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Incredible shrinking couple loses 580 pounds

  • Story Highlights
  • Maggie and Andy Sorrells once had a combined weight of nearly 1,000 pounds
  • Doctors warned Maggie that she wouldn't live to the age of 30
  • A faith-based program and portion control helped them shed 580 pounds
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By Jacqueline Adams
CNN
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(CNN) -- When Maggie Sorrells looks at her husband, Andy, she doesn't see the man she married. In fact, most days, she doesn't even recognize herself.

Maggie and Andy Sorrells

Maggie and Andy Sorrells weighed 440 pounds and 505 pounds, respectively, at their heaviest.

Before the Franklin, Tennessee, couple met online, both had endured lifelong struggles with weight and emotional overeating. Together, they had a combined weight of nearly 1,000 pounds.

Maggie, who had a family history of heart disease and diabetes, had been warned by her doctor at the age of 27 that she wouldn't live to see 30. But her real moment of truth came when she visited her mother in the hospital.

"The biggest shock of my entire life was stepping on a hospital scale and realizing I weighed 440 pounds," she recalls.

Until that moment, Maggie says she never knew how much she weighed, because she was too heavy to register on a household scale.

Andy, like Maggie, tried countless diets but failed to keep the weight off. At his heaviest, he was 505 pounds and had to have most of his size 64 clothing made by his mother to fit his 6-foot-3-inch frame. Photo See before-and-after photos of CNN.com I-Reporters »

Obesity took an emotional and physical toll on the couple.

Andy says people constantly teased him about his weight and he eventually withdrew. He battled depression and took anti-depressants for seven years.

Maggie, on the other hand, tried to conceal her misery by making other people laugh.

"I was so depressed and so miserable. I was always the funny fat girl, but on the inside I was miserable," recalls Maggie. "It held me back in many ways and I started to accept it as being genetic and felt this was just the way I was going to be."

Though she never let her obesity keep her from traveling or socializing, it had affected her quality of life. Maggie had to use a seatbelt extension on airplanes and was once asked to get off a roller-coaster at an amusement park.

In August 2002, the couple was married and they soon made a decision that would forever change their lives.

Before getting married, a friend introduced Maggie to The Weigh Down Workshop, a faith-based weight loss program, which teaches people to conquer their addiction to food, as well as other substances and vices, by turning to God.

Maggie says she was never consistent or committed enough to stick with the program. But shortly after their wedding, the couple started packing on the pounds and while Andy tried another diet, Maggie gave Weigh Down another try.

"At the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003, I called Weigh Down and started taking the classes," says Maggie. "My whole life, I had always wanted somebody to [lose weight] with me. But I knew if I wanted it bad enough, I would have to do it alone."

She began to lose weight.

"I ate whatever I craved, but only when I was truly hungry and then I ate a lot more slowly, so I could tell when to stop," Maggie says.

In February 2003, after seeing his wife's results, Andy stopped counting calories, gave up the low-fat foods and reduced his portion sizes. Fifteen months later, he had lost 257 pounds.

"Once I started this program, it changed my outlook on my entire life. I realized that being happy is a choice. I can either be filled with hate and despair or I can be happy," says Andy, who realized he no longer needed the anti-depressants.

Maggie's weight loss was more gradual. Shortly after starting the program, Maggie became pregnant with the couple's first child. Sadly, she lost the baby when she was seven months pregnant.

"Many of our family members were afraid that we would turn back to food after we lost our first daughter, since we had turned to food to solve our problems our whole lives," remembers Maggie.

Faith, she says, helped her overcome the loss and continue on the program. Three years later, she had not only lost 300 pounds but she also gave birth to another daughter, Lily. Last week, the couple welcomed their son, Jacob.

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How has the weight loss changed their lives? Maggie, who now weighs 140 pounds and wears a size six, and Andy, who weighs 220 pounds and wears a size 36, say they had no idea their lives could be this good.

"It blows my mind that we look the way we do," says Maggie.

The couple shares their success and strategy for weight loss by leading online classes for Weigh Down. Maggie believes if just one person's life can be changed by her story then her struggle will have been worth it.

"I want people to know there is hope. I looked for hope my whole life," says Maggie. "I want that person who is just like the old me to look at where I am now and know that you want to be here!"

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