As December comes to a close, many of us are engaging in some end-of-year reflection, not only upon what has been gained over the last 12 months, but, in the case of the individuals profiled as part of our ongoing I Lost Weight series, what's been lost.
Each week, we introduce you to someone who has discovered an unknown love of fitness, revamped dietary habits, proven unsupportive family members wrong or simply conquered the negative thoughts in their heads. These people share the path to their weight-loss goal, and simultaneously inspire us to make changes in our own journeys.
Below, we've highlighted some of the most inspirational insights from the weight loss success stories featured in 2014. Together, they've lost more than 3,200 pounds -- and gained tremendous perspective on what it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
If you have a success story of your own, we'd love to hear from you! Just send your story and a few photos to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you could be featured on the site.
Justin lost 564 pounds
"I felt overwhelmed, but I decided to take one day at a time. I didn't know if I would live or die. I just knew that I had to focus on the day I was living. I had a 'lose weight or die trying' mentality."
Read Justin's story here
Dave lost 220 pounds
"I knew I owed it to my son to try to break the family tree of obesity. There are so many compromises to being an obese parent: I was simply forfeiting the ability to participate in so many wonderful moments. I used to sweat so much before. I couldn't fit in some amusement park rides. It is a tragedy to work so hard, only to find yourself too exhausted to enjoy your life."
Read Dave's story here
Brenda lost 283 pounds
"As the pounds started to come off, I noticed a change, but others didn't -- until the day I appeared outside of my office standing up. Using two canes and breathing like a miler, I took a slow, short stroll down the hallway to applause from stunned colleagues. It was humiliating to be doing that walk with canes, but I was so determined. I just sucked it up."
Read Brenda's story here
John lost 181 pounds
"My goal is to train and inspire people to show them that the weight loss is possible. Going from someone who would rather sit in his bedroom playing Call of Duty to someone who has lost 181 pounds and is working toward living the rest of his life as a healthy and fit individual is something I am very proud of."
Read John's story here
Ben lost 200 pounds
"In the year since reaching my lowest weight, I've seen some amazing things happen in my life. I married an amazing woman who is the absolute greatest thing in my life. I put on a 5K in my hometown to celebrate losing 200 pounds and raised $10,000 for local elementary schools to purchase fitness equipment. I injured my knee, gained a little weight back and learned the struggle to recoup from that -- but I've appreciated every minute of it along the way because I'm able to do so."
Read Ben's story here
Sherlonda lost 148 pounds
"My daughter came to me and said she wanted to lose weight for her prom. I told her what to do, but I
wasn't doing it. I couldn't show her discipline. I knew that most of her weight issues were because of me and how I had fed her as a child. I didn't want her to wait until she was 36 to try to deal with it. So, we started bootcamp!"
Read Sherlonda's story here
Troy lost 230 pounds
"My dad pushed me and motivated me to start working out. He would tell me he wanted me to be around for a long time."
Read Troy's story here
Cody lost 177 pounds
"Every day you will battle how you look in the mirror. You start to let the scale define you. Every meal becomes a challenge. Will you gain weight when you're trying to lose it? Yes. Will you have moments where you eat bad food? Yes. Will there be times when you feel like you're doing everything right but still aren't achieving your goals? Yes. You must love yourself, trust your support network and trust your program."
Read Cody's story here
Eve lost 150 pounds
"The important thing was I never gave up. Some days I ate things that were unhealthy. I am human; this happens. I would simply pick up where I left off and keep going. I hit plateaus and felt the weight would never come off, but I kept reminding myself how far I had already come."
Read Eve's story here
Danny lost 200 pounds
"[My girlfriend] lives on the third floor, and it got to the point where we would need to take a break and catch our breath before finishing the stairs. I was 26, and she was 21; we should have had no problems with the steps! We knew it was time for the biggest change of our lives."
Read Danny's story here
Mark lost 300 pounds
"I've had my ups and downs with anxiety and depression. I'd lose some weight and then I'd gain it back. What changed was figuring out that I deserved better. I deserved a life, a family, love, everything I had always hoped and dreamed of growing up. I wanted to get married, settle down and grow old with someone."
Read Mark's story here
Jamie lost 210 pounds
"I sought counseling, something I had put off for so long ... I knew, though, that if I had to wake up another morning with a feeling of dread, completely overwhelmed by what I had done to my body, mind and spirit, I wouldn't live to see my 40th birthday ... I had let myself get up to almost 400 pounds, a size 30+, and all the love and support from my husband and family didn't matter. I needed to love and support myself
. It started with believing I was worthy of that love."
Read Jamie's story here
Pedro lost 232 pounds
"The reality is that there is no finish line in weight loss, because in maintenance, the journey continues. But I am so looking forward to finding out what the future holds for me. I am in better health and have more energy than I ever had in my entire life. It has been a slow and steady process for me. It has been a struggle. At the end of the day, I may have been through a lot, but I have accomplished a lot, too."
Read Pedro's story here
Teena lost 166 pounds
"It is so exciting to be able to do things as simple as cleaning the house without having to sit down every 15 minutes or as cool as walking a 5K. I can go places with friends and family because I no longer feel like a giant embarrassment to them or myself. I can look people in the eye when I talk instead of wanting to crawl in a hole so the world wouldn't see me. Reaching this point in my life is the greatest feeling, and if just one person who reads this can find anything that can help them start their journey, then that just adds to my joy of deciding to save my own life."
Read Teena's story here