Women Lose Half Their Weight: How They Did It

ABC News Blogs

 At 25 years old and 288 pounds, Ashley Donahoo was depressed.

"I was unhappy with my job, I was unhappy with the direction my life was going, and I had a hard time enjoying the little things that my kids wanted to do," the 27-year-old mother of two from Pace, Fla., said. "My health was failing. My doctor told me that he didn't think I was going to make it to 30 if I kept on [this way]. … It kept getting worse and worse."

View gallery


(Courtesy: Ashley Donahoo)

Donahoo was concerned, but it was her faithful husband, David, who pushed her on a path to health, starting with a walk around the block.

"His heart was breaking for me," she said. "And he saw how unhappy I was, and he came to me and said, 'We're going to go for a walk.' And I was, like, 'No, we're not.'"

Her husband won that battle, and on the walk, she started thinking about her own choices and future.

"The realization hit me that I made this choice. I made this choice to get where I am right now. So I'm going to start making a different choice," she said. "I put my health and myself on back burner, and I think … it had all caught up to me."

View gallery


(Courtesy: Caroline Jhingory)

Like Donahoo, Caroline Jhingory reached a similar eye-opening realization about her weight.

"I looked in the mirror one day and just realized I didn't recognize the person that was staring back at me," said Jhingory, 32, of Washington, D.C.

Jhingory's struggles with her weight began early. At age 8, she weighed 120 pounds. Taunted by her peers, Jhingory was enrolled in a medical weight loss program, but it didn't work because she would sneak junk food like candy bars.

 "I found a way to be a food hustler and get whatever food I wanted," she said. "Not only did I spend two decades of my life morbidly obese. I spent two decades of my life being taunted and teased in every environment. I never went to prom. I never had dates. I couldn't ride a roller coaster because the safety bar wouldn't go over my stomach."

Jhingory remained heavy until college, when she tipped the scales at 303 pounds and started feeling self-conscious in her new environment.

"I felt like I had a moment when all these difficult experiences were a huge pause button on my life. I finally said to myself, 'I'm tired of this. I want to have a normal life.'"

View gallery


Jhingory after.

Jhingory started walking everywhere. Then, she took up a daily cardio regimen to shed the weight, and she rid her pantry of tempting snack foods she once binged on. Now, ten years later and 149 pounds, she has reclaimed her shape and kept off the weight.

"When I'm on that treadmill I'm thinking about those bad situations but it makes me push harder and go stronger," she said today on "GMA."

Jhingory's amazing transformation, along with Donahoo's and other weight-loss success stories, were spotlighted in the "Half Their Size" feature in the latest issue of People magazine.

RELATED: Is Being Overweight Really Bad For You?

View gallery


Donahoo after.

Donahoo cut out the late-night binges on Chinese food and snacks that brought her down and thanks to her strong support system, lost 137 pounds.

"I knew better, but it was a comfort thing," Donahoo said of her late-night junk food runs. "It was what I had control over. I still indulge because it's not about complete deprivation. It's about moderation and changing things …. I have a turkey burger and I have fat-free cheese, those kinds of changes. It's a lifestyle."

She credited her weight loss success to tracking her food and exercise on livestrong.com and running. She has run two 5Ks.

View gallery


(Courtesy: Leah Fernandez)

Leah Fernandez of Atlanta, Ga., found herself at 251 pounds after two pregnancies. The baby weight stuck and she tended to eat emotionally.

"I wanted the food," she said. "It made me feel good, and so I ate it."

 But the motivation to be there for her children helped her turn it all around.

"Thinking about going out to the park with my kids felt like work to me, you know? And at some point I realized that's ridiculous. Not only am I cheating myself but I'm cheating my kids of me," she said.

Fernandez was close to reaching her weight loss goal when tragedy struck.

"I got the news one morning that my husband was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident coming home from work. Just the day before we'd completed our first 5K together, which was a very significant moment in my life," she said today. "He lived passionately and so I continue to honor his legacy and to help my kids."

View gallery


Fernandez after.

Fernandez turned to Jenny Craig in March 2011 and hasn't looked back. Since then, she has lost half her weight by staying active with her kids and incorporating walking into her lifestyle.

"I'm getting my groove back. Leah's getting her groove back," she said. "Life today is amazing. It renders me speechless, honestly. I have energy. I have vitality of life. I take things on without fear now."

