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Sawnee teacher sheds pounds on TV show
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The weight-loss journey of Jill Adams, a teacher at Sawnee Elementary School, will be featured Monday on an episode of A&E's "Heavy." - photo by Autumn McBride

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Watch Jill Adams on "Heavy" Monday at 10 p.m. on A&E.

For Jill Adams, April 24, 2010, was the first day of the rest of her life.

The date is scrawled on the back of a photograph that could be considered her "before" picture.

A much heavier Adams stands next to a friend on that day in April as she celebrated her departure to a new, thinner life.

Adams is nearing half of her weight from that photo, which she keeps in her purse at all times for motivation.

The Sawnee Elementary School teacher will watch the transformation unfold Monday when her journey is featured on an episode of A&E's "Heavy."

The show, billed as a "docudrama," follows participants on their six-month weight loss journeys.

For Adams, who began at 305 pounds, the intensive program may give her what's she's always wanted -- a child.

She began searching for serious weight-loss options a few years ago, when a doctor told her she was too heavy to conceive.

Adams said she'd tried every diet she could find (with no success) in a lifetime struggling with weight.

"I knew that I was going to have to go to some kind of drastic measure and I didn't want to do surgery," Adams said. "TV just seemed like the answer ... It was six months to totally depend and focus on me, and I don't normally do that."

She auditioned for the competition reality show "The Biggest Loser," and just missed the cut. The rejection left her depressed, and she gained about 30 pounds.

A producer called her back months later telling her about a similar show that was interested in casting her, and she hesitantly agreed to send in another audition tape.

Adams was in the classroom at the time she got the call telling her she made it, but that didn't stop her from screaming.

About two months later, she left for a Hilton Head Island resort for a free half-year of training, dieting and learning, a program she estimated would cost about $2,100 per week.

Along with 11 other overweight Americans, Adams began exercising five to six hours a day and eating strict meals prepared just for her.

"The first couple of days were hard because your body was detoxing from all of that food," Adams said. "I ate all the time. To be 305 pounds, you don't just eat lettuce and carrots.

"It definitely took some getting used to."

Though she hasn't seen her episode yet, Adams expects viewers will see many of the most dramatic moments of her struggles.

Despite all the hard work involved in weight loss, she said the most difficult part was not seeing her husband or family for six months.

Looking back, Adams said she was happy to be a part of "Heavy" instead of another program.

"The reason I like what I did more ... is that nobody got voted off," she said. "And it was all us. We had trainers there ... but we had to motivate ourselves."

Participants weren't forced through the activities, she said, but rather turned in a schedule and held themselves accountable.

For Adams, it worked. She lost more than 100 pounds during her time in the program and more since returning home in late October.

Her new look was a shock to friends, family and her school, where they taped her "reveal" for the show.

She doesn't have any children on the way yet, but the doctor has told her that it's now possible.

"We're just waiting for that magic time," Adams said.

Keeping the weight off is more difficult at home, she said, since she has to plan time to exercise and make healthy eating choices while on the go.

She said a great support network and a discovered love of running have been two things keeping her on the weight-loss path.

Eileen Kuhn, a fellow teacher at Sawnee, and Adams put together a running club that meets twice a week for exercise on the Big Creek Greenway.

Kuhn befriended Adams while she was away for filming. The school provided an address, and Kuhn began sending Adams handwritten words of encouragement every couple of weeks.

When Adams returned, Kuhn wanted to do something to help her keep up a routine.

"I figured if we could at least meet up a couple times a week, it would at least be put on her agenda so she's somewhat held accountable," she said.

Adams running ability has gone from nearly nonexistent before the program to training for a half-marathon she plans to run next weekend in her hometown of Albany.

Kuhn said Adams' journey has been an inspiration to others at the school to exercise and eat healthier.

Christina Gallagher, a close friend and former co-teacher, said she's also training for a half-marathon, thanks to Adams' experience.

"She's so much more confident, and she's been such an inspiration to all of us that are around her," Gallagher said.

Adams has always had a "dynamite" personality, Gallagher said, which she expects will hit home with viewers of the TV show.

"I think as soon as America has an opportunity to meet her and see her, they'll fall in love with her," she said. "She's such a fun person and so beautiful inside and out."

Adams may still be the same person on the inside, but her appearance has changed in weight -- and art. She got a tattoo of a butterfly and a Bible verse during her time on the weight-loss program.

The words read: "The old is gone and the new is come."

"That's what this represents for me. The old Jill, the one that ate her feelings or chose food for comfort, that's no longer there," she said. "I still have those tendencies ... but I think about it now."