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Client Spotlight: Melissa Silva

My client Melissa Silva is a weight loss success story, losing 52 pounds! She is the client that defeated all odds, reaching her weight loss goal at one of the busiest and most difficult times in her life. If she can do it, YOU can do it. She’s a mom with a full time job, was in college full time the entire time, was dealing with the tragic loss of her brother, and somehow found time to exercise and eat healthy. WOW! Melissa offers sound advice for anyone who feels like it’s never the right time to start.

 

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Q. How much weight did you lose and how long did it take you?

I have lost a total of 52 lbs. in approximately 8 months and I can happily say I reached my weight loss goal.

Q. How did you lose the weight?

I lost the weight by making myself a priority, working my butt off with my fabulous trainer Dara Mazzie three times a week for an hour at a time, doing cardio two days a week for 30 to 60 minutes on my own, joining the Weight Watchers online program, gaining support from my family, and never, ever giving up. There were many times when I thought I couldn’t do it.  When I first started training with Dara I was completely out of shape and had poor eating habits. I often thought about exercising and eating healthier in the past, but I was never able to stick to a plan for long. Scheduling sessions with Dara gave me the accountability and guidance that I needed. Once I started working out, I wanted to eat healthier too. The Weight Watchers online program allowed me to track what I was eating in an easy and convenient manner using my mobile phone.  The Weight Watchers Points System taught me that if I made healthier food choices, I could eat more throughout the day and never feel hungry.

Q. What obstacles did you face on your weight loss journey?

I began my weight loss journey perhaps at one of the busiest times in my life. I am a wife and mother of three children who are all active in sports. At the start of my journey, I was working fulltime (40 plus hours a week) which often included weekends, attending college with eight months left to complete my degree program, dealing with a tragic loss, and to top it off, it was soccer and wrestling season for my boys. I know, what was I thinking?  Needless to say, I had no idea how I was going to find the time to workout and prepare healthy meals on top of all of my other commitments. I also began my weight loss journey around the holiday season, which meant there was a lot of temptation to return to unhealthy eating habits and excuses to not exercise. Additionally, I struggled with hip and leg pain/injury as well as a fear of failing. Did I mention how out of shape I was?

Q. What helped you get past these obstacles?

Willpower, determination, support from family and friends, and hiring the best trainer were the biggest tools for me. To overcome the obstacle of my extremely busy life I had to use really good time management and often give up attending social events and forgo sleep. I had to prioritize what was really important to me. I made exercise and healthy eating a priority. I scheduled in exercise daily to ensure I fit it in. If I knew that I was going to be up late studying or doing homework, I would make sure that I worked out before I started. In addition, I learned to combine family time with exercise. I made the days that my sons had practice my cardio days by running around the field with my husband while our sons were practicing. As a family we go on bike rides, run at the beach, and play soccer.

Because of my extremely demanding schedule, I didn’t always have time to prepare healthy meals. I learned that eating out didn’t have to mean I had to make unhealthy choices. To stay within my daily Weight Watchers points, I looked up nearby restaurants’ nutrition information ahead of time and recorded the point values of items I liked to eat in my Weight Watchers app.  This way I had the information available at a moment’s notice. This also taught me a lot about portion control. I really had no idea about the amount of calories the food I was eating contained.  My husband and I often share meals now when we go out, this stops us both from over eating.  On Sunday’s, I pre-plan meals and prepare food so I always have a healthy option available during the week. The reason I chose the Weight Watcher program is because it is easy and I never feel deprived. It is not a diet program to me. It is my lifestyle now.

Q. Do you have any advice or tips for people who are struggling to lose weight and get fit?

Start now. It does not get easier if you wait and there will never be a right time. If possible, hire Dara Mazzie as your trainer.  Hiring Dara was the best decision that I made. She is so much more than a personal trainer. Dara is there to listen when I need to vent about my struggles as well as to motivate me. She has been my teacher, mentor, and cheerleader. She was there to hold me accountable, which was very important in the beginning and at times when I was struggling.

