Two years ago, eating out was a way of life for Jeremy and Susie Bowen of Greenville, Ind. "It got to the point that I wasn't buying anything to make dinner at home," says Susie, 37. "It was chips and queso, a whole Mexican meal and dessert afterward." Throw in a few deep-fried mozzarella sticks for a bedtime snack, and you had an average day of eating for the Bowens. "We were junk food junkies," she admits.
It wasn't always that way. Both Jeremy and Susie were active and healthy as kids—Jeremy played basketball in high school. But like a lot of people, the couple's healthy habits faded with their childhood. Marriage, careers and kids—and the fast food eating that came with their hectic schedule—filled in the gaps.
Soon Susie's weight had reached 187 lbs. and Jeremy's topped out at 290 lbs. "I was depressed," Jeremy says. "I couldn't do what I liked to do anymore; it wasn't the way I wanted to live."
Then in late 2006, something clicked for the couple. Jeremy, now 38, saw an old photo of himself with his dad. "I was the same age that he was in the photo, except I was way bigger than he was at the time," he says. For Susie, the tipping point came when she stepped on a scale at the hospital where she worked as a nurse. "I thought I would be 170, but I was 187," she says. "I thought, 'Oh, my God. I am thirteen pounds from 200.'" Right then and there the pair made a pact: they would join a nearby gym and work out every day.
And that's what they did. Susie started with slow walks on the treadmill and within a month had graduated to tough workouts on the elliptical machine. Jeremy, who works the swing shift in a steel mill, would hit the gym late at night because he didn't want to be seen struggling through his workouts. "In my head, I was still the athlete from high school, so I was very self-conscious about it,"Jeremy says. "I would make sure no one was there, and go in. Then I could go as hard as I could and take breaks when I needed to."
The couple also made some changes in their kitchen: They put away the fryer, got rid of sugary cereals and stocked up on healthy foods. They still eat out, but now it's with a healthy twist. "It got to be a game," Jeremy says. "We used to just look for whatever would ﬁll us up most. All of a sudden, we were picking places because the grilled chicken was good." And as their waists shrunk, their relationship grew. "Our dieting got to be so much fun," Susie agrees. "It was was something Jeremy and I had in common; we were doing it together."