Miki Bulington's scale topped out at 400 pounds, but the Davenport woman knew she weighed more than that. Lynette Malmgren stands only 4 feet, 11 inches tall, and just two years ago, she was 218 pounds.
Today, the two women are roommates and clients at the Handicapped Development Center, or HDC, in Davenport. Between them, they have lost at least 333 pounds: Miki, 5 feet, 6 inches tall, now weighs 168 pounds while Lynette is a petite 119 pounds.
The weight loss took more than a year to accomplish, and it happened after the duo — who met years ago at North Scott High School in Eldridge — became roommates.
Adults with mental disabilities are more likely to be overweight or obese than average Americans. According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, or CDC, obesity rates for adults with disabilities are 58 percent higher than those without.
Challenges facing the population include a shortage of healthy food choices, lack of energy and few resources that would support a healthy diet.
The women both faced some critical health issues in 2011, caused in part by excessive weight. They were encouraged by their doctors to lose weight, and they also had an emotional meeting on the topic with HDC staff.
"They asked me did I want to live, and I did!" Miki said.
"We both fought and fought about losing that weight," Lynette added.
But the women ultimately made a conscious decision to improve their health and reached their weight-loss goals, said Carol Foster, the center's vice president of resource development.
How it worked
The decision to lose weight coincided with the friends' moving in together as roommates. HDC staff helped them organize a journal to document their efforts. Goals were set and the pair began to exercise.
They went to the Scott County Family Y and took classes in Zumba (a Latin music-inspired dance fitness program) as well as participating in the Special Olympics. One of bedrooms in their apartment was converted into an exercise room.
Also, HDC staff members helped them research and prepare healthy meals, as well as to eat the food in appropriate portions.
The women looked at their journals every day, and they got rewards upon reaching goals. The rewards did not include food, though.
"My reward was always going to Build-A-Bear," Lynette said.
"Mine was never Build-A-Bear," Miki said, adding that she got her hair done as well as a receiving manicure and pedicure among her rewards.
Lynette was so heavy by 2011 that she had trouble walking and had to use an inhaler because of breathing issues. She remembers one crisis that involved her being hospitalized during a family wedding. She ultimately developed pneumonia.
Miki had pain in her back, knees and stomach when she was overweight.
"I was constantly on an inhaler, and I could barely walk," she said.
Miki enjoyed going out with friends to eat, but she used to overdo it. Lynette loves pizza and would eat an entire Meat Lover's pizza in one sitting.
Their apartment refrigerator is now loaded with light meats, cheeses, healthy breads and condiments. Miki likes to help the HDC staff make homemade meals on the weekends, and those are then frozen for quick use during the week.
"A lot of the focus is on the portion sizes and foods that they like and also taste good," said Melanie Rice, the women's residential case manager.
The women's families are proud of their weight-loss accomplishments, and both Miki and Lynette like to talk about how they are healthier.
Lynette, 43, no longer uses an inhaler on a regular basis, and she is off her cholesterol medicine because her cholesterol levels are normal. Miki, 38, has noticed that her feet are smaller and less swollen than before, and she no longer has to use an inhaler, either.
Both women have clear, bright and more vibrant skin tones, Rice pointed out.
Lynette and Miki enjoy their new wardrobes, which, they agree, have changed a lot. They also agree that while it was hard to lose weight, it was also a good move.
"I didn't want to start with this. It was a heckuva thing," Lynette said. "None of us wanted to start with it, but I'm glad we did!"