When I first started working out, I barely made it through the session. I thought to myself, how am I ever going to do this? I could barely do a push-up and had never even heard of a burpee! I would often look at Dara and say, “You want me to do what?!”  Hiring Dara took the guess-work out of exercising for me. I showed up and Dara told me what to do and how to do it.  I will admit there were times that I prayed almost the entire session asking God to help me make it through, but then there were times when I was so proud of myself when I performed an exercise that I couldn’t even imagine doing in the beginning.

I would also recommend joining the Weight Watchers online program. The program is easy, affordable, and convenient.  The program teaches you how to lose weight the right way.  There is an application for your mobile device that allows you to keep track of your points.  The application also has a scanner so you can scan the barcode of a product and it will give you the point value.  How simple is that! The Weight Watcher’s program has taught me how to keep the weight off.

Remember, every day is a fresh start. If you have days that you fall of your program, it is all right. Don’t beat yourself up. I have definitely made bad choices along my journey (still do).  I dust it off and start fresh with the next meal.

Q. How has your life changed since losing the weight?

I feel incredible and really enjoy being active with my family. A year ago my son and I were doing an exercise video together and I could not even make it through the video. A couple of months ago I took my son with me to one of Dara’s classes and he said, “Wow mom you did really good. I remember when you couldn’t even finish the video.”  That felt so good coming from him. I also graduated college this past June. We had family that we had not seen for a while in town for graduation.  They were amazed at my transformation. My aunt even felt inspired and went home and started exercising and eating healthy. It felt wonderful to be an inspiration to her.  I have to say, shopping for clothes is so much more fun too! I don’t have to worry about finding clothes that will hide my fat. I can buy clothes because I truly like them and feel great in them.

Q. What was surprising or unexpected about the weight loss process?

The most surprising aspect of my weight loss journey was that I actually met my weight loss goal and I am keeping the weight off. Deep down I truly didn’t think I was going to get there.  I didn’t know that I had it in me. I was surprised at how challenging it is to get started and stay motivated. Boy, did I work my butt off! Now I know why exercising is called working out!

I also found it surprising that once my muscles started developing, cardio became easier.  In the beginning I could barely stay on the elliptical for 15 minutes, now I am on it for an hour at a time.

I found it surprising on how much our lives are centered on food. Food is everywhere! I had to restrain how much I thought about food. I really learned a lot about myself in the process.

Q. What was your motivation to lose the weight? How did you stay focused?

My friend Michellen, began training with Dara and eating healthy.  She noticeably began losing weight over a period of time.  She shared tips with me, but I still didn’t exercise or eat healthy on a regular basis. Looking back now, I think I didn’t start taking it seriously because I was afraid of failing (part of my perfectionist syndrome). Later that year I experienced a tragic loss, which taught me that tomorrow is not guaranteed. I have three beautiful children and an amazing husband to live for. I wanted to do everything I could to make sure I was around for them. I also didn’t want my parents to lose another child. There are some things that are beyond our control, but living a healthy lifestyle was something I could control. I also wanted to be a good role model for my children. As I continued to watch my friend lose more and more weight, I was inspired. I thought, “Wow, if she is doing this maybe I can get in shape and lose the weight too.” My friend encouraged me and introduced me to Dara. I was truly blessed that I had a friend that was so inspiring and cared enough to help me begin my journey.

One aspect of my life that helped me stay focused on my weight loss goal was the fact that I had graduation coming up. I knew that there would be lots of pictures. I was tired of looking at myself in pictures and thinking what happened? Where did you go? It took me seventeen years to go back to school and earn my degree from when I graduated high school. I wanted to be happy and celebrate this moment and not feel depressed about my weight. It was so wonderful to take pictures with my family and friends and to not have to worry about how fat I was going to look in them. Now all I see is what a special day that was and how much I have accomplished.

Q. If you had to do it all again, would you have done anything differently?

Yes, I would have started sooner!  What was I waiting for?