Watch more amazing weight loss stories on "20/20: Half Their Size" Friday at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

View Comments (674)

Recommended for You

  • Jeb Bush's Fall (or Maybe Rise)

    On the eve of today’s New Hampshire presidential primary, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush finished his day at the Frank Jones Center on the seacoast, the same locale where another unlikely GOP contender, John McCain, once hosted his final town hall in a state that he ultimately won eight…

    Good Morning America9 mins ago
  • EXCLUSIVE: ‘Real Housewives’ Star Teresa Giudice Says Prison Was Like ‘Living in Hell’

    The showers were freezing cold ... I mean, the living conditions were really horrible. Speaking from her New Jersey home, the 43-year-old Giudice talked to Robach about her finances, her future and her time in prison –- including working for 12 cents an hour in the kitchen. The reality TV star…

    Good Morning America15 mins ago
  • Oscars Countdown: Stars Gather at Nominees Luncheon

    In “The Danish Girl,” Alicia Vikander’s character brims with tenderness and understanding. In “The Hateful Eight,” Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character Daisy is no fragile flower. Both actresses are Oscar nominees in the supporting actress category. At Monday’s Nominees Luncheon in Beverly Hills, the…

    Good Morning America15 mins ago
  • Marco Rubio Believes He Must Be ‘Doing Something Right’

    Sen. Marco Rubio today brushed off recent attacks by his GOP rivals, saying he must be "doing something right," and expressing confidence despite what he called the "unusual set up" in today’s New Hampshire primary. Despite Christie's attacks, Rubio believes he had "a very strong debate," and…

    Good Morning America39 mins ago
  • Everything You Need to Know About the New Hampshire Primary

    Regardless of who wins, there’s a reason for Granite Staters to celebrate: Tuesday marks the 100th anniversary of the New Hampshire primary. Secretary of State William Gardner is predicting a record surge in Republican ballots cast.

    Good Morning America44 mins ago
  • Dixville Notch Casts First Votes in New Hampshire Primary

    The nine voters of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, became some of the first in the state -- and consequently, first in the nation -- to cast their ballots in the presidential primary in the early hours of Tuesday. New Hampshire has held the "First in the Nation" presidential primary since 1920, and…

    Good Morning America44 mins ago
  • John Kasich’s New Hampshire Primary Day Prediction: ‘We’re Going to Finish Very Strong’

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose campaign has maintained a laser-like focus on performing well in today’s New Hampshire primary, declined to predict exactly how he would place once all the votes are counted here, but sounded a note of confidence in an interview today on "Good Morning America.""We’re…

    Good Morning America52 mins ago
  • Good Morning America58 mins ago
  • Bernie Sanders and the Expectations Game in New Hampshire

    Sen. Bernie Sanders might be the underdog nationwide, but he has been leading in the polls in New Hampshire for months. Another from UMass-Lowell, also out Monday, had Sanders at 56 percent and Clinton at 40 percent. While the numbers would be exciting for any campaign, they have also set the…

    Good Morning America
  • DA in Cornell Sex Assault Case Condemns Underage Drinking Culture on Campuses

    The district attorney prosecuting a Cornell University fraternity president accused of attempted rape and sexual abuse blamed schools in general for "turning a blind eye" to the subject of underage drinking in connection with sexual assault on college campuses. Wolfgang Ballinger, 21, a member of…

    Good Morning America
  • Zika Virus Outbreak Prompts CDC to Activate Highest Emergency Ops Level

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emergency Operations Center has been moved to Level 1, the agency's highest level, due to the risk of Zika virus transmission in the U.S., officials said today. The Level 1 activation is "reflecting the agency’s assessment of the need for an…

    Good Morning America
  • 'Girls' Star Lena Dunham Taking Time Off for 'Chronic' Illness

    The acclaimed HBO show "Girls" is back for a new season this month, but its biggest star will not being making press appearances due to a "chronic condition."Lena Dunham took to Instagram today to write, "I just wanted to let you know that, while I am so excited for Girls to return on Feb 21, I…

    Good Morning America
  • WWE Wrestler Daniel Bryan to Retire

    Former WWE champion and professional wrestling star Daniel Bryan is retiring."Due to medical reasons, effective immediately, I am announcing my retirement. Tonight on Raw, I'll have a chance to elaborate. #gratitude," he tweeted on Monday.Read: Stone Cold Steve Austin: My Life After Pro…

    Good Morning America
  • Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Rocked by Hurricane-Force Winds Heads Back to New Jersey

    A Royal Caribbean cruise ship that was rocked by hurricane-force winds overnight is sailing back to port in Bayonne, New Jersey. The ship left from Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on Saturday for a seven-night cruise to the Bahamas. The company posted a message on Twitter saying that all guests are…

    Good Morning America
  • Panda Cub Bei Bei Climbs a Tree With the Help of His Mom

    Bei Bei is moving up in the world.The Smithsonian National Zoo’s baby panda experienced the outdoors for the first time last week and now the nearly six-month-old cub is scaling trees—-with the help of his mom Mei Xiang, of course. The Washington DC based Zoo posted a video of the feat online this…

    Good Morning America
  • Chinese New Year Fireworks So Dangerous That Only a Few Get to Witness

    For much of the next two weeks, millions of Chinese will welcome in the Year of Monkey, which begins today, with a cavalcade of fireworks lighting up the night’s sky. In almost every corner of every city or village in Mainland China, families will light their own firecrackers and boxes of…

    Good Morning America
  • Countdown to New Hampshire With 5 Things to Watch in Tuesday's Primary

    Tuesday will be a critical moment on the road to the White House as residents of the Granite State cast their votes in the first-in-the-nation primary. With independents making up more than 40 percent of the electorate, the New Hampshire primary can often surprise, and that may be the case…

    Good Morning America