at a time, which makes it seem like even more food.

Raw veggies are another way to fill up your plate without blowing your calorie budget. One medium zucchini provides just 35 calories. And when shredded with a box grater, it becomes a generously sized “bed” for a serving of protein. Other veggies with low calorie counts per serving–which is one cup, or about the size of a tennis ball–include red bell peppers (45 calories), grape tomatoes and broccoli (30), spinach (7), and white button mushrooms (5).

Start to compare the calorie content of foods within the same group that differ in portion size. For example, a dozen steamed or boiled shrimp contains about the same number of calories as a single egg–with significantly more volume and more protein.

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Use herbs and spices generously

Natural seasonings offer several advantages on fasting days. They’re virtually calorie-free, but make meals and snacks more flavorful, aromatic, and visually appealing. They’ve also been shown to boost satiety, and rev up metabolism. Plus they’re chock full of antioxidants and help reduce inflammation in the body, which is tied to healthy metabolism and chronic disease prevention.

Simply adding roasted garlic, fresh basil, and a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar can transform a vine-ripened tomato. Rosemary compliments nearly any oven-roasted veggie. And a combo of lime juice, lime zest, and cilantro can jazz up anything from avocado to cauliflower.

If you aren’t super familiar with using culinary herbs, there are tons of online resources you can check out for guidance. But I also recommend experimenting on your own—I bet you’ll you have fun discovering some new favorite combinations.

Be mindful

On fasting days make a conscious effort to slow your eating pace. One tool that may help is to listen to a guided meditation once a day, even for just five minutes. Short daily meditations help improve mindfulness and slow your pace overall, including during meals and snacks. Eating slower, taking smaller bites, and removing mealtime distractions (including the TV and phone) have all been shown to boost satiety, and naturally curb calorie intake. This strategy is especially effective for helping you stick to your healthy regime—whether it’s intermittent fasting or another balanced plan.

Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and consultant for the New York Yankees. See her full bio here.

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Woman Who Lost 185 Lbs. Shows Off Excess Skin: ‘I Wanted People to Realize What Obesity Does’

This article originally appeared on 

When her 185-lb. weight loss left her with large amounts of excess skin, Jessica Weber didn’t let it bring her down. Instead, she’s sharing body-baring photos on Instagram to help others stay just as positive.

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Weber, 23, decided to finally lose weight after she hit 383 lbs., and had an emotional talk with her mom.

“My mom actually started crying, and told me she thought I’d die before her,” the Illinois-based Walmart associate tells PEOPLE. “It just hit me hard, and I knew I had to start losing weight. It became my motivation!”

Now she sticks to a low-carb, high-fat diet that has her down to 198 lbs. in just 15 months — but it hasn’t been easy.

“I’m not perfect by any means, and I do stray off of it, but that’s what I stick to for the most part,” Weber says. “So far it’s been a constant struggle. I have to wake up every day and convince my mind that this is the right thing to do. So many people don’t understand that it’s a mental battle more than physical.”

And the weight loss process became a bit tougher when she started noticing her excess skin.

“I was always prepared for it, but it is still such a struggle to deal with daily,” Weber says. “I’ve seen some people lose weight and have it not be such a problem, but I wasn’t that lucky.”

But Weber stayed upbeat about the excess skin, and decided to share photos of her body on social media.

“I wanted to be open about it on Instagram because I wanted people to realize what obesity does,” she says. “That they can make changes, but they’ll also face problems with loose skin in all areas. “I want people to not be scared, or feel hidden of what they accomplished after weight loss!”

RELATED: 4 Ridiculously Easy Diet Changes to Help Kickstart Your Weight Loss

Still, she was hesitant to post the first photo.

“I was extremely nervous. I almost didn’t share it because I thought it would get so much hate,” Weber says. “I’m glad I did because I was overwhelmed with kindness and love.”

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And she’s enjoying reading all of the comments as she focuses on losing the last 38-48 lbs., and plans for a tummy tuck.

“Seeing everyone so positive has been the best feeling,” Weber says. “It makes me more open about my journey!”

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