When Anne Moyer told her best friend, Diane Ritchie, she was going to lose weight a few years ago, Ritchie politely replied, "Good for you. You'll have to let me know how it works out."
Clearly, Ritchie had heard this before. In fact, she could look in the mirror herself and see that her friend's history of starting and stopping diets with little success was similar to her own.
The stay-at-home moms had been close since meeting in 2006 when their husbands were stationed in the Navy in Chesapeake, Va. Ritchie's family was transferred to Chicago in 2009, and that fateful phone conversation about losing weight took place shortly before Christmas 2010.
Ritchie hung up and thought about her friend's pledge. She picked up the phone and called Moyer back.
"I'm doing it with you," Ritchie remembers telling Moyer. "I'm going to start the same day you do, and I'm going to start to figure this out."
They began Jan. 6, 2011. Moyer weighed 336 pounds and squeezed into size 30 pants. Ritchie was 260 pounds and wore a size 24.
Leaning on each other as long-distance weight-loss "sponsors," the women would go on to lose more than 200 pounds the first year.
Big and beautiful
Their husbands always told them they were beautiful, no matter how big they got.
Both women loved to eat and didn't think about exercise. Before they knew it, they were obese.
Ritchie, 38, says she was chunky in high school, while Moyer, 42, was average size until she was about 20. Both women said their weight ballooned after their first pregnancies.
"I'd like to say it was some traumatic event," Ritchie says. "I had a lot of fun in my 20s and 30s and just didn't pay attention. Before I knew it, I was way up."
Moyer tells a similar story.
"I gained some, then I'd lose some, but I wouldn't lose all of it, and then I'd gain more than I lost. It just kept creeping up and up ... and then I just decided, "Well, this is me. I'm plus size."
Ritchie cooked healthy meals for her children but indulged on her own. Chicken without the skin removed, heavy pastas, wings and beer were all in frequent rotation. Moyer would make two 9-by-13 pans of white chocolate bread pudding at Christmas -- one for the family and one for herself.
Physical and emotional difficulties
Being obese took a physical toll on both women and their families.
For Moyer, just walking to the car from her front door caused her to break out into a sweat. If she went to one of her kids' sports games, she would watch from the car because the field was too far to walk.
"Say you go to Walmart -- I couldn't do both the grocery side and the regular side. I had to choose one side one day and the other side another day because I couldn't do the whole store and then get back out to the car, too."
Being overweight was also hard emotionally for Ritchie. Getting ready for military functions was torture. She would agonize over what to wear, needing her husband to hold her hand as she cried while getting dressed.
Her lowest point came in fall 2010 when a stranger at a gas station -- heavy himself -- made a nasty comment about the size of her rear end. Months later, the comment still stung.
The turning point
In 2010, Moyer developed sleep apnea, a disorder commonly associated with obesity in which breathing at night starts and stops. She was tired all the time, often fell asleep during the day and snored so loudly her husband had to sleep on the couch many nights.
"I thought, 'Oh my gosh, all the things I can't do anymore, and now I can't even sleep,' " she says.
Rather than go for more medical tests, she resolved to solve the problem herself.