She Lost 166 Pounds: “For Me, ‘Diet’ Is A Four-Letter Word For Failure”

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(CNN) Teena Henson’s “journey to life” began with a newspaper ad.

She remembers wishing they had an Anytime Fitness in her hometown of Gilmer, Texas. She specifically wanted to join Anytime Fitness because it is open 24/7 and is made for men and women of all levels of fitness.

“Then there was an ad in the local paper that Anytime Fitness was opening,” she said. “It was like, ‘Here it is; it’s in your hands. Now, what are you going to do with it?’ “

Determined to get herself on the right track, Henson signed up at the gym while it was still under construction.

It was March 2011; Henson was 5-foot-4 and 332 pounds. She knew that her poor diet and inactivity were not the path to a long, healthy life.

She didn’t suffer from any serious health problems, but her parents and three brothers were all diabetic so she knew the potential consequences.

Henson, 54, is very close with her family. Loved ones, especially her mom, would often approach her with concerns about her health, telling her she should lose weight.

“I think the older I got, the more concerned my mom became because she knew she wouldn’t be there to take care of me,” Henson says. “She was my No. 1 supporter on my plan to exercise and lose weight.”

In the past, Henson would put herself on diets to make everyone happy, but they wouldn’t last long.

There was an endless array of rules, from eating nothing but grapefruits to nothing but carbs, until she realized that “diets” just weren’t for her.

“For me, ‘diet’ is a four-letter word for failure,” she said.

What she was looking for was a lifestyle change. And not because her friends and family wanted it for her, but because she wanted it for herself.

With Anytime Fitness’ hours, Henson had no trouble finding time to work out.

She goes to the gym every day after work for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. She even created a mantra:

“I have a desire to work out. I keep a determination to work out. I created a discipline to work out, and I choose to work out.”

What she struggled with most was changing her eating habits.

She started by cutting out soft drinks and dropped 18 pounds in the first month.

Her mom, known as Mama Henson to many of Henson’s friends, cheered her on daily and was excited to see her daughter start to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

“Every day she would ask me, ‘How much you lose today?’ I would laugh and say, ‘Mom, I can’t lose every day.’ But she would tell me that I was trying and that’s all that matters,” said Henson.

After cutting out soda, Henson started making healthier food choices.

She continued to eat at fast food restaurants because it was convenient, switching out fried chicken for grilled, a side of fries for a side salad.

By December 2011, Henson was down 64 pounds and healthier than ever.

Unfortunately, her mom’s health was deteriorating. Mama Henson had suffered several seizures and mini-strokes that severely weakened her.

Henson’s healthier lifestyle would help provide the mental and physical strength she would need in the final months caring for her mother.

Two months before her mother died, Henson remembers walking into the house after a workout. She had lost 100 pounds at this point.

Her mother looked up at her and said, “You’re pretty.”

“We both just started crying,” Henson said. “I don’t have a clue why she said it; it was a memorable moment.”

Mama Henson passed away in August 2012.

Whenever Henson loses sight of why she’s working out or skipping sweets, she thinks of her mom’s smile and how much she wanted her daughter to be happy.

“I knew she was proud of me for losing the weight,” Henson said. “I know she felt I was going to be OK now that I had lost the weight.”

In the past year, Henson has made even more changes to her diet. She has started to eat products like quinoa, whole wheat bread and fresh vegetables.

“There was a time when you couldn’t have gotten broccoli anywhere near me.” But now she roasts it and includes it in her meals for the week.

She cooks in bulk on the weekends, freezing meals in individual containers for during the week so she knows exactly how many calories she’s eating. She aims to eat 1,200 calories a day.

In less than three years, Henson has lost 166 pounds, or 50% of her body weight.

On March 8, she celebrated the three-year anniversary of her first step into the gym.

Losing the weight has helped her find an inner strength.

It allows her to see a glimpse of the strong, accomplished woman her mother always saw.

One of Henson’s passions has been participating in 5K walks for charity.

Since she started working out three years ago, she has participated in five walks and recently finished one in 46 minutes, her personal best.

Henson’s transformation has been so complete that her doctor, who has been monitoring her progress since she started losing weight, uses her pictures to show patients what a little determination can do.

“The smallest of changes one can make in their present lifestyle can garner big changes,” Henson said, “not only in the physical body, but in the mind.”


  • New Mom

    I had a baby 6 weeks ago. I been feeling down about my body but I just got motivated! I have a home gym and it’s going down! I’m about to get on it!! I lost 40lbs the first 2 weeks after giving birth but not where I wanna be! Thanks lady for sharing your story!

  • Elizabeth

    made me cry! Congrats, I know what it’s like to be that size and larger. i opted for surgery because of my health risks and doctor recommendation. My hats off to anyone who can lose this amount of work on their own. Bless you beautiful woman!


    I read this and I just cried… I am over 200 pounds overweight and I have several health problems . This story has made me decide to do what you did. I had set a goal to lose 100 pounds by the time my daughter graduate from college. Well she graduates in 10 days, that was a year ago and I haven’t lost a pound. Sodas are my problem as well as sweets, but after seeing these pictures and reading this story it has given me hope and motivation. I cant afford the gym because I am on a fixed income, but I can at least exercise at home and cut back and eventually out of foods that are not good for me.

    • Lindsey

      You can do it, but it will take time. Baby steps! Make one small change at a time. Keep in mind that sugar is literally addicting and in almost everything. I wouldn’t worry too much about calories, but focus on nourishing foods (meats, healthy fats, veggies, fruits…) and eventually cut out all processed foods. If you can start cooking from scratch, it will make a huge difference. If possible find someone to keep you accountable who can encourage you when times are tough. Best wishes!

  • carol

    congratulations to you and keep up the wonderful work. no one knows how hard this kind of weight loss can be to someone.

  • Jenniferr

    Congrats! I was 290 lbs..:early 30s… High blood pressure. I went through a major depression and stopped eating. In less than 3 months I went from a size 26 to a size 14.. Luckily something woke me and I knew I had to eat. So gradually I added food back into my diet… Well that was almost ten years ago and I am at 166.. Hasn’t been easy. If my dad hadn’t made fun of me for trying to change the way I ate in my early 20s I probably would’ve never gotten as large as I did.
    Kudos to you that you had the support if your loved ones.
    The way I lost my weight is NOT the way to lose and most don’t keep it off. Also shortly after all of this I was diagnosed with MS. I didn’t have any symptoms prior to this. Could that of had something to do with it.. Possibly who knows… Just please talk don’t try to lose the way Iost mine. When it’s all said and done you still have to make a lifestyle change to keep it off. It’s best to just do that to start with… Ignore the haters ;-)
    Good job!!!

  • Mary Terrell

    My daughter died 46 months ago and I have lost about 50 lbs. I have just started seriously to work out to lose the rest of my weight. I am so excited about working out twice a day. I am in college and will graduate in a few months.

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