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How 4 nurses teamed up to lose over 140 pounds

When Tara Simmons started losing weight, her three co-workers joined her. Having a squad helped the nurses lose 140 pounds combined.

In February, Tara Simmons started preparing for her son’s June wedding by joining WW (formerly Weight Watchers). She hoped to lose about 40 pounds to help her fit into her dress.

“I wanted to look good in the pictures,” Simmons, 46, a primary care nurse in Washburn, Tennessee, told TODAY.

In the winter, Tara Simmons was preparing for her son's wedding when she decided she wanted to shed some weight. She signed up for WW and soon, three of her co-workers joined her. Courtesy Tara Simmons

She told her co-worker, Lindsay Claxton, 37, who now works in immunotherapy, about her plan and Claxton decided to join WW in camaraderie. The two worked together closely as nurses and having that support during the day seemed like it would make their weight loss more successful. Meanwhile, their other colleagues, Kelly Fear, 31, and Julie Sands, 29, waited to see how Claxton and Simmons fared. After only a few weeks Sands and Fear saw their co-workers succeeding and they joined, too.

“We thought we’re not going to cut calories or stop eating good food if it’s not going to work,” Sands, an internal medicine nurse, told TODAY. “So, we watched them for a couple of weeks and then I think in the beginning of March I signed up.”

Simmons said WW appealed to her because it didn’t seem like a quick fix.

“I have tried other diets before and a diet is good for the short-term,” she said. “I feel like WW is more of just learning how to eat properly, healthy … It was more of a lifestyle change.”

Kelly Fear loves that she's learned more about portion control and meal planning and she lost weight with her three co-workers. Courtesy Kelly Fear

Fear agreed.

“I’m not cutting out any food group,” she explained. “What I want is just learning control and it is more than just looking at calories. It weighs in other parts of nutritional information as well.”

Lindsay Claxton said that WW helps her rethink some of her food choices in healthier ways. Courtesy Lindsay Claxton

Claxton said that the program helped her think differently about eating. Consider going out to eat, she never thought about how having a salad instead of a side like French fries could make a huge difference in her calorie intake.

“It’s shocking how many (calories) you would have just from going to a restaurant,” she said. “It’s also good for the long-term, even if you are not doing it anymore, just to have that knowledge. And now you can make healthier choices.”

Having one another really helped the quartet as they focused on healthy eating habits — and helped when the pandemic caused shortages. Once Fear couldn’t find chicken so the other three looked at their stores to see if they could buy some for her.

“If it had not been for these other three girls, I don’t know if I would have stayed with it as long as I had,” Claxton said.

At first Julie Sands felt hesitant to join WW. She didn't want to cut out any of the foods she loved if it wasn't going to work. But she soon discovered she could eat foods she enjoys and lose weight. Courtesy Julie Sands

All four have had success with Simmons reaching her goal weight prior to her son’s wedding. She started at 190 pounds and lost 41 pounds. Claxton started at 199 pounds and lost 23. Fear started at 230 pounds and shed 56 pounds. And Sands started at 247 pounds and dropped 23 pounds.

While Simmons is in maintenance, which is “a little harder because you want to get more lax,” the other three are still working toward their goal weights. They have been keeping each other on track through texts and phone calls, since Simmons and Sands have recently transitioned to new nursing roles. Fear wants to get to a healthy body mass index, which is 140 pounds for her, but she’d like to weigh 130 — then she could say she lost 100 pounds. Both Sands and Claxton simply hope to lose enough weight to be healthier.

“I don’t know that I have a specific number in mind or even a size,” Claxton said. “I really just want to be able to take pictures with my kids and not be disappointed to see myself in them.”

Sands also said her children keep her motivated.

“For me, it’s getting back into that healthy range,” she said. “Being able to move around with my kids is really the most important thing.”

The four share tips on what helps them maintain their healthy habits.

1. Weigh your food.

Fear previously eyeballed portion sizes. When she started weighing her food, she realized how much she was eating.

“If you just try to guess your potion size and then you go weigh it you realize how much it could be,” she said.

2. If you want a piece of cake, have a piece of cake.

Sands likes that she can eat her favorite “comfort” foods as long as she makes smart decisions about what she eats the rest of the day and watches how much of the food she eats.

Having the support of one another really helped the four nurses as they lost more than 140 pounds combined. Courtesy Tara Simmons/Kelly Fear

“I’m not missing out on like cake or anything like that,” she said. “It’s just small little changes that make a difference.”

3. Exercise helps.

Adding activity into their daily routines helps the women lose weight and maintain it.

“I trained for a 5K and then lately I have been doing running bets and step bets and they really keep you motivated,” Simmons said.

4. Be accountable.

The four send one another pictures of their meals before they eat. That way they’re honest with themselves — and one another — about what they’re really putting in their bodies.

“There have been multiple times that I made a decision based on knowing that I had to send them what I was eating,” Claxton said. “So, I would make a better choice.”

5. Support is key to success.

“When I stared this, I started by myself and I would have done it on my own,” Simmons said. “I have learned that sometimes it takes a (team). And I really appreciate the friendship, the motivation, the encouragement. It really helps that we can all achieve this together.”