Charlee Burch was on vacation a little more than a year ago in Hot Springs, Arkansas, but it was far from a vacation, she said.

"I was just miserable," she said. "It was hot and humid and at the time I was almost 300 pounds. My husband was almost 340 pounds. I could not even get my hair dry because I was so hot."

She knew then she had to change and asked that her husband, Kevin, would join her. She started researching diet options while still in Hot Springs.

Together they decided to kick start their weight loss with a low-carbohydrate diet.

"When we got home we emptied out our pantry and fridge, went to the grocery store and just got started," Charlee said.

Today, Charlee has lost more than 90 pounds, and Kevin has dropped about 150 pounds.

Kevin said he'd always "been on the bigger side," but in nursing school the stress and long hours of studying led to a lot of poor food choices and a ballooning weight.

Charlee had a similar story. She went into high school at about 130 pounds, having lost 30 pounds the summer before school started, but she gained a little weight each year. By the time she finished high school, Charlee said she weighed 220 pounds.

Then came nursing school and marriage and more pounds.

"I'm a good Southern cook, I think," she said. "I think it just spiraled out of control, and we both gained quite a bit of weight after we got married. Sometimes he'd say 'I really want some cornbread' so we'd eat a whole pan of cornbread."

But, no more.

Kevin said even when eating out — even at a fast-food restaurant — he makes choices that fit in the frame of their diet. 

"Now, if I have to go, I'll get a salad," Kevin said. "Its been well over a year since I ordered a burger and fries meal, and the quantity would have been a lot greater. When you are used to eating that way, you become desensitized to the size of the meal you are eating. I eat a lot less and recognize when I'm full."

The Burches started with a low-carbohydrate diet — rich in filling meats and absent the sugar and starch from pastas, breads and potatoes.

At times, they will trade the low-carbohydrate diet for a low-calorie diet with a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean protein.

"We don't have any cheat days or treat days," Charlee said. "Both of us realized that one day would spiral into a week and that would spiral into a month."

After dropping some pounds from diet alone, the couple added exercise. They started with the popular Couch to 5K running program that takes people from non-runners to being able to run a little more than 3 miles in six weeks.

"The first time we ran we were horrible," she said. The program sets up intervals for walking and running, with longer stretches of running added each week. "You're only running about seven minutes total (during the first sessions), but oh my gosh we were horrible. But, we got better and we kept on."

They key is, Kevin said, they are doing it together.

"I think that a lot of people are constantly talking about needing to loose weight," Kevin said. "We were kind of that way, too. We've been saying that for as long as I can remember. It is something you always think about doing, but when your spouse decided they want to make a change it really is a motivator.

"It is something I've wanted to do for a long time, but it is hard to do it on your own. Doing it together motivated me to finally make the change."

Now they run 3 or more miles most days of the week. Even when Kevin wants to skip a day, his body reminds him not to do it. 

"My body just wants to get out and go," he said. 

They enjoy hiking, fishing and now kayaking as a couple. They recently purchased a pair of kayaks to be able to spend more time on the water.

"We always wanted to go camping and hiking and be outdoors, but we were too fat and lazy to do it," Charlee said. "A year ago, we wouldn't be able to fit in a kayak because those things are small, but we recently took a 14-plus mile trip down the river. We are happier as a couple and happier in general. We both have more confidence."

They are also healthier.

Charlee has taken medication to control her blood pressure since she was 17, and her cholesterol was dangerously high. At a recent doctor's check, her cholesterol was perfect and she was able to drop one of the two medicines she was takes to control her blood pressure.

Kevin had not yet been prescribed medication to control his blood pressure, but was nearing that. Now his blood pressure is in the normal range.

"It was very scary to me as a nurse because it sounded like patients I take care of," Charlee said. "I'm only 26 and that was very scary so that helped me stay motivated as well."

jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com or 256-740-5754. Twitter @TD_JEdwards.

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(1) comment

carol bela

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