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Weight Loss Without Gimmicks

* Mary Z. Zic, 34, Tennessee * Inches lost: bust 6; waist 7; hips 8 * Height: 5' 6" * Pounds lost: 50

Growing up, I was never very active and didn't take the time to eat healthfully, so by the time I was 12, I weighed 150 pounds. Because of my size, I wasn't energetic and often stayed on the sidelines in PE classes. I also was teased mercilessly by my peers and often turned to food for comfort. By the time I was in eighth grade, I weighed 190 pounds and suffered from an extremely poor self-image. When I started high school, I decided I had had enough of being overweight. I lost 60 pounds in eight months by eating only small portions of fat-free food. I thought I looked great, even though I was weak and didn't have any muscle tone. But none of that mattered to me since I was finally thin.

I continued this unhealthful pattern for the next year and maintained my weight loss until I started working at a fast-food restaurant. I found myself munching during my shift, and soon the pounds came back on. My weight yo-yoed for the next 15 years as I went to college, got married and had children. I tried so many fad diets that I lost count. While I lost a few pounds, they never stayed off.

By the time I was 30 years old, my weight settled at 185 pounds and I realized I was tired of letting my weight control me. I joined a gym and took step-aerobics classes. I stayed in the back of the room during the first class and struggled to keep up with the instructor, but I managed to complete it. I also started eating healthier foods like oatmeal and fruit, and limited the amount of processed, high-sugar foods I ate. I lost a pound a week and could hardly believe it. I didn't have to deprive myself of any food or spend money on fad diets; I just needed to eat properly and exercise.

After the first 15 pounds came off, my weight plateaued and the scale wouldn't budge. Then I hired a trainer and started weight training, which restarted my weight loss. Every time I hit a plateau, I changed some aspect of my program: the number of reps, order of exercises or added a new activity. By the time I reached my goal weight of 135 pounds a year later, I was also running and doing Spinning classes.

After I reached my weight-loss goal, I became a personal trainer and Spinning instructor. I now help other women reach their weight-loss goals. To keep my workouts challenging, I joined a triathlon-training group and completed my first triathlon last year. I was pleasantly surprised when I placed third in my age group. The feeling of accomplishment was amazing. Now I'm training for a marathon. With hard work, consistency, the right training and support, anything is possible.

Workout Schedule

Weight training: 60 minutes/3 times a week Spinning instruction: 45 minutes/4 times a week Running: 60 minutes/3 times a week

Maintenance tips

1. Don't get discouraged if your weight loss is slow. You're making a lifestyle change, and to last it has to be done slowly.

2. Seek help from professionals, like trainers and nutritionists, so you're armed with the right information about weight loss.

3. Exercise with others -- it'll make you feel accountable for your workouts and motivate you when you need it.

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