July 21, 2014 at 3:22 PM ET
Two people facing serious health issues due to excess weight have gotten a second chance at life by dropping a combined 300 pounds. On this week's Joy Fit Club, the successful dieters revealed their reasons for making the change — and shared the strategies that spurred their amazing transformations.
A tough intervention
Malarie Burgess' weight struggles began when she was just 6 years old, but it took years for her to realize her health might be at risk.
"Since I had been fat for as long as I could remember, I just accepted 'this is me' and did not think I was that big," the 27-year-old from Westminster, Maryland, told TODAY. "You don't feel that big when it is you."
When her weight hit 350 pounds, however, a concerned family friend stepped in, sitting down with Burgess for a candid heart-to-heart about her health.
"It was not easy to hear," Burgess admitted of the conversation. "(But my friend) struck a chord, and I really internalized what she said."
With help and support from her pal, Burgess made some significant changes to her lifestyle:
Over time, those tweaks paid off. Two years after starting her weight-loss journey, Burgess is half her original size at just 170 pounds. She's also gone back to school to study exercise science and works as a volunteer coach at a gym.
"I am much more out of my shell than I used to be," Burgess told TODAY. "I try a lot more things I would not have before. I am just a lot more comfortable in my own skin."
A health scare — and a second chance
Dan Hall, a yo-yo dieter who had a complicated relationship with food, also struggled with weight for most of his life.
"I viewed food as my most enjoyable pastime and as a way that I could wow family and friends with how much I could eat and how good my food was," the 56-year-old from Highland, Michigan, told TODAY.
Hall's weight eventually crept up to 298 pounds. The husband and father of three recalled that his growing size made him feel "out of control and confused as to why I wasn't feeling any better."
The unwanted pounds took a serious emotional toll. Hall, an outgoing musician, became "way less enthusiastic about performing in public, which is a bad thing for a performer," he said. And during a family visit to an amusement park, Hall was humiliated after waiting hours to ride a roller coaster only to find he was too large to fasten the safety harness.
Even so, Hall says he didn't commit to changing his life until his life nearly ended.
During a visit to a hospital emergency room for a series of unexplained fainting spells, Hall's heart stopped beating. Doctors managed to save him, but Hall ultimately went home with a pacemaker and multiple diagnoses, among them high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, thyroid disease and depression. Resolving not to squander his second chance, Hall began to make some serious changes:
Hall admits it isn't always easy to stick to his healthy habits — particularly when socializing or dining out — but he's making them work. Three years since his scary experience in the ER, he's lost 120 pounds and is down to 178. His new mantra: Forgo momentary pleasures for true happiness and health.