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Amanda Burns : Small steps culminate into big results

By Cheryl Hastings, Contributing Writer

When Amanda Burns confronted – really confronted – her weight issue, she found TI programs ready to help. Now 64 pounds lighter from her all-time high weight of 294, Amanda shakes her head when she thinks about gimmicks she once tried.

“You name it, I tried it. Any quick fix you can think of – water pills, Cortisol, fad diets, starvation. I’d lose a little weight, I couldn’t stick with it, and then I’d gain it back, plus some,” said Amanda, a manufacturing specialist in DMOS 5. “To get it right, I finally decided I should change my lifestyle, one habit at a time.”

Step One: ‘Your Weigh … Together’ and HabiTracker

A veteran of Operation Desert Storm, Amanda was at an ideal weight of 122 pounds when she left the U.S. Army. With military fitness discipline behind her, Amanda went cold turkey on exercise but continued to eat like a soldier. She remembers gaining 10 pounds in her first civilian year; her weight trended upward thereafter, and weight-related issues followed.

Troy Sandel, a personal trainer at the Dallas Texins Activity Center, guides DMOS 5 Manufacturing Specialist Amanda Burns through a weight-lifting workout twice a week. (Want to learn more about personal training at Texins? Click here.)

“I had trouble sleeping, and I would wake up gasping for breath. I had trouble with my sciatic nerve; overall I was in pretty bad shape,” she said. Hoping to make a positive change, Amanda joined Your Weigh … Together, TI’s group weight-management program .

“I learned about eating healthy food, and I dropped to 265 pounds. But I restricted myself to just 1,200 calories and I couldn’t maintain that, especially with my work schedule. I’d get in a hurry, break my good habits, feel bad, beat myself up, then lose ground again,” she said.

Your Weigh … Together introduced Amanda to the online HabiTracker tool on, which she calls a “godsend.” Among its helpful features is a food and exercise diary. At days’ end, participants see how the two work together to cause weight gain or loss.

On a day when Amanda decided to “treat” herself with a No. 1 Combo Meal at Sonic, HabiTracker caused a grand epiphany.

“I went home, logged in what I ate, and I was shocked! For the burger, fries and Coke, I had just eaten 2,200 calories. That was more than I was supposed to eat during a full day. I thought, ‘No wonder I gained all that weight – I used to eat that way all the time, every day!’”

Amanda had never cooked for herself, but the data convinced her she must.

Step Two: ‘Training at Texins’

Amanda once was a Texins Association member who didn’t take advantage of the Texins Activity Center. But when it became clear to her that weight loss requires exercise, she connected with Texins Personal Trainer Troy Sandel.

“Before Troy, my only exercise was walking while doing my job. I kept counting calories, plus I started working out with Troy, lifting weights twice weekly. He is great. He keeps me going,” she said.

Strength training was an improvement, but still not enough. When her weight crept back into the 280s, Amanda knew she had to incorporate another change.

Step 3: Get up and walk

The use of a pedometer is one of Amanda’s favorite takeaways from Your Weigh … Together. She learned that to lose weight, you must walk no less than 10,000 steps per day.

“That step counter showed me that on the days I didn’t work, I might take 1,500 steps -- just a confirmation of how much I was laying around. On days I did work, I might take 30,000 steps. Once I had that data, I thought, ‘OK, I can do this. I like to walk. I can bump up my walking on my days off,’” she said.

And so began Amanda’s next small change.

“I started using my iPod, going for nice walks and enjoying my music. Now, no matter if it’s really hot or cold outside, I get my music and I walk,” she said. “It makes me feel so alive to be outside.”

The addition of walking helped Amanda overcome a weight-loss plateau.

“I kick myself for not walking sooner. Now I feel like I have to walk; it boosts my energy,” Amanda mused. “And since I started, I’ve lost 1 to 2 pounds a week.”

Step 4: Serious about good food

About 18 months after switching from drive-through fare to home-cooked meals, Amanda began to seriously examine the way she prepares food.

“To me, when I eat chicken, the best part is the skin. But I decided I needed to modify that because that’s where a lot of the calories are,” she said. “I now prepare my food for the entire week, all at once. It’s working for me because I don’t have to whip in someplace, starving, at the spur of the moment.”

Moderation and portion sizes are now top-of-mind for Amanda.

“I’ve come to understand that all of these changes were necessary. I hope that others who face weight issues can see it too. Our generation is not in good shape and we need to get control of ourselves,” she said.

Rewarding results

Altogether, Amanda’s small changes have culminated in a lifestyle overhaul. Through healthy eating, weight training, walking and education, she is now down to 230 pounds. She’s reached yet another plateau in her weight loss, but she no longer gets discouraged; instead, she thinks about what she’ll change next.

Her knees feel better, her back doesn’t hurt, she moves around better and overall she’s more cheerful. She gets out more, hangs out with friends and goes to movies.

She reflects on how far she’s come, and she envisions achieving her goal weight – 140 pounds by this time next year.

Amanda says her next step might be to spend time with her family.

“When I was big, I quit visiting my family. They were shocked when I gained weight and they got on my case, which hurt my feelings. I told myself I didn’t need that and I quit visiting,” she said. “Now I realize they did it because they care. They haven’t seen me since I’ve lost weight … maybe I’ll go see them.”


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