Q. What is your fitness and nutrition like now that you are in maintenance mode?

I have learned that maintenance mode is tricky.  It is all about balance.  If I want to eat more of what I call “cheat meals,” I exercise more to maintain my weight.  If I want to exercise less, I eat better. My goal is to stay within five pounds of my goal weight. I have found that it is easier to eat better and exercise during the week because my week is so structured. The weekends are where I find myself sometimes struggling. Therefore, I plan my workouts during the week so if I miss one, I can make it up on the weekend.

Q. Can you share any other tips that helped you reach your weight-loss goals?

Yes! First, El Pollo Loco is a wonderful fast food restaurant that offers healthy and affordable choices. They have an entire “Under 500 Calories” menu and the food is delicious. When I am running short on time and have to eat out I often stop there. I can feed my family in a hurry and feel great about it. Also, I love Starbucks. I learned that I didn’t have to give up my favorite drink permanently. Instead of having a Grande Carmel Macchiatto seven days a week, I have a tall one on the weekends. This way I never feel deprived. Sara Lee has wonderful bread that has only 45 calories per slice and is delightful. Another staple in my refrigerator is Sargento’s 40 calories a slice cheese. I often make an egg and cheese or turkey and cheese sandwich when I need a fast meal. I carry around a piece of fruit or a Special K 100 calories or less protein bar in my purse. That way if I ever get hungry I always have a nutritious snack handy.

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Client Spotlight: Michellen Alfano

My client Michellen Alfano lost 70 pounds! Do you have any idea how challenging that is? I am so proud of her. She is an inspiration to anyone trying to overcome any obstacles in their life. She embodies all the reasons I love my job. Read my interview with her to see how she did it….the ups, the downs, and everything in between. Michellen gets real, no sugar coating involved. She is so brave and I love her for sharing her story with you.

 

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Q. How much weight did you lose and how long did it take you?

So far I have lost 70 lbs in 14 months. I went from a size 22 to a size 6!

Q. How did you lose the weight?

I hired you! LOL. No seriously, I knew I could never do  it on my own. I needed someone to motivate me, push me, and hold me accountable. Between you, my hubby, and training with my BFF, I had all grounds covered.

In the beginning I used a calorie counter app which really helped me understand what I was eating and how many calories I would burn during exercise. I began to realize how much work (exercise) it would take to burn off what I was putting in my mouth. And I wasn’t doing all of this work and spending all of this money for nothing! So I started eating a lot healthier, like 1 cheat meal a week healthy. I stuck to a 1600 calorie a day diet. I hired you to push me through 3-4 hour long strength and interval training sessions per week.

Since I’m so lazy and don’t like to think about what I need to eat and pack for lunches/snacks, I literally would eat the same thing every day. People always asked me, “Aren’t you bored? How do you do that?” Hey, it made it so easy for me to eat good! At some point I realized that food is for fuel, not to make me feel better, not to make my problems go away, it’s fuel! So eating the same things everyday didn’t matter at all to me. But, that took awhile to click, and honestly it was not from what anyone else said to me, it just clicked. I think that’s the biggest misconception about losing weight that naturally skinny people just don’t understand. You have to want it, you have to have the motivation and it’s really hard to change your way of thinking about food. If you are addicted to food and lazy (that was my case) then you have to completely change the way you think about food, like an hour by hour thought process. Just get through each hour of not eating bad and before you know it a whole day goes by without eating something bad. People can tell you a million different ways, and until it clicks in your brain and it’s something YOU want to do, you will stay unhealthy.

Q. What obstacles did you face on your weight loss journey?

Many! Still facing them. When I first started to workout with you I struggled so much and beat myself up a lot. I used to be a cheerleader in high school and college, I had a 6 pack and everything! Then I just kept putting on the weight and would emotionally eat all the time. It’s a viscous cycle. I would get upset, so I would eat, then I would be upset for eating bad, then I would eat more… nearly 100 lbs later and a horrible denial complex, I finally pulled my head out of my  ass and hired you.

