Justin and Lauren Shelton have been together nearly eight years and have seen a lot of highs and lows--on the scale.
Like many young couples, Justin and Lauren Shelton enjoy taking long walks together in their Jefferson City neighborhood. It's a far cry from how things were about three years ago when Lauren weighed 341 pounds and Justin weighed 593.
"I was always bigger than the other kids but I didn't actually start to pack on the pounds, as many people say, until high school," said Lauren.
An athlete when he was younger, Justin started gaining weight after a knee injury.
"The exercise kind of went away," said Justin. "I became lethargic and my bad eating habits, which were already there, caught up with me and started spiraling my weight out of control."
The couple met online nearly eight years ago and say they fell in love quickly.
"What I really appreciated was that he accepted me for me and he loved me," recalled Lauren. "He liked me, he thought I was beautiful. He didn't care about the weight. It didn't really come up."
Lauren says the lack of judgement actually fed their bad eating habits.
"We would go out to eat together and we'd find comfort that neither of us were judgmental so we could eat whatever we wanted," said Lauren. "I got to a certain point where I realized that I'm overweight and I really need to do something but I don't really know if there's a point in even trying. I was used to my lifestyle and I'd keep on doing it until I just died one day."
The Sheltons' bad eating habits and sedentary lifestyle all came to an end when Justin became sick at work.
"I ended up going to the emergency room and they were saying 'we think you have a kidney infection,'" recalled Justin. "Through the diagnosis, they wanted to take a MRI but I was too big for the MRI table and so they were essentially just guessing with their diagnosis."
The Sheltons say that incident in the hospital made them take a hard look at themselves.
"I was hurt for him," said Lauren. "He was embarrassed and I had been in situations where I was embarrassed and for me that was also a wake up call."
Determined to get the weight off, the couple met with a physician's assistant who gave them guidelines. The two cleaned out their cabinets and replaced bad foods with healthy ones.
"The next day we got up, we only drank water for that day and we had a really lean breakfast with oatmeal and eggs," said Justin.
"She said just skip the middle aisles and just go for all the produce and the meat," said Lauren. "She said don't eat a lot of processed food and don't eat out very often and watch your sodium intake so we listened to her because we were serious and ready to do it."
The couple admits it wasn't easy those first few days.
"There were times where we would fall off the band wagon for a day but you know we would pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep on going," said Justin.
For Lauren, it was hard not looking toward food for comfort as she had done for so long.
"It's hard to deny yourself 'cause I've looked to food for comfort for most of my life and then to suddenly have that taken away it's hard to know. What will I find that will fill that void of food?"
Determined to get the pounds off, the couple kept with their program and started exercising.
In about a year and a half they had both lost a tremendous amount of weight; Lauren lost nearly 200 pounds and Justin lost over 360 pounds.
"We're pretty much on track with the way we've managed this," said Justin. "We've completely changed everything about our lifestyle. There's not many things that haven't changed. I don't know if we could even go back to the way we were before."
Today you won't find any signs of their old eating habits inside their kitchen.
"We still even keep sweets out of the house and breads and things like that because they're trigger foods, especially for me," said Lauren. "We eat a lot of lean meats, a lot of fresh produce, a ton of vegetables and some fruit. That's pretty much the diet except we change it up."
Lauren and Justin say they're more social now that they've lost weight and love to encourage others. They say their support system for each other has been key to their success.
"It's really made us stronger," said Lauren. "I knew he loved me before, but now it's just an amazing feeling knowing he's gonna love me no matter what I look like or how hard I'm working or how I'm not working on myself."
Their weight loss success has landed them on national television, including a visit to the 4th hour of the "Today" show in New York as part of the Joy Fit Club. Lauren writes about their weight loss success and struggles on her blog www.overcomingo.com.
They both want people to know that it's never too late for anyone to start their own weight loss journey.
"You just can't give up," said Justin. "You're never too far gone. You're never too old, too heavy. There's nothing that can stop you if you want to set your mind to doing something."