Burnett completes weight loss challenge

Published 6:26 pm Saturday, October 11, 2008

PICAYUNE — “I had to accept the fact that I was obese,” said Tanya Burnett of Picayune. That was 102 pounds ago. Today, Tanya is slimmer, healthier, happier and ready to take on the world.

Burnett, a 43 year old procurement specialist, was chosen to participate in the nine month People Magazine weight loss challenge, which has become an annual tradition for the magazine.

Back in December, 2007, the Item published a story titled “People Magazine selects Picayune resident Tanya Burnett for a weight loss challenge.”

“Tanya R. Burnett has been struggling with her weight for the past 15 years. Burnett is a self described emotional eater, and has experienced a lot of loss in her life. Since December 2006, Burnett feels like she is finally getting back on track and has already lost 40 pounds. With 70 pounds left to go to reach her goal, Burnett is thrilled that People Magazine is going to give her that little extra push.”

The story goes on to report how Burnett was selected along with eight other Mississippi residents to all be promptly placed on a diet. The magazine chose to focus the challenge on Mississippians after the statistics came out showing that Mississippi was the nation’s fattest state.

For Burnett, the challenge started sometime during the second week of January. Like the other contestants she was provided a nutritionist and a personal trainer to ensure success. Burnett says she met with the trainer a couple of times and the nutritionist once.

“At first I got frustrated, but I said, ‘You know what, this is still my opportunity.’ So I started working out at home,” said Burnett. Working a full time job, going to school full time and being a full time mother, quickly ruled out frequent visits to the gym. So Burnett, being a self starter, decided to go it on her own and proved to herself and to world that success can be achieved despite life’s obstacles.

Burnett described the entire experience as whirlwind. Every two months a camera crew would be sent to Picayune to record her day to day activities, such as grocery shopping and exercising at a local park. Halfway through the challenge, the group of eight participants got together to get reenergized. The group also participated in a 5K in Batesville.

“My husband did [the 5K] with me,” she said. “I never thought of doing anything like that before, but when we completed the race it was such a good feeling.”

As the experience rapidly started to approach the finish line, the participants were treated like celebrities and whisked away to New York, N.Y., to film ABC News, Good Morning America, and three other shows, including a live radio Broadcast. The ABC segment, titled “Half My Size” aired after the widely watched prime time show “Dancing with the Stars.” The final magazine story ran in the October 6 issue of People.

Now that the magazine challenge is over Burnett is relieved and excited to start the next phase of her life. She plans to take the lessons she learned and use them to encourage others. “It’s all about encouraging yourself and being around positive people,” she said.

Burnett said she did not want a quick fix. She says it took her approximately 15 years to put the weight on, so realistically she knew it was going to take time to take it off. She allotted two years to reach her ultimate goal. She is now just 18 pounds shy of that accomplishment.

Burnett reports both physical and emotional health benefits from her weight loss. “I have more energy, my mind is clear and I haven’t had any more anxiety attacks,” she said. She is also extremely pleased that she doesn’t feel like she has to hide behind extra clothing, such as jackets.

She has already started to write a book and hopes to one day produce the story of her life, which she feels will be inspirational to others. She is also in the process of developing a new program, T30/30 Health (the “T” stands for “time”), which she plans to implement in the Greater Picayune community in January at her church.