The beginning was so hard, I remember not being able to do a pushup which was just crazy because I used to do a ton of them with no problem. It was so sad what I had done to myself, what I had become. I cried in my car several times after my initial workouts, thinking to myself, “Oh my GOD, you did this to yourself, you are so weak and fat.” I think that was my biggest obstacle, facing the fact that I had done this to myself, but I found the strength to pick myself up and love myself again. I don’t punish myself anymore.

Another obstacle is staying positive and patient. When you are losing weight the right way (healthy eating habits and exercise) it takes a long time. It’s a process. So many times I would get frustrated because the scale would not go down. But, I would see a difference in my clothes. That stupid number on the scale meant everything to me though. Now, I’m much better about the number and do not beat myself up about it.

Q. What helped you get past these obstacles?

What helped me get past these obstacles was to just keep moving forward. I have fallen off the wagon many times and been in a rut where I went back to eating bad and had a hard time stopping myself. I could have been at my goal weight by now. The key for me is to not let my stress lead to emotional eating and stop it before I get into the “cycle” again. My husband is very good about helping out when he sees me struggling and reminds me of how hard I have worked. I really need someone else to point out what I’m doing to myself sometimes or I would just go backwards.

Q. Do you have any advice for people who are struggling to lose weight and get fit?

My advice is to know your strengths and your weaknesses. My strength is being a very driven person, my weakness is food and justifying my unhealthy habits. I knew if I hired someone to help me, I wouldn’t get away with justifying unhealthy ways. I need to be told what to do and be held accountable. This works for me. I think a little digging into yourself is necessary before you can really start to change your choices and your body. You have to figure out what motivates you and don’t beat yourself about what you have done…it doesn’t matter. What matters is just doing it and not justifying it anymore! Find a partner to workout with, it will keep you from backing out because now you are part of someone else’s journey and you don’t want to mess with that!

Q. How has your life changed since losing the weight?

Well, I look good! LOL Seriously, I feel so much better. I have energy, I sleep better and most of all, my self esteem has improved so much. I am no longer uncomfortable walking into a meeting at work and I have so much more confidence to speak in front of people. I never realized how uncomfortable I was with myself until I started losing weight. When you take yourself seriously, people take you seriously! Opportunities have been opening up for me in my career and I know it has a lot to do with the way I feel and look at myself.

I have an even bigger shopping problem than I had before because I can wear clothes that I have been wanting to wear for years. I cried in the freaking dressing room when I took a gamble on a size 6 and it actually fit (I started at a size 22). It’s more fun to get dressed and go out. I used to turn down invitations to go out, family functions were always uncomfortable, but now I don’t have to worry about making excuses why I can’t go. It’s so nice to not be in “hiding” anymore or feel embarrassed.

Q. What was surprising or unexpected about the weight loss process?

I have been on every diet imaginable but I had never actually worked out so I was surprised how hard it really was! I began to appreciate and respect fit people and the process one has to go through to look that way. I used to think that fit people looked down on me (I’m sure I was just projecting) but, the more weight I lost, the more compliments and encouragement I received from these people. They know what it takes, so getting encouragement from them was really special.

This is hands down the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and through the process I became stronger and proved to myself that I do have willpower. I was shocked at the beginning when I could not lift myself off the ground, it just wasn’t that hard before. I realized that I had been in denial for years about what I really looked like and how out of shape I really was. That was a hard process to get through emotionally and hit me really hard when I saw my before pics a few months ago. I honestly did not feel like that’s how I looked. I never expected that losing weight would be so hard, and I never thought in a million years I would actually do it!

Q. Besides exercise and nutrition, what other aspects of your life have changed to support your fitness goals?

Being fit is a huge commitment…I make it a priority. I never thought I could afford to keep training as long as I have, but I make it happen because it’s that important to me. I have had to make choices, training or doing something fun, training or a new pair of shoes, training or taking a nap. My attitude about fitness has changed, I actually like going whereas before I dreaded it. It does help that you are like my therapist, trainer, and friend all wrapped up into one!