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Catching up with a few of tbt*'s most familiar faces

Five days a week, tbt* brings you stories of some of Tampa Bay's most colorful characters: The guy who went on a 30-day pizza diet. The man who lost his job then started a dream career photographing pets. Ever wonder what happened to them? We tracked down the folks behind a few of our more interesting stories to find out, "Where are they now?" — Susan Thurston and Dalia Colón

Natalia Burleson

The story: She's a 'loser' and loves it (Oct. 17, 2008).

Then: Burleson won Shapes Total Fitness' Biggest Loser competition in 2008 after she lost nearly 25 pounds in 12 weeks. The stay-at-home mom from Riverview weighed 278 pounds at the start of the challenge and hoped to someday reach 140 pounds and become a personal trainer to help other women fight obesity.

Then: This hasn't been the best of years, Burleson says. After winning the contest, she kept off the weight for a while but struggled during the holidays. Then, on Jan. 19, her husband was laid off from his job at a tire company. To cope with the stress, Burleson ate and, within months, gained back every pound. She plans to start a new diet and exercise routine in the New Year, and recently joined TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly). She has resumed her blog about losing weight (nataliaburleson.com), and her husband is working as a mobile mechanic. This time around, Burleson hopes to come up with a regime she can live with and maintain, rather than one focused on a contest. "One of the things I learned is that when you're doing lifestyle changes, there's no end date,'' she said. "It's kind of cliche, but it was a good learning experience.''

Eric Kramp

The story: 40 pounds lighter and years wiser (Jan. 16, 2009).

Then: Kramp quit his dull desk job to travel the country, play tennis and eat only at Wendy's. By and large, he achieved his goal. He visited every state, except Hawaii and Alaska, and lost 40 pounds on his Wendy's-only diet. He came back to Tampa in December 2008, broke and without a job but reinvigorated and hopeful about his future.

Now: Upon returning, Kramp got a commission-only sales job with a tennis tournament, but it didn't last long. Then he reluctantly went back to his old job as a medical bill processor but was laid off a few months later. Today, Kramp, 36, is doing freelance work and plotting his next trip. He and his 20-year-old sister plan to spend the summer traveling the country and organizing a charity promotion at various tennis clubs. Kramp, 36, has kept off the weight but wants to lose another 50 to 60 pounds. He hasn't eaten at Wendy's in a while and won't limit his diet on this trip. Is he happy? "I'm trying to figure it out myself,'' he said. "I feel like I'm roaming all over the place right now.'' He's glad, at least, he's not sitting in a cubicle every day.

Mike Mayo

The story: Turning his lens to a warm, fuzzy new job (Sept. 11, 2009).

Then: After getting laid off from his job with a coffee company, Mayo turned to his two passions — photography and animals — to start a new career. Mayo, of Wesley Chapel, founded Golden Vision Photography, a mobile pet photography business that travels to pet stores, veterinarians and groomers taking portraits of pets out of an air-conditioned trailer. To help get the company up and running, he won $26,000 worth of pro-bono business services through the 2009 Tampa Bay Small Business Jumpstart contest.

Now: Mayo is thrilled to report that his business is doing well. So well, at times, that he's been "struggling to keep up.'' Mayo has done photo shoots outside pet-related businesses, mostly in the north Tampa area. Subjects have ranged from a 6-pound dachshund to a 165-pound mastiff. Mayo took a break during the holidays but plans to resume Jan. 5 and expand, possibly to south Tampa and St. Petersburg. "We've learned a lot in the short time we've been doing it,'' he said. "We've only skimmed the surface.''

Matt McClellan

The story: Life of pie: Losing weight by eating nothing but pizza (Aug. 21, 2009).

Then: McClellan, owner of the St. Petersburg restaurant Tour de Pizza, embarked on a monthlong all-pizza diet to prove the food could be part of a healthy lifestyle. By the end of the experiment, he had lost 24 pounds and improved his blood pressure and other vital statistics.

Now: On the day his diet ended, McClellan ate a Chipotle burrito for lunch and a bowl of seafood pasta from the St. Petersburg restaurant Bowled for dinner. On Dec. 1, McClel­lan kicked off another monthlong pizza diet with the goal of gaining lean muscle mass; his current weight is 191. In January, he hopes to embark on a nationwide tour to teach Americans to get healthy using just pizza and exercise. "A lot of people at first thought it was a joke and they criticized it," McClel­lan said. "But after we finished the 30 days and people saw the results, it's given me the opportunity to help people with their life." People like Tony Moscato of Palm Harbor, who has type 2 diabetes. After Moscato, 70, saw McClel­lan discussing his pizza diet on TV, Moscato decided to start his own pizza diet. McClellan offered to help Moscato, making him special pizzas with sugar-free dough and sauce. Since Dec. 2 the two have been exercising together five days a week. Neither man is tired of pizza (said Moscato: "I'm Italian. Are you kidding me?"), although McClellan's wife, who wasn't crazy about her husband's first 30-day pizza binge, still isn't thrilled. "She hates me," McClellan said. "She thinks I'm a lunatic."

Nestor Urdaneta & Vanessa Valentin

The story: Big secret, big love (Feb. 9, 2006).

Then: In honor of Valentine's Day, the tbt* cover featured a photo of Urdaneta on one knee with the headline "Vanessa, will you marry me?" He revealed his surprise over lunch at Romano's Macaroni Grill on North Dale Mabry Highway, surrounded by their families. Valentín said yes.

Now: After a Sept. 21, 2007, wedding and reception at Rusty Pelican and a honeymoon to Urdaneta's native Venezuela, the couple live in Town 'N Country. Valentin, 26, works in collections at a bank. Urdaneta, 27, co-owns a car dealership on Nebraska Avenue and runs Monaco Boutique on W Kennedy Boulevard. The two plan to start a family in about a year. In the meantime they're enjoying their freedom with weekend trips to Miami and Orlando, where Urdaneta treats his wife to romantic dinners and flowers. "I always try to keep it romantic," Urdaneta said. "Vanessa's a spoiled girl."

Catching up with a few of tbt*'s most familiar faces 12/30/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 6:58pm]

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