To know how someone achieved a goal, it may be helpful to know where they’ve come from. When it comes to how my wife lost 35 pounds, I probably know more about the details than arguably anyone else.
When Marissa and I started dating back in December of 2009, she was still working full-time at Disney, dancing and singing over 30 hours a week. She was, at the time, 25 years of age and, whether she knew the term or not, ate a diet that would be considered flexitarian. For those not aware of the term, for her application, it was a diet predominantly of vegetables, some dairy (cheese, ice cream) and fish/seafood.
By comparison, I was the way I am now: an omnivore. I’ll consume damn near anything as long as onions aren’t a part of the plan. I will say to her credit, I didn’t eat as many vegetables then as I do now. Conversely, Marissa has transitioned to being an omnivore as well. She now eats almost all conventional animal products (no organ meats, etc.)
Throughout the time we’ve been together, she was at her lowest weight when we started dating. I’m going to come back to that point later as it will have more bearing. I won’t be referencing actual numbers 1) Because I don’t think they matter 2) I don’t have her permission to do so.
What I will talk about is some relative ranges and why I think the path she’s on now is arguably the “best” for her.
Over the span of years of us dating, being engaged, getting married, her weight shifted up roughly 10 pounds from when we first met. Also within that time, her contract ended with Disney so some of the weight gain likely came from a big decrease in daily/weekly activity.
In the winter of 2016, Marissa broke the news that we would be expecting our first child together. As it stands to occur, her weight continued to increase steadily over time until Sebastian was welcomed into this world in August of 2017.
Shortly after he was born, I started to cook more dinner for the family. I knew she had her hands full with the baby and I was enjoying learning a new skill of cooking. I found a series of high protein recipes that made it easy for me to learn from and provided enough variety that she and I were pleased with how dinner was turning out.
After her phase of breastfeeding Sebastian, Marissa’s weight dropped from it’s highest point down about 20 pounds (give or take). It was at that point that she came to me and asked for help getting her back to pre-baby weight.
Part of this was about more than just aesthetics. Marissa has a massive amount of clothing that she wanted to be able to fit back into. I’m not certain exactly when we started working together on a weight loss plan, but let’s say for simplicity’s sake, it happened at the beginning of 2018.
There was one attribute of Marissa’s eating patterns that I needed to bring her attention to. For one, she wasn’t exactly aware of the fact that she did this and, because it was such a natural pattern for her to fall into, I thought we could work it to her advantage.
Historically, Marissa would wake up in the morning, have some coffee (black) and get her day started. She would frequently skip breakfast and have a small lunch and a larger dinner. If this kind of pattern sounds familiar to you, it’s because she was essentially doing intermittent fasting (IF) without ever being cognizant of it.
Before my readers jump to any conclusions here, there is a reason I don’t automatically default to IF when I start working with clients. I see it fail more people than it helps. I’ll caveat that by saying that it can be a fantastic tool for some and absolutely terrible for others. However, I can say that about pretty much any diet, if I’m being honest…
Routinely, Marissa would ask me certain questions about what she was eating: How many calories should I be shooting for? Should I be paying attention to fiber/protein, etc.?
They were and remain reasonable questions to ask. Even though Marissa had used a food app at one point to track her calories several years ago, I knew it wouldn’t be the best use of her time, so I just gave her some small tips that made applying easier for her: focus on lean proteins, get some veggies, and if you have a larger breakfast/lunch than you anticipated, we’ll focus on a smaller dinner.
I didn’t hound her or pester her about her progress. There would be spans of weeks where she would tell me nothing about her scale weight. Then, she might make a small mention of “My weight is down.” I’d ask her for a number if she felt like sharing it and we might have a little bit of dialogue about how and why the scale might give a certain reading.
Like anyone else, Marissa would be frustrated with the very normal upticks in scale weight that might come from variances in sodium intake, wild variances in carb intake, changes in waste removal, lack of water, etc. I’d have to go through the checklist of: Did you have a high salt meal? Have you had a regular bowel movement? How much water have you been drinking? Yes, even my wife get the same questions a client would.
One thing that began to work to my wife’s benefit was the type of alcohol we began to consume. She was always someone who favored wine or beer over, say, hard liquor. My own tastes changed as well and I shifted into drinking exclusively bourbon/whiskey. Part of this was due to how it made me feel. Beer made me feel bloated and wine immediately made me want to take a nap. I could have a shot of bourbon, not feel the need to overdo it and suffer no side effects.
As a result, she also took to sharing the same drink with me, which as we figured, cut back the calories in alcohol consumption by about 50%.
There are some other factors to note.
While I have owned this business for longer than Marissa and I have been a couple, she was mostly inconsistent with her own exercise. I never gave an opinion on that either way. If she wanted to train she could, but I never made her feel like she was obligated to do so. As a result, she would go periods of months without conventional exercise, try to add it back in, get busy with life and parenting and then try again.
