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Name: Amanda Pruss
Age: 22
Height: 5'4"
Before Weight: 280 pounds

How I Gained It: At age 8, growing up in Alaska, I started putting on weight after my parents divorced. My mother and I both turned to food for comfort. Lack of daylight and temperatures as low as 60 below in winter were conducive to depression and weight gain, and I had both. I wasn't very athletic and had very little knowledge about diet and exercise. By the time I was 11 years old, I weighed 208 pounds. I stayed between 220 and 240 pounds until I turned 18.

Then I started packing on the weight. My boyfriend and I were living in a trailer in the middle of nowhere in North Pole, Alaska, outside Fairbanks. Fuel was expensive and often I would go without heat, staying in my bedroom using a heated blanket and a space heater. I was in a deep depression and did nothing but eat, surf the Internet and sleep. I would eat whole boxes of cereal, pretzels with cheese, candies, chocolates -- almost any form of junk food. I was devastated that I had gotten so far away from the person I remembered being.

Breaking Point: After my mom kept telling me how afraid she was that I would have a heart attack because of my weight, I went to the doctor and saw the number on the scale. I couldn't believe it. I was in shock: I weighed 280 pounds. That was the biggest I had ever been. I decided I was tired of not looking in a full-length mirror to avoid seeing how big I had gotten and having clothes that were so uncomfortable that I would take the largest stretchy skirts that I could find and wear them as dresses.

How I Lost It: I got a break -- my first job at an athletic club. I started noticing the weight slowly coming off. Within a few months, I had gone from 280 pounds to around 230. The fact that I was taking weight off just by moving around and not eating as much made me happy. I didn't even have a specific exercise routine and I wasn't tracking calories. I had to do things like walk up and down stairs a lot and of course I didn't have the time to eat junk food all day anymore. I started to realize that being overweight didn't have to be my destiny.

I started educating myself about calorie intake, diet and exercise. Once I got below 200 pounds for the first time since age 10 just by eating less and moving more, I knew I could lose the rest of the weight. I started out walking at my local track three times a week for 30 minutes and keeping a food journal. Soon I started counting calories and worked my way up to five days a week of exercise. I now work out five days a week on average and still keep a food journal. I like to do workout videos at home and watch what I eat without denying myself. The one thing I've learned is everything in moderation.

I learned almost everything I know about diet and exercise on SparkPeople.com, especially how many calories I should be eating and how many calories I burn through exercise. I started tracking my food and exercise by using the tools on the site. At one point I no longer had Internet access, so I started tracking my food and exercise in a paper journal, and I still do just in case I don't have Internet access. SparkPeople.com also gave me a great support group to help me lose the weight and keep it off. I learned that if I wanted to keep the weight off for good that I had to look at all these changes as a way of life and not just a temporary fix until I reached my goal. I learned that yes, sometimes you will have setbacks, but that shouldn't ever keep you from getting back on track.

I've lost more than 130 pounds and all I can say is that I feel like the real me. I didn't ever think I would be able to do pushups or squats or even run. I even participated in my first 10K in the summer of 2011. Losing weight has made me more confident because I'm not just this blob that sits on the couch and stuffs my face. I'm a real person. I was out the other day and I thought, "If I needed to run for my life, I could," which is helpful, because there are grizzly bears in Alaska! I couldn't ever say that before. I love the fact that I can push myself through exercise and change my body to become better and stronger, not just on the outside, but on the inside as well.

After Weight: 143 pounds
2012-06-11-amandapruss2.jpg

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