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    Mignon P., Memphis, Tenn.:

    Four years ago, 27-year-old Mignon weighed 275. After gastric banding surgery, she is now 160 -- well past her original goal of 175. "My mom says ‘Don't you lose any more weight,’" she says. "That's something I've never heard!"

    Overweight since childhood, Mignon tried everything -- Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, fad diets. The decision to have weight loss surgery was difficult, but once she had made up her mind, the rest was easy.

    Mignon's key challenge: She doesn't like getting adjustments in her band. It requires a needle stick in the abdomen -- and "the stick is nothing compared to the sight of that needle," she says. "I just close my eyes. I know it's going to fix my health in a positive direction."

    The surgery has made a big difference in controlling her appetite. "Once you eat the right amount, you're full," Mignon says. She also exercises three nights a week -- running, walking, aerobics classes -- plus does 5K walks and runs on weekends.

    Mignon feels like a different person, she says. "My self-esteem has increased tremendously. I'm treated differently. People are friendlier. I get more respect. Sad to say, but people stereotype you when you're overweight."

    Her new-found self-confidence prompted a career change, too. Mignon went back to school, got an MBA, and has been promoted into management. She's even teaching classes at a local college.

    "Once you've made the decision to have surgery, you have to make the lifestyle changes necessary for it to be a success," she advises. "If you control food portions and exercise, you'll do fine."

    TaJuan M., of Memphis, Tenn.:

    TaJuan had gastric bypass surgery nine months ago, and calls it "my second birthday." TaJuan was carrying 220 pounds on her 5-foot-tall frame when she went into surgery -- and is now at 145 pounds, just 10 pounds shy of her goal. She could lose more, she says, "but I'm not going to Hollywood. I'm in the South, and we like 'em curvy."

    "I love three meals a day, but my portions have dramatically changed," says TaJuan. "What I eat has changed. My taste buds have changed. I still have cravings. Oooh, I want that cheesecake. But now I know to eat things I should eat first -- and when I have to satisfy that craving, eat a bite for the taste because I'm full. The surgery helps you, you really are full."

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