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Lifestyle change leads to woman's weight loss of almost 100 pounds

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In her mind, Shannon Kuykendall always told herself she couldn't lose weight. She'd tried Weight Watchers and gym memberships and had lost 20 to 30 pounds.

But after seeing a number on the scale, she said "I never wanted to see," and being told by a therapist treating her for lymphedema in her legs that she would always be heavy, she decided that being heavy was no longer an option.

Seven months later, Shannon has lost 64.5 inches and 93.9 pounds. She's done so the old-fashioned way - changing her diet and getting regular exercise.

"I had considered weight loss surgery, but to me it didn't seem to be a healthy way to lose weight," she said.

When a friend posted on Facebook about Changing Lives Fitness Center, Shannon decided to give it a try. It was a decision, she said, that truly did change her life.

"I went from not doing anything or going anywhere to getting out," she said. "I've done two 5Ks - the first one was awful, but the second one wasn't bad."

In addition to exercising - "I sit in my chair and do my crunches. I never realized you do that!" - Kuykendall eats a small meal/snack every two hours.

"I'm never hungry," she said. "I eat a lot of chicken and turkey. I've cut out sodas and caffeine completely."

She's also started taking her thyroid medication correctly, and has seen a reduction in the amount she needs.

A healthy lifestyle is now who she is. She weighs once a month and has realized the number on the scale doesn't tell the whole story - she judges her success by how she feels.

"I love it now," she said of exercise. "I never in my life thought I would."

It hasn't been a journey without bumps in the road, but it has been one completely worth it.

"It's hard," she said of weight loss.

"It's 100 percent not easy. It's truly the hardest thing I've ever done. I tell people that if you're not going to put forth the effort you may as well not do it. You've just got to set your mind to do it."

She has signed up for her third fitness challenge at Changing Lives, which begins Jan. 2. Working out with a group was scary at first, but now it's something she looks forward to.

"It's a big, huge support group," she said. "Everyone cheers each other on."

Her weight loss is now noticeable to family and friends, but wasn't completely evident to her until recently.

"I took a picture and when I saw it I thought 'This can't be me!'" she said. "I'm not going to worry about being skinny, but I do feel so much better."

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