From overweight to “marathon maniac,” from insecure to onstage confidence, from medication dependence to freedom.

Three accounts tell the way to a total weight loss of nearly 400 pounds: Annette Blanton of Cabot lost 90, Rachel Whittenberg of Lonoke has lost 110 - Rebecca Privitera of Cabot has lost 194.

All three used diet and exercise, and each had their own reason for starting on the road to slimming down.

Blanton wanted to keep up with a young niece; Privitera had become envious of family and friends involved in sports.

“I didn’t want to die at 40,” Whittenberg said. “There is nothing you can do about some things. But if I could stop something, I was going to do it,” she remarked.

And, Whittenberg said, “I wanted to be an example to my daughter.”

“I’ve been overweight the majority of my life … I didn’t want my children growing up the way I did.”

Since she was large for so long, the weight loss has left her with loose skin, Whittenberg said. “I will never have a bikini body,” she remarked.

She began at 286 pounds, with a goal to be 160. “I will be happy with 160.”

Her family is large, “And food is just wonderful. I think God gave us wonderful food to enjoy and I over-partaked,” she said. “[Food] was a comfort thing.”

The weight loss has also put her in competition for a $100,000 prize, Privitera said. “I did not start out for that, but it turns out it can happen.”

The secret to losing weight is not so secret. “You have to use more calories than you take in,” Privitera said.

“Get out and get active,” Blanton said. She has worked her way to running “a couple marathons a month using fitness and nutrition, she said.

“Just get out and do it, just get started,” Whittenberg said.

Whittenberg said when she made her decision her weight had reached 286 pounds. She has lost 110 on her way to her goal of 125.

“Funny thing is, when I reach my goal I will still be overweight,” Whittenberg remarked. That is according to published recommendations, she said.

“But I feel good. I think I look good,” she said.

Whittenberg said she began her loss with Boot Camp, an organized exercise program, at the Lonoke Community Center.

Privitera and Whittenberg each said they had always been heavy, so losing weight was a total lifestyle change for each.

Blanton said she had lost weight in 2006, but had let it come back. “Losing is difficult, so is keeping it off,” she said.

She had lost 75 pounds and then started getting “a little sloppy” about watching what she ate.

Blanton said that she no longer uses the prepared “diet” foods, but chooses her own diet. She does not recommend any processed foods, she said.

“Anything that says ‘diet,’ stay away from it,” Blanton said. Enough information is available to develop eating habits based on good nutrition using foods that are not processed, she said.

Simply starving is a poor way to lose weight, Blanton said. “You do have to eat to lose weight,” she said.

Her exercise began with classes at the Jacksonville Community Center, and grew to running marathons, Blanton said. “I’ve run 66 marathons. I was 47 when I ran my first marathon, I’m 53 now,” she said.

Privitera said she lost most of her weight by doing home workouts. It began with an exercise DVD, “that got me off the couch,” she said. Seeing friends and family at sporting events made her envious. “I wanted to be part of something,” she said.

She was 29 years old when she began working out, Privitera said. “At the time, I was on blood-pressure medicine and antidepressants,” she said.

She said she is now completely off the medicines, “My doctor can’t believe it.”

Privitera said she weighed 381 pounds when she completed her first 5-kilometer course. “It took me an hour and 45 minutes,” she recalled.

She, too, joined a group, Privitera said. “It was at the Cabot Community Center … I would not have gotten as far as I have on the home workouts, alone,” she said.

Her group also has a Facebook page, Get Fit Cabot, for keeping in touch, Privitera said.

Losing such large amounts of weight requires having a doctor involved, Privitera said. “My doctor has been there every step of the way,” she said.

“Let people know what you are doing,” Blanton said. “Even if they are not losing weight themselves, most people are great supporters and encouragers,” she said.

“You need people. Get involved in a running club. Next thing you know, you are part of a family.”

“Running makes me want to maintain my weight and stay healthy so I can keep running. It is like a circle,” Blanton said.

Whittenberg said her family, “Is great.”

“My family is heavy. They weren’t trying to lose weight, but they have been there for me all the way,” she said.

Privitera said letting people know what you are doing, can inspire them to begin also. She posts her progress on her own Facebook page.

“I’ve had people say ‘I am following you and I have lost this amount of weight following you,’ … all I do is show it can happen,” she said.

Knowing she is touching other people’s lives, “It gives me more strength to keep going,” Privitera said.

“It is like if I give up, then everybody else will give up,” she said.

Whittenberg said breaking up the overall goal into smaller steps helps. “Take it in baby steps, little goals help maintain focus,” she said.

Her husband watches the children so she can work out at the gym, “Family support is wonderful.”

Having the advice of a trainer was a godsend. And dealing with discouragement is crucial.

Encouragement is important, “It doesn’t matter how big you are, good for you for starting,” Whittenberg said.