Slim-Down Success Stories

Ready to shed some pounds? Here's how three real brides got into their best shape ever.

Ranee Theil Johnson


Age: 31
Hometown: Apple
Valley, Minnesota
Height: 5" 7"
Before: 185 lbs.
After: 137 lbs.
Pounds lost: 48

Ask Ranee Theil Johnson how she went from a size 10-12, which she'd maintained through her teens and early twenties, to a size 16, and she'll tell you: "Love made me fat." When Ranee met her now-husband, Michael, the pounds started piling on—they ate out (usually large portions), and she also ate high-fat, high-calorie lunches, like macaroni 'n' cheese and fried chicken; she ate neither fruit nor vegetables; and she didn't exercise. A recipe for disaster!

One day Ranee was looking through some vacation snapshots and couldn't believe her eyes. "At first I thought it was just one bad picture, but then I saw that all the photos of me were bad," she says. With both her wedding and her 30th birthday coming up, Ranee decided to join Weight Watchers. "I learned to use my calories wisely," she says, "and pick foods that filled me up, like fruit and vegetables, rather than those that were high in calories but not filling, like Reese's Pieces and French fries." She also began to cook meals from low-calorie cookbooks.

Ranee and her fiancé decided that they would still treat themselves to occasional dinners out, but now she chose restaurants that offered healthier fare; if she was unfamiliar with a restaurant, she'd first go online to look up its menu. "I'd decide what to order before we even got to the place," she says. Instead of high-fat lunches, she carried lunch from home, like green salads with grilled chicken or turkey wraps. A snack might be fat-free yogurt with cut-up fruit. When she wanted to indulge, she'd break a cookie in two pieces, eat one half and throw the other out. "This gave me the taste I was craving, and I'd cherish those couple of bites!" she explains.

Three weeks after changing her eating habits, Ranee began an exercise regimen that consisted of walking three miles, three to four times a week. A few months into it, she and some coworkers began running together; eventually, they trained to run 5K and 10K races. "This provided me with a goal other than my wedding, and encouraged me to keep going after the wedding," Ranee says. When she and her friends made gym dates, they'd plan three months of them at one time and write them in their calendars.

Nine months after she started, as she boarded the plane to Hawaii for her wedding, Ranee was 48 pounds lighter and wearing a size 6-8. "It was the perfect way to begin this new chapter in my life," she says.

Ranee's Tips:

  • Read labels. Don't buy anything without checking out the serving size, calories and fat.
  • Take it slow. Radically overhauling your diet and exercise all at once is overwhelming. First, change your eating habits, then add exercise.
  • Chart your progress. Make an Excel graph of how much you lose each week. Every time you see the numbers going down, you'll think, "I'm succeeding. I can do this."
  • Make "planned-overs." This is when you make twice as much of your healthy dinner so that you have something low in calories to eat for lunch the next day.