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Tonya Thomas

Lost 121 Pounds!     
Before: 330 lbs.
After: 209 lbs.
Lost: 121 lbs.

Hi! I'm Tonya Thomas from Jellico, Tennessee, a small, country town of only 2000 people about 4 miles from the Kentucky line. I'm just a southern gal with a wonderful life! I'm 29 years old, and I've been married to my high school sweetheart, Rick, for 12 years. I work as a veterinary technician, going around to different humane societies and animal shelters.



"It's a whole new life! Everything's changed!"

Rick and I also do animal rescue. We work with the Schnauzer Rescue Co-op, and we're part of the Hedgehog Welfare Society. After I learned that all animals have personalities - not just cats and dogs, but also turtles, chinchillas, and hedgehogs - Rick and I became vegetarians. We have 15 animals living with us, even hedgehogs! That's why I chose the name "HedgieMom" for my Clubhouse nickname!

I was never skinny, even as a child. I had bleeding stomach ulcers at 5 years old, and I would throw up and have to have blood transfusions. I had to have a lot of bed rest, and I'd just sit around and eat all the time. Even though I was real sick and had to spend a lot of time in the hospital, I was a little chub!

By the time I was in middle school, I weighed over 200 pounds. I think it was the southern cooking. We ate 3 big meals a day! We'd fry up bacon, sausage, bologna, and I remember being told, "Eat! You've got to eat a good meal. Eat all you want!" You're raised with that kind of thinking. "Clean your plate! Eat it all!" You get in that frame of mind.

When I was in middle school, my mother tried to get me to lose some weight. She tried to give me one of those canned meal replacement drinks you see advertised on TV all the time. I cried. It was horrible! She tried to get me to go on crazy diets all through middle school and high school. She gave me some of those appetite suppressant pills. I didn't want to take them. I was always trying some diet at my mother's insistence, but they didn't work.

It was hard growing up overweight. People made fun of me. School was a nightmare; that's for sure! Kids would tease me. I didn't look like them, and kids can be cruel. I figured that out real quick. Kids would call my house and moo into the phone! Teenagers commit suicide over that kind of stuff! It just ruined my life. I wasn't happy. I was on medication for depression by the time I was 17 or 18. I couldn't walk from here to outside. I was miserable. People always tell me, "You were so happy!" I say, "Well, that was on the outside, but I was miserable on the inside." I was so happy to get out of school.

I was 16 when I started dating my husband. He was the only good thing about high school! He was older and a grade ahead of me. We met and started talking, but he had a girlfriend. About 6 months after I met him, he broke up with his girlfriend, and that's when he asked me out! We graduated high school and got married 6 months later. I was probably about 250 pounds by then. I asked my husband, "What did you see in me?" He said, "I always saw what was inside of you!" When we got engaged, people said, "Oh, you're too young. It'll never work," but we've been married 12 years now!

Even after we became vegetarians 8 years ago, I continued putting on the pounds. It was just that same attitude from all those years when I was growing up. "Clean your plate! No leftovers!" I just kept doing that, and I kept adding the weight on. When I was busy and needed something to eat, I would just think, "A candy bar is quick. Let's just get that and go on with it." I got up to about 3 candy bars a day! It was a nightmare being that heavy! People just didn't understand.

Back in 2002, my husband took me to Myrtle Beach, SC. When we got pictures back from that trip, there was a picture of me standing on the beach, and I couldn't believe it was me! I didn't realize I was that big, and I was shocked. I thought, "Well, I'll do something about it." But a year later, I was even bigger.

Rick and I had made a promise that we would renew our wedding vows in the church every 10 years. Last July was 10 years, so I had to go out and get a dress for the ceremony, and it was a size 28! When we got those pictures back, I cried. I was bigger than I'd been the year before. That was when it clicked! I said, "I can't live like this because I can't even walk out the door without sweating and being out of breath! I can't do anything, and I'm miserable!"

When it finally clicks in your head that you're going to do something, you then think, "Well, what am I going to do?" That's when my husband went out and bought me the FoodMover! It had the Disco Sweat tape in it! I started using it, and I changed my way of thinking about portions and candy bars and exercising.

