By the time Stacey Robinson reach the fourth grade, she was tipping the scales at 130 pounds.
"It was really hard," she said. "The other kids at school were always making fun of me. It was tough."
Her parents had both grown up in poverty, she said, so when her father began to earn a good living as a coal miner, her mom and dad filled the house with junk food they'd never been able to have for themselves.
"We would go to the store and pick out candy and chips and whatever. My mom wanted to give us a better life than she'd had," Robinson said.
As her weight ballooned, she began trying to lose weight, "going up and down on every kind of diet you can imagine," including "a starvation thing, where I got down to 90 pounds but then gained it all back and then some. I was miserable," she said.
As a hairdresser, she saw a lot of overweight people who'd had hip replacements, knee replacements and other problems with health and mobility.
In January 2012, at 43 years of age, "I thought, 'I'm going to be one of those people if I don't do something now.'"
She went to Transformations Weight Loss and Skin Clinic, where treatment included weight-loss medications, B-12 injections and diet and exercise counseling. She also set small, achievable goals.
At 5-foot-5, she went from 197 pounds to 154 pounds over the period of one year, and dropped from a size 18 to an 8. She's maintained the weight loss for one year and said today she's going strong.
"I've settled into a normal, healthy lifestyle. I even like to exercise now -- I do it pretty much every day," she said, adding, "I feel like I'm 20 years younger. People tell me I'm an inspiration to them!"
As for advice for others, she said, "Believe in yourself, and keep going. Really, if I could do it anybody could do it, because I was hopeless. I was really hopeless."
'Tired of trying and failing'
Anne Landgrebe knew she had to do something about her weight. At 5-foot-2 and 223 pounds, she said, "I was tired a lot. I didn't feel good inside, and I was very self-conscious."
But what exactly could she do that she hadn't already tried, she wondered.
"Since I was 8 years old I've had a weight problem," Landgrebe said. "I could always lose 20, 25 pounds, but I could never get beyond that, and I could never keep it off. I hated to have people see me out there walking, and I was tired of trying and failing."
Landgrebe turned to a solution some people may view as an easy way out: She opted for lap band surgery, in which her doctor, through a series of small incisions in her stomach, wrapped an adjustable band around the upper part of her stomach to limit the amount of food her stomach can hold. It's a far less invasive technique than some other weight-loss surgeries, although some studies show it's also less effective for many patients. Her insurance through PEIA covered almost the entire procedure.
"It's not an easy way out," she said. "It's a tool that helps you not be as hungry. But you still have to put the work into it. Three weeks after surgery, I was cleared to start exercising and now I exercise every morning before work, whether I have time to do 10 minutes or 30 minutes. I make sure to do something."
That was perhaps the biggest lifestyle change for a woman who admits she never used to exercise. But she's also changed her eating habits. After years of struggling with her weight, a milestone birthday proved to be the motivation she needed.
"I was approaching 40, and there was a whole history of diabetes and high blood pressure in my family. And I was just not going to weigh 223 pounds and turn 40 years old. I was just not going to do it."
Surgery was the one thing she hadn't tried.
"When I first thought about having the surgery, I thought, 'I haven't done it in 32 years of trying, and I don't want to wait another 32 years.'"
She dropped 90 pounds over 15 months, and weighs in today at 133 pounds.
Success is contagious!
If you've lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off for a year or more and would like to share your story, send an email with "successful losers" in the subject line to soc...@wvgazette.com. Include your name, your phone number, where you live and your age.
Tell us about your weight-loss journey: how long you struggled to lose the weight, any particular challenges you faced physically, emotionally, professionally or socially as a result of your extra weight, and how and why you finally got it off. Give us your before and after weight, and send a couple of pictures that clearly show the results.
Finally, tell us the biggest, most exciting changes in your life as a result of the weight loss, and any advice you have for friends and neighbors who'd like to follow in your footsteps. We'll publish some of the most inspirational stories in a future article.
Reach Maria Young at maria.yo...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5115.