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    From struggles, a business grows

    Certified holistic health practitioner Amy Person brings personal knowledge to her wellness and weight counseling business.

    By CHRISTINA K. COSDON

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 18, 2001


    SEMINOLE -- Since childhood, Amy Person has battled weight problems.

    As an adult, she joined weight and exercise programs and eventually learned to regulate her weight. Then she began dreaming of helping others, of having her own wellness and weight counseling business.

    While bringing up four children, the St. Petersburg native took college courses and studied nutrition, working toward that goal.

    Two years ago, she finally completed the work to become a certified holistic health practitioner and started a small wellness counseling practice, New Age Wellness.

    Last month, she moved her counseling practice from St. Petersburg to Seminole. She and her husband, Bill Pullen, share an office at 8940 Seminole Blvd. that also houses a jewelry business they own.

    In all her adult life, Person has never not dieted.

    "I'm a professional dieter, I've been doing it for 30 years," said Person, who is 50. "I have spent a lifetime searching for the answer to my continuous weight struggle. Many times I would under-eat and overexercise trying to lose the same 10 to 30 pounds and I would gain weight."

    Over the years, her weight fluctuated 10 to 50 pounds, getting as high as 200. Person, who is 5 feet 6 inches, declined to reveal her current weight.

    As a child, she said, she was short and very fat. She remembers the pain of being taunted by children and adults.

    By her teen years, she had started to grow taller and lose weight and "look more normal," she said.

    "I went to my first Weight Watchers meeting in 1972 and stayed for 20 years," she said. "It was there that I learned to control what I was eating. I learned to be very disciplined and very controlled."

    Despite her self-discipline, it is very difficult for her to lose weight. "If other people ate the way I do, they would lose weight," she said. "But it doesn't happen that way for me."

    Pregnancies, illness and other situations in her life contributed to weight gain.

    "I will work for five years to get weight off," she said. "I don't eat what my family eats. Last night, they had pizza and I had grapes and a salad.

    "I'm never full -- I don't remember what it feels like to be full. But I'm used to it."

    Now, she plans her meals each day, writing down what she is going to eat.

    "In recent times, I learned the art of food combining," she said. "I lost 30 pounds last spring and have maintained the weight loss. It was when I started to eat the correct combinations of foods at the correct times and improved the quality of food that I was able to lose weight.

    "But," she said, "it's a constant struggle."

    Two of her four daughters also have weight problems, she said.

    In her business, she tries to help people establish better eating habits and increase physical activity.

    Lisa Smajovits of Largo went to Person several months ago. She had been trying to lose weight after the birth of her second child. She tried diets that didn't work. "I was really frustrated," she said.

    After following a nutritional program that Person recommended, she finally began shedding the pounds.

    "Because my children are so little," she said, "I don't take the time I should to focus on myself and I still lost 12 pounds in the first three weeks."

    Another client, Margie Green of St. Petersburg, learned how to prepare healthier meals for her family and shop in health food stores. She has also become more knowledgeable about some diseases.

    "Now I feed my family healthier meals, shop with comfort in a new market and (I) am more informed about my family's health conditions," she said.

    Person's clients range in age from 30 to 75 and most are fighting fat, she said. Her fees are from $50 to $75 an hour, but are flexible, she said.

    Before discussing nutrition with a client, she asks that they keep a 10-day journal of what they eat and drink.

    "Most are surprised, even shocked at the menu choices they have made," she said.

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