Occupation Grad student
Before 178 lbs
After 127 lbs
While on her high school jazz dance team, Alexis Burnett practiced five days a week year-round, and she had the dancer's body to prove it. But after entering Xavier University in New Orleans in 2004, Alexis hit the books, not the gym. Huge meals of heavy Southern-style cafeteria food like jambalaya and countless sugary coffee drinks were the norm. "When I was studying, stressed, and trying to fit it all in, convenience ruled," she admits. By the end of freshman year, she'd added nearly 30 pounds to her 5'3" frame.
Two weeks into her sophomore year, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city. With her apartment gone and Xavier's campus in ruins, Alexis transferred to the University of Mississippi in Oxford. There, friends sent her high school photos to replace those that she'd lost forever in the storm. But Alexis wasn't happy to see them. "I was so far from the size 8 I used to be in those pictures," she says. In just one year, so much of her dancer's muscle had morphed into fat that her flesh rolled over the waistband of her size-12 jeans. "It seemed like everyone who saw the photos would look at them, and then look at me, and think, What happened to you?"
Starting in November 2005, Alexis channeled her energy into getting her old body back. She picked up the pace on her walks and began running to lose weight. Thirty-minute sessions stretched to an hour, and 10 pounds melted away in a month. By May, the dress she had planned to wear to her sister's high school graduation was two sizes too large.
But she didn't stop there. Alexis added four days of strength training to her three-times-a-week cardio workouts. She stopped eating at the cafeteria and started cooking her own meals, shrinking portion sizes along with the fat and calories. Nine months later, she was at her high school weight, and six months after that, she dipped below it, the result of training for 5-K and 10-K races. By her May 2008 graduation, Alexis was 20 pounds lighter than she'd been in high school, back when she "used hours of exercise as an excuse to overeat."
Now 24, she has returned to Ole Miss and is working toward a master's degree in health promotion. This time, though, Alexis is the fittest she's ever beenÃ¢â‚¬”physically and mentally. "I used to spend a lot of time worrying about losing weight and feeling insecure," she says. "Finally, I feel happy, free, and relaxed."
Fit in a fast one "I keep medicine balls, weights, and a jump rope at home. I do one-minute intervals with each for half an hour total to get the biggest calorie burn."
Eat according to the calendar "Fresh veggies taste best, so I buy what's in season. Asparagus with olive oil, soy sauce, and sesame seeds is a spring favorite."
Promote protein "I always like to keep some marinated tofu in the fridge because it's easy to add to meals when I'm in a hurry, and it helps keep me full."
Competition is healthy "Dance competitions used to be my motivation, but now it's running. A personal-best time shows that my training paid off."
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