It wasn't the numbers on the scale or an alarming doctor's report that motivated Heather Burczynski to finally drop the excess weight she'd been battling all her life. Instead, it was the sight of her newborn nephew. "I looked at that little guy and was overwhelmed by the love I had for him," the Nashville woman recalls of that day in October 2004. But at 5-foot-6 and 280 pounds, she didn't even want to hold him for family photos. "I thought, I can't let him know me as this person," she says.
That began her journey to a slimmer, healthier self. Since the YMCA was literally next door to her office (Heather sells and distributes choral music for publishers), she began working out during lunch. Rather than denying herself the foods she loved, she nixed the constant meals out and stuck to smaller portions at home.
Heather before her weight loss.
Within the first year, she'd dropped 80 pounds. The next year she started weight training and peeled off another 30. Then, 110 pounds lighter, she hit a plateau. To get back on track, she tried Weight Watchers and started training more intensely, and the weight once again began to fall off.
Now hovering around 148 pounds, Heather says she feels like she's been this size forever. "When I look at pictures, I can't even remember that person," she says.
Ironically for Heather, the best way to reach her goal was not to set one. "If I had told myself I wanted to lose 140 pounds, I would have been completely overwhelmed," she says. And while she now says she'd like to see the scale read 140—exactly one half her former size—she resists setting a target date. "If I splurge, I don't beat myself up. I know I'll offset it later at the gym."
Besides, Heather has already gained what she most wanted: a strong, healthy body. Her cholesterol numbers are good, and her resting heart rate has slowed to nearly half of what it used to be. All of which means she should be around for her nephew—and new baby niece—for a long time. "I decided that being healthy was my choice," Heather explains. "Losing the weight was the icing on the cake."
Heather, post-weightloss, at 148 lbs.
Lose It Lessons
Heather intuitively did many things right, says Cheryl Forberg, nutritionist for The Biggest Loser and Spry Support Team member. Try Cheryl's tips to shed pounds for good. (Of course, see your doctor before starting any weight loss program.)
- Put yourself first. Prioritizing "anything and everything" above your own health makes it easier to rationalize unwanted pounds, Cheryl says.
- Exercise. Many people think that to lose weight, they simply need to eat less—which leads to losing both fat and muscle. "Exercise is key," says Cheryl, "because it helps you lose fat and preserve muscle."
- Meet with a dietitian. Ask him or her to help you determine your calorie count and start a food journal. "You'll be shocked into awareness," Cheryl says.
- Work with a trainer. Even if you can only meet once, a trainer can teach you to exercise properly and avoid getting hurt.
- Plan for plateaus. Mix up your eating and exercise routines. Your weight fluctuates, so use a tape measure instead of the scale. And try on those baggy old clothes for a visual reminder of how far you've come.
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