Angela Gillis' husband, Willie, knew something had to change after the birth of the couple's goddaughter. They were young and in their first year of marriage, but Willie's weight-492 pounds at his heaviest-had finally sounded an alarm that couldn't be ignored any longer. "I thought I was probably going to be dead before my goddaughter turned five," says Willie, a 35-year-old warehouse clerk. "I wanted to at least try to see if I could lose weight."
They started by replacing fast food with home-cooked meals. They didn't use a nutritionist-just an app called Lose It! to help them track their calorie intake and Google to help them re-learn the basics of healthy eating. "We started losing weight on January 6, 2011, and never stopped," says Willie.
They didn't use a personal trainer. They started small, walking on treadmills side by side for five minutes a day. It wasn't long before Angela picked up the pace. "I wanted to go faster and faster," she says. "Walking turned into jogging, and then I was like, Oh I can jog longer than I could before, and it kind of became my thing." Angela joined a running group and eventually convinced Willie to come along.
Angela remembers that day clearly when: "Willie came to me and said, 'I don't want to be this person anymore.' So I said, 'If you're going to do it, I'm going to do it." Together, the Beaumont, Texas couple made a pact to get healthy and support each other. "Our gym's fitness instructors changed my life because they were so welcoming.
"There were moments when it was hard, but we were fully committed. From day one, there was no backslide, there was no 'we're not doing this anymore' or 'we can't do this,' and I think a lot of that is because we were going through it together. We didn't want to give up on our ourselves or each other, and that's what carried us through. I know that together we can overcome anything."
Today, Angela has completed 34 marathons and ultra marathons, and even more half marathons, and has kept off nearly 200 pounds. She's now a cycling instructor at the gym where she started walking on the treadmill. Willie has lost 300 pounds and has completed more than 30 half marathons and two marathons.