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The Shrinking Student: Tanisha Mitchell, 'Too Fat for 15'

“I came back wanting to be here because I saw I could do it,” says Mitchell, who weighed in at 510 pounds her very first day on campus, but was down to 350 pounds by the time she started her second year at Wellspring. That’s where the show picks up, too, when the second season debuts Monday at 8 p.m.

There are several new faces in class, including Carsyn (who hails from Warrenton, Va.) and Hayley, who tops Mitchell’s original weight. But the cameras still focus on Mitchell’s incredible transformation from the girl who couldn’t climb the big hill to the dining hall into the one who can do 10 sprints up and down it.

One moment to look forward to: when she surpasses the 200-pound loss mark, which also brought her weight into the 200s. “I screamed a lot,” says Mitchell, who’s now down a total of 240 pounds and training to run her first 5K in two weeks. In keeping with the St. Patrick’s Day theme, she’ll be dressed as a leprechaun, but there’s no luck involved — only hard work. “I don’t care what my time is. I just hope it won’t take me all day,” she says.

Her trainer John Taylor will be running alongside her, continuing to be amazed by her rapid progress. “She’s lost 86 total inches. I looked at that number and didn’t believe it, so I added it up twice,” he says. But he won’t take any of the credit. “She came here with a mission statement and a goal in mind. I just like to think I gave her shortcuts,” he says.

That self-motivation comes, Mitchell explains, from knowing where she was 18 months ago. “I never want to take a step back. That’s always in the back of my mind,” she says. The process hasn’t been easy, but a supportive family both at home and at Wellspring has helped her realize her strength.

Now, she’s at a point where she can help others, including Hayley. “I took on the role of friend,” Mitchell says. “I could understand how hard it was going to be for her.” That includes getting accustomed to the healthy food at Wellspring, which other students complain about. “I’m trying to tell them it’s as easy as it’s going to get,” says Mitchell, who knows that once she graduates, she’ll have to cook for herself.

Those days aren’t that far away, so with Taylor’s assistance, Mitchell is preparing for college life. She’s picked schools with pre-law courses and robust fitness facilities — and already been admitted to one.

But even after everything she’s accomplished, Mitchell still doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. “It’s hard for me to believe,” she says. “All I ever do in front of the camera is be myself.”

» Check out our original interview with Tanisha last year

Photos courtesy of The Style Network