Call Natalia Burleson a big loser, and she'll probably thank you. Call her the biggest loser, and she might even do a dance.
That's because the 41-year-old Riverview woman recently won a "Biggest Loser" contest at her local gym.
Shapes Total Fitness started the 12-week challenge at its Tampa Bay clubs in July to help women get fit. It's modeled after NBC's The Biggest Loser, which challenges competitors to lose loads of weight.
About 150 dieters took part in the Shapes contest, which included nutritional workshops, trips to the grocery store and points for healthy eating and exercise. Rather than focus on the scale, the emphasis was on shedding fat and gaining muscle.
Burleson, a stay-at-home mom, started at 278 pounds and lost 23.5 pounds. Her ultimate goal: weigh about 140 pounds and become a personal trainer for others trying to lose weight. She also hopes to start a support group for women who have more than 50 pounds to lose.
In between workouts, tbt* spoke to Burleson about winning, losing and staying on track. For more, follow her journey at nmburlesonweightloss.blogspot.com.
What made you enter the competition?
I'm going to be 42 this December and I just kind of decided it's now or never. I've been putting it off, putting it off and I walked into my gym one day and saw the sign for the contest and I said to myself, "You've got nothing to lose but some weight."
What are the biggest hurdles?
The mean voices I have in my head that sabotage myself, the emotional eating. The voice that says do you realize how much weight you have to lose? There's no way you're going to do it. I've been working on fighting that voice.
Have you tried losing weight before?
Oh my gosh. When I think of everything I've tried. Jenny Craig. The cabbage soup diet. The Atkins Diet, but I think I only tried that for a day. I'm not a big fan of protein.
Would you want to be a contestant on TV's Biggest Loser?
I don't think I could be away from my family for that long. When they are locked in that house, it's not true life and they have to make adjustments when they come home. They go back to work. They go back to whatever their life was. I think that would be a hard transition. I've been changing my habits while I've been living my life.
The winner of the show gets $250,000. What did you win?
I didn't get that much. (laughs) I got $500, but I'm very happy with that because I cleaned out my closet and took out all of my biggest-sized clothing. I need to stop wearing them because it makes me feel so complacent. When I get the money, I'm going to spend some of it on clothes.