I remember when I first started exercising, I could only do 5 minutes at a time. I thought I was going to die! Now I'm up to an hour. I do 30 minutes on the treadmill, and I do 30 minutes of one of Richard's tapes! I like variety, so I've got 9 of them, and I can change which one I do. I still hate exercising, but I do it anyway!

I got a lot of support from Rick. He's a weight lifter, and he wasn't really heavy, but he said, "Well, if you're going to change your way of eating, I am, too." Whatever I fixed, he ate it. He lost 15 pounds, and he now weighs 190!

I had been on the FoodMover about 3 or 4 months before I reached out to Richard for support. It was October of last year, and my baby sister told me she was getting married! I was happy for her, but I was also panicking because she wanted me to be her maid of honor, and I couldn't get into a dress. I told her, "If I can't lose the weight, I'm not going to do it, because I won't be able to get into the dress."

I wrote to Richard then because I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to lose the weight. He wrote me back and told me not to set my goals too high, but to keep working, and the weight would come off. We've been writing back and forth ever since then, and when my sister got married in June, I was able to wear that dress for her!

I set my first weight goal at 200 pounds, and I'm almost there! I vowed when I first started this that I was going to accomplish 3 things. First, I wanted to be able to ride a roller coaster again. When I was a child, I was crazy about roller coasters, but after middle school, I was so big, I could never get on one. In March, I was able to fit in a seat and ride my first roller coaster in 10 years! Of course, I'm addicted to them now! My second accomplishment was to be able to cross my legs, and my third was to be able to squat and tie my shoes or bend over and pick something up. Now I can do all those things!

I see myself keeping it up and going further. It's a healthy lifestyle now, and I can't see myself sping! If it means I don't have a candy bar or a pop the rest of my life, that's fine with me! It's well worth it! I keep a before and after picture of me on my treadmill to keep me motivated.

I'm pretty proud of myself! I had a physical last week, and my total cholesterol was 149! That's down from nearly 300 when I first started! I've been off antidepressants for a year now with no trouble! I'm happy now. I can do things I couldn't do before. I just feel happy! When I turned 29 in March, I told Richard, "This is the first time I feel like I'm living! I feel more alive now that I ever have!" It's amazing.

It's weird, but when you start losing weight and drinking water, your skin looks better, and your hair looks better. I hadn't had long hair in 12 or 13 years because it looked awful, but I've got long hair now! I'd never thought about losing weight in my feet, either, but I did. That was the funniest thing I'd ever seen! I used to wear a size 10 shoe, but now I wear an 8-1/2!

I can sure keep up with 15 animals a lot better now than I used to! I can go to the park and walk 2 or 3 miles. It doesn't bother me at all! I'm not even out of breath! Things I couldn't do before, I now do, and I don't take them for granted. I can walk. I can take the stairs as opposed to the elevators. It's like a whole new life! Everything's changed!

Next year for our anniversary, my husband is taking me back to Myrtle Beach, and I will get into a swimsuit! I can find one to fit me, now! Shopping was a big fear of mine before, because I couldn't find anything to fit. I felt confused. I didn't know what looked right and what didn't. It was really overwhelming to be able to go buy smaller clothes! I still find it overwhelming to shop, so now I just go raid my sister's closet!

If you want to lose weight, remember that you have to love yourself, even when you're at your heaviest weight. If you don't love yourself, you won't let other people in, and others can't love you!

Support has been a very important part of this process to me. I couldn't have done it alone! Rick, Richard, and the friends I met through a support group on the Internet kept me going when I got discouraged.

The most important thing I'd like to tell people starting is to never give up! It was hard for me, but I'm so proud that I never gave up. Even though I tried and failed, I never gave up, and I finally did it! When you're good and ready, you'll do it, too!


   1. Never give up! When you're good and ready, you'll do it!
   2. Love yourself! If you don't love yourself, you won't let others in, and they can't love you.
   3. Instead of grabbing something like a candy bar when you're tempted to overeat, grab your telephone or your computer keyboard and get in touch with someone in your support system!