After the lockdowns occurred this year, she renewed her efforts and started coming to the gym 3x/week for strength training. To date, this is the most consistent she’s ever been with a workout plan. She does absolutely no cardio work. Her efforts have come from dietary adherence and 3 days a week of lifting weights for about 30 minutes.
Recently, she was doing her hair in the bathroom and when she lifted her arm up, she noticed a prominent line in her arm…to which she remarked, “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen muscles in my arms!”
Throughout her weight loss journey, she would from time to time tell me what her goal weight was. It was usually a number very similar to the weight she was when we first started dating. I would always try to say to her: “I’d prefer you healthy and strong over skinny.” I never wanted her to feel like the number mattered to me because it didn’t. I wanted her to focus on her strength increases in the gym so she could feel confidence in herself and her abilities (and also be strong enough to kick my ass if I ever got out of line…which, of course, NEVER happens…) *cough*
To date, Marissa has lost 35 pounds from when she first asked for my help. It hasn’t been fast, it hasn’t been aggressive, it’s just been a methodical drop to where she is today which is lower than she was when we got married and only slightly above her lowest weight since I’ve known her. I think she looks better now than ever.
Some other things to note: Once she started seeing progress in the gym and reigned in the focus on her food intake, she started carrying herself differently. She showed more confidence and more energy. Although her body changed after bringing a baby into the world, that’s not a bad thing. Yes, there was a recomposition, but nearly every mother goes through that and I believe that Marissa worked everything to her advantage.
I had always told her that if she ever needed to lose weight, I’d hire a dietitian to help her. Part of that was because I didn’t want it on my shoulders if she hated her diet plan. In hindsight, I’m glad it worked out the way it did. We got to share more input together about what was working, what wasn’t, and make any necessary changes in short order.
If I were to share any direct tips with you that might help you with your own weight loss based on what worked for her, it would go something like this:
–Minimize the food you get from restaurants/take-out. It can be harder to control caloric intake if you’re not the one cooking the meal. While you can still overdo it with home cooked portions, you can also stack the deck in your favor by learning how to cook lower calorie meals.
–Learn your dietary triggers. Marissa wouldn’t say she’s an emotional eater but she did identify with being a boredom eater. Once she noticed it, she started only buying snacks that would work for Sebastian but would be less attractive to her. She also knew that certain foods like cheese needed to be purchased with less frequency because that was a food she could easily overdo. Desserts were limited as she and I both have a sweet tooth. Pizza was also another food that was easy for us to overdo so we kept it to a minimum as well.
–Earn your carbs. I affectionately swiped “earn your carbs” from my buddy, Mike Doehla of Stronger U. While chasing around a toddler is its own form of exercise, it’s nowhere near as active as she was when she was at Disney. If she had a high carb lunch/breakfast, we’d normally go lower carb at night. Nothing wrong with carbs, mind you, it was just an easy place to cut back to keep her on her plan. To that point, we would frequently sub in cauliflower rice for regular rice to 1) increase vegetable intake 2) drop calories in the meal.
–Be patient. To Marissa’s credit, she never got impatient with the process. She knew she needed her energy for parenting and getting through her day and never let the scale dictate unreasonable dietary decisions.
–Change your vice. As mentioned before, an easy way we cut back calories for her was to switch the choice of alcohol. Because I don’t have a tendency to overdo it with liquor, neither does she. When it was wine and beer, the calories were always higher. With bourbon/whiskey, the calories were dropped by default and I could always measure out the pour if need be.
–IF was the most logical tool for her. It was easy to get Marissa to follow even a loose interpretation of intermittent fasting because it was the way she had eaten for most of her life. I don’t recommend it for the vast majority of people because it just doesn’t work as well. While many of my clients have tried it because it’s seeing a resurgence in the diet world, the results are mixed at best. Perhaps because Marissa had me as a sounding board and someone to help with understanding meals/portions at home, it just worked better for her.
–Support matters. I can’t oversell this one. It would have been easy for me to frequently suggest takeout, desserts, etc. (especially in the midst of a pandemic) but I knew that it would be a short-term pleasure and then the frustration on the scale for her. While there were occasional splurges, it was less than once a week and more like every other week. It wasn’t anything we would argue over, it was just an unspoken understanding that if it wasn’t an option, there was less temptation.
I wish I could tell you there was some fancy magic going on to get her down to the weight she is today but it wasn’t. She was consistent (not perfect) with food and strength training, she ate enough protein, knew when to self-regulate and stayed the course. It wasn’t fast but it was effective.
Proud of you, Mrs. (Sebastian and Jackson are too).
“We Make Great People Greater”