Low-carb meals. Adding up points. Countless gym memberships. Amanda Billions, 32, had attempted to lose weight more than once. Her efforts never lasted though. Extra pounds were a problem that had persisted since she was young. “I was always an overweight child all the way through school age, my teenage years, and into adulthood,” she says. Amanda continued to gain weight until she reached her peak of 403 pounds at the age of 28. However, that version of Amanda probably wouldn’t recognize the one in the mirror today that’s 213 pounds lighter. 

Getting Started

Her four-year weight-loss journey began with the courage to do something new—a six-week boot camp at LivLimitless Fitness Studio, formerly CrossFit Bartlett. It took a few months of gentle encouragement from a coworker for Amanda to warm up to the idea.

“She never really pushed it. She just kind of asked from time to time. So, then I started asking questions like, ‘Will I be the largest person there?’ and she said, ‘I’ll be honest with you, yes,’” says Amanda. Her colleague reassured her that the coaches could work with her current fitness level and provide modifications. 

Her friend was right. Amanda may have needed help with sit-ups and struggled through runs, but she made it through the six weeks. Afterward, a powerful realization set in. “I was like, ‘OK. I can do this,’” she says. Amanda partially credits the mental shift to the camaraderie of her fellow boot camp participants. “Having a group of people going through the same thing you were going through and not just trying to do it by yourself was super beneficial for me.” 

Discovering What Works

It became clear to Amanda that a group atmosphere was one of the missing pieces she needed to succeed with weight loss. Following the boot camp, she signed up for a membership and lost 50 pounds within the first six weeks. As her journey continued, Amanda transferred to CrossFit Hit & Run and increased the number of days she worked out.

Group exercise sessions and the friendships that emerged were only part of it. Finding a way of eating that encouraged nutritious choices but also provided flexibility was a game-changer. “Counting macros has been the most effective thing for me because it’s not taking out any food groups. I’m able to still eat the things I enjoy. I can have anything high carb, fat, or protein that I want as long as it fits into my calorie allotment,” says Amanda. 

Besides hitting the gym at least three times a week, Amanda stopped eating out every day and started making meals at home like grilled chicken with sweet potato and a vegetable. She swapped water for her go-to sodas. Today, the entrées she cooks are a little more indulgent. A hamburger with fries is currently one of her favorites. The occasional cocktail may be on the menu too. 

Amanda’s best advice for anyone looking to lose weight is to try things until you find what works for you. She is adamant that she never would have been able to accomplish her goals without a diet and exercise approach that suits her personality and preferences. 

What Commitment Looks Like

An intense level of self-discipline is one of the things that not only helped Amanda lose the weight but also run a marathon in 2018 and zip line near Niagara Falls in 2019. However, that self-discipline also caused her to struggle to find balance with eating. “I didn’t celebrate my birthday for a few years because I didn’t want to cheat on my diet,” she admits. Over time, Amanda learned that celebratory meals wouldn’t ruin her progress, though the mental obstacle was tough to overcome. 

So much of Amanda’s success can be credited to mental fortitude, especially when results took longer to appear and weren’t as obvious. She leaned on a mindset of, “I enjoy doing this for myself because it makes me feel good mentally and physically.” She also used side-by-side photos to track her progress and stay driven. Of course, having her tribe there to keep her accountable was crucial too. 

Embracing Her New Self

Since she got under the 200-pound mark, Amanda has focused on maintenance for the past year. Near the end of 2020, she had surgery to remove the excess skin left behind, a symbol of how far she’d come. “When you’re working out, it gets in your way,” she says. The surgery consisted of an extended arm lift (extended brachioplasty), fleur-de-lis tummy tuck (fleur-de-lis abdominoplasty), and a 360º bra-line back lift. 

The procedure marks the end of her weight loss journey. Yet, what’s left is a lifestyle Amanda loves and a body she cherishes. “I want to feed it well and have fun with it. Just do life.” 

By Alexandra McCray

Photo by Tindall Stephens