Misty Shaffer has struggled with weight all her life. When her husband was deployed to Afghanistan for a year, the Leland, N.C., woman decided to use his absence to re-commit herself to losing weight so she could surprise him when he came home.
In the year that Army Spc. Larry Shaffer was gone on his second deployment abroad, his wife changed the way she ate. She switched to whole grains, ate mainly fruits, vegetables and lean meats, drank lots of water and controlled her portion sizes.
She also limited her food intake, going from eating about 2,000 calories a day to now eating about 1,200 calories.
Shaffer, who wore a size 20 then, watched the pounds melt away. At her heaviest she weighed 315 pounds, but she tipped the scales at 250 pounds when she started counting her calories in June. When her husband came home on Wednesday, she weighed 154 pounds.
She now wears sizes 7 through 9, she said.
"In the beginning, the first couple of months (were) hard because I guess, people telling me the cleansing of the body because you're still wanting that sugar, you're still craving that stuff, and now it's a lot easier," the 24-year-old mother told ABCNews.com. "Whenever I go grocery shopping it's like, I crave the healthy stuff over the non-healthy stuff. I mean, don't get me wrong, I do have a piece of cake here and there or whatever, but it's just the size of it and how often I do it."
Shaffer, who works as a personal grocery shopper, said she didn't do any exercise beyond going to work and taking care of her 3-year-old daughter, Nevaeh.
When Larry Shaffer got off the plane on Wednesday, he was stunned by his wife's weight loss. She had been standing behind a crowd of friends and family who had gathered to welcome him home, and when the crowd parted, Larry Shaffer got his first look at his newly slender wife.
"All he did was 'wow,'" Misty Shaffer recalled, adding: "All he can tell me is he so proud of me and he loved me before, no matter what … he's always seen me as beautiful. But he said whatever makes me happy makes him happy."
In the year that the Shaffers were apart, they would Skype and Misty Shaffer would send her husband pictures of their daughter and of herself - but she made sure that her images only showed her from the neck up. Her friends and family helped keep the secret, too.
"When they took pictures they would either edit them to where it was just shoulder up or didn't post them or either they blocked him to where he couldn't see it," she said.
Shaffer said she's happy with her success.
"I'm still like really conscious about my body but with clothes on and stuff I feel like I look good," she said.
Clothes actually played a big part in her decision to drop the weight.
"I just was like, all the cute clothes and stuff like that were in smaller sizes and it was hard to find bigger clothes and when you did it was so expensive, it was hard to buy them," she said.
She doesn't have that problem anymore. In fact, she described shopping as "Awesome.
"I'm like 'oh, that's cute. I can fit in it … I love it,'" she said.