Life changing transformations

Teacher loses over 100 pounds


Photo by Cameron Murry

Story by Cameron Murry, staff writer

Amanda Strauss runs for her life, runs for her health. She knows how diabetes works, knows its consequences. She knows her future is in danger if she keeps living life this way— letting her health slip away.

So, she’s making a change. Over one hundred pounds’ worth of change. In the past eleven months, Ms. Strauss has lost 165 pounds.

“[I am] originally from St. Louis, Missouri,” Strauss said. “I moved to Texarkana in June of this year.”

Strauss’ move posed a new start for her, a new opportunity.

“So I started losing weight about a year ago. It wasn’t really related to my move, but when I knew that I was moving I wanted to make sure that I was very ‘in place’ with all of my new habits,” Strauss said. “When you move, your whole life is thrown out of control and I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to have the excuse of  ‘Well, I’m moving now, so it’s okay if I go to McDonald’s,’ or ‘It’s okay if I skip the gym.’ I want to live a long and healthy life.”

Her lifestyle change came about due to seeing the way her parents were living with diabetes, having to go through the hustle and bustle of everyday life in addition to their illnesses.

“The biggest thing that inspired me to change was seeing my parents get sick with diabetes,” Strauss said. “Both of my parents have diabetes, and I knew that that was something that I didn’t want for my life, but that if I didn’t change that that would inevitably happen.”

I try to assert myself and put myself out there more often. I feel more comfortable doing that now because I don’t feel as held back by my weight.”

— Amanda Strauss

Her lifestyle used to consist of everyday choices; fast food, soda, sweets. Now, it consists of much healthier choices along with plenty of exercise.

“The first thing that I gave up was soda,” Strauss said. “I haven’t had soda for over a year, which is crazy because I used to have soda all the time, and now I’ve gotten to a point where I just don’t crave it. The only thing I drink is water and tea.”

Gradual changes to her diet made it easier for Strauss to commit to this big change.

“I started taking things I knew were bad for me out of my diet and just made sure that I didn’t have ‘bad’ food easily accessible at my house,” Strauss said. “If it’s there, I’m gonna have it. After I got really good at changing my diet, I started to get more active. I didn’t wanna start doing everything at once because I felt like I would be overwhelmed, so after I got my diet in check, I started going to the gym.”

Strauss’ approach to changing her diet led to a similar approach with exercise routines, as well.

“I initially started going once a week- just one day a week,” Strauss said. “After I did that for a while, I was like “Okay, I’m gonna go two days a week.” Now I’m up to going about four to five days a week.”

Getting help from the internet allowed Strauss to really engage in her workouts and target her goal areas.

“I tried to do it myself, then I very quickly realized I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into,” Strauss said. “I went on Youtube. I go to Youtube for learning so many new things. I have playlists of different body areas, like what I want to target. I kind of do a mixture of cardio- because that’s good for weight loss- but also strength training, because something that was important for me was not only losing weight, but getting stronger. It’s really cool to see your progression with that, because I can do things like lift certain weights now that I wouldn’t have been able to do so many months ago so that’s really nice, to see that progression.”

Despite her exterior changes, Strauss still has the same cravings as before. She manages her cravings by allowing herself to have a little freedom every now and then.

“I have to do my best to stay away from sweets, because I have a really big sweet tooth,” Strauss said. “It’s really easy for me to get out of control, so I try my best not to have that around,but I also think that it’s important not to restrict yourself too much. If I tell myself absolutely I cannot have this thing, I kind of want that thing. I try not to restrict myself too much. If I want something, I try to find a healthy alternative instead.”

She has found a way to satisfy her cravings while still remaining within her healthy eating boundaries.

“I used to really love pizza, but pizza is bad for you, so when I crave pizza, I take a chicken patty and put marinara sauce on it, then cheese,” Strauss said. “It still tastes like a pizza, but its not pizza. It’s not as bad for me. That’s how I work that out.”

She helps herself daily by counting her macros and making sure she’s eating the right amount of each food group. The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that has gained popularity in recent months.

“Something that’s really popular now is keto,” Strauss said. “I guess what I do is kind of like keto, but I don’t like putting a label on it. I follow my macros, so I track everything that I eat in MyFitnessPal. I want to make sure I’m getting in a good amount of protein, the right amount of fat and stay fairly low carb.”

When you lose a bunch of weight and you go through this huge change— whether you’re losing twenty pounds or losing as much weight as I’ve lost— you change physically, but you also change mentally.”

— Amanda Strauss

Society’s focus on food tempted Strauss for during the beginning of her transformation.

“Something I struggled with initially was whenever I would be around bad food,” Strauss said. “Sometimes there are parties at work or you get together with your coworkers or you’re in the cafeteria when your students have lunch and they’re eating things you used to really enjoy. I would just have to be reminded of why I’m doing this and that I’m really bettering my life.”

Although her diet and changes may seem restricting, the benefits have proven to be worth the difficulty.

“I enjoy being able to move easier,” Strauss said. “I enjoy being able to workout and not feel winded. I enjoy not being so tired at the end of the day. I enjoy being able to buy a smaller size pair of pants. It’s kind of having to change your mindset and look at things a different way. When you lose a bunch of weight and you go through this huge change— whether you’re losing twenty pounds or losing as much weight as I’ve lost— you change physically, but you also change mentally.”

Although she may appear to be a changed woman, Strauss is still the same person on the inside.

“Not a lot of people talk about that mental aspect. It’s a lot to go through— it’s weird when you’re treated slightly differently after you lose weight,” Strauss said. “That’s something that I found weird. People are more friendly to me now. I was always a nice person. I think I’ve become more confident, too. I think that’s probably what people feed off of. I try to assert myself and put myself out there more often. I feel more comfortable doing that now because I don’t feel as held back by my weight.”

Consistency and hard work are to be credited with Strauss’s success in her weight loss and lifestyle change. Without the dedication that she’s had to get there, she wouldn’t have seen any improvements.

“It’s really hard when you’re working so hard to change your life and you’re not seeing those results immediately,” Strauss said. “A lot of people think that ‘Oh, I can change all these things about my life, and I should automatically drop ten pounds.’ Know that you didn’t put on weight overnight and it’s not going to come off overnight. Stick with it, make small changes and in the end you will reap the benefits. You will see the results. It will take some time, but you’ll see them. As long as you make small, reasonable changes and goals that you can achieve, you’ll get there.”

Her loss of 165 pounds does not signify the end of her journey.

“I have a goal weight in mind, and I’m still about ninety pounds away from that,” Strauss said. “I still have a lot to go. My goal is to be at my goal weight by May of 2019.”

Strauss supports changing one’s self for the better, whether it be mentally, physically or any other area.

“If anyone finds any part about their life that they wanna change and make better, they should,” Strauss said. “That is the ultimate form of self love. You should always love yourself.”