Sarah Lost 115 Pounds and Gained a New Life!*

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Meet Sarah Brakke (VALFREYJA), a SparkPeople member who has lost 115 pounds! Find out her secrets of success here.

What is your age?: 29
How long have you been a SparkPeople member? How did you find SparkPeople?: I've been a member since 1/17/2006. It's been so long that I don’t remember how I found the site! I’m sure I found it when looking for weight-loss help online.

What is your favorite feature on SparkPeople?: The SparkRecipes recipe calculator! I absolutely HAVE to know how many calories are in each serving of my recipes so that I can stay within my range. I also love being able to group my meals now. I’m usually fairly consistent with my food as far as snacks, breakfasts, and lunches. Not having to re-enter the food individually every single day is wonderful.

How much weight have you lost?: 115
How long did it take to lose the weight?: 21 months. I’ve kept it off so far for 16 months.
What was your light bulb moment that made you decide to lose weight?: I’d been fighting with my weight since I was a sophomore in high school, and always wanted to start losing...which I could do, but I could never seem to make the commitment. I could work out, but I wouldn’t change my eating. Even having high cholesterol and being told I needed to lose weight didn’t make me do more than half-heartedly try and run on an elliptical I purchased at Walmart.

I guess it took seeing myself in comparison to the other bridesmaids in my brother’s wedding in May of 2009 that really made me want to change.  I had lost my job, and when I got a new one shortly after the wedding, I just decided that since I was starting over in one way, I may as well go all out and revamp myself. I was just sick of breaking promises to myself since I seemed able to keep them to everyone else. I decided I wanted to just do it so that I could finally feel what it was like to love myself and love what I looked like. I wanted to be proud of myself. I wanted to be healthy for any children I may have. I wanted to feel comfortable in my skin instead of embarrassed and judged.
What was your biggest obstacle while trying to lose weight?: Knowing I had so many pounds to go. Also, my husband’s eating habits. He was very supportive of me, and ate what I ate. However, he would still buy terrible snacks for himself and eat them around me…until I got after him! I asked him to respect my choices and not make the transition harder for me, and he did. If he buys them now, he is smart enough to hide them, or eat them out of the house on his own somewhere.

Lastly, I would say learning to order and eat at a restaurant. I love eating out, so this was something I had to learn how to do. Eating only half portions and ordering healthy things and learning to LIKE eating them as opposed to feeling cheated out of that tasty dish I wanted. Turns out, grilled salmon and steamed broccoli is actually pretty amazing!

What does your weekly exercise schedule look like?: I do either ChaLEAN Extreme, TurboFire (with the advanced months) or the ChaLEAN Extreme-TurboFire hybrid pre-made schedules, and I rotate them throughout the year. That means I’m either working out five days a week, or six days a week for four to five months at a time before I switch. It usually consists of three days of weight/resistance training, and two to three days of cardio and core training.

I did have a gym membership before we relocated within the last month, and I used to go with my husband two nights a week and run on two different machines for 25 minutes each, or run for 25 and use the rowing machine for 25. That would mean two days of working out twice daily. I did this because I loved the way it felt, but also to continue to encourage my husband to remain active so we could do something together. It's important to not force, but include your family members in your transition! It works; he lost about 50 pounds himself by going to the gym three times a week and just eating what I was cooking (healthier, smaller portion sizes).

What is your favorite way to exercise?: I love how I feel at the end of any workout session, but I really enjoy exercises like TurboFire that combine both cardio and resistance training together. I like how she motivates me to push harder, but it is fun and fast-paced with upbeat music.
Do you have any personal fitness goals coming up?: Right now I’m just working on building my muscle. I’d like to be able to do ten regular pushups. With all the weight training I do, you would think I could do it now, but I haven’t worked up to that many in a row without going to my knees.

What does a typical day of food look like for you? How does this compare to the way you ate before your transformation?:  I eat constantly. I eat healthier. I eat a ridiculous amount of protein. I’m eating more fruit and vegetables, I’m eating less fried food and we eat out at places where I can find their nutritional information so I know what I’m doing ahead of time. I plan out EVERYTHING at the beginning of the day and take my lunch and snacks with me to work. I also eat more slowly and drink tons of water.

All of this is vastly different from before. Before, we ate out a lot--there were NO leftovers at dinner. I snacked on crackers and paid NO attention to portion size. I think that is really one of the biggest mistakes that people make. Sure it is only 130 calories...for THREE CHIPS! We often got ice cream at places like Culver’s or Cold Stone and I would get the medium size that has all of those crazy add-ins and eat it ALL. We still do go out for ice cream together every couple of weeks, but now I choose smaller portion sizes and healthier options. For example, I get the kid’s size at Cold Stone and get either just plain ice cream of whatever flavor I want without mix-ins, or I get the sans-fat Sweet Cream with cinnamon as an add-in. It truly is all about moderation, portion control and choosing the healthier item on the menu. It can still taste delicious; you do not have to deprive yourself! 

What is your favorite healthy food?: I love sweet potatoes. I can’t get enough of them.

What is your favorite treat food?:  1 Tbsp of peanut butter. I can’t get enough peanut butter with celery and raisins. I guess I’m still a kid at heart, but I have ants on a log every day!

Who is your biggest inspiration?: Chalene Johnson. She is a successful business woman, very inspirational, and is honest and genuine. She sees something she wants and she goes out and gets it. Family and fitness are of utmost importance to her. She wants to help others. I don’t want to live in the spotlight like she does, but I do aspire to those other qualities.

Do you have a personal mantra/saying/quote that you live by that you’d like to share?:
  1. Just keep swimming.
  2. Nothing without effort.

If you want it, you have to work for it. Nothing worth having is easy.

Does Sarah inspire you? How can you use her secrets of success in your own life?

*Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.

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Wow, you have done really well. I am so happy for you, and I hope to do as well.
Thank you so much for telling your story Report
Congrats! Way to go! Your are an inspiration to all of us! Report
I hope you understand how stories like yours inspire others. Thank you for sharing and motivating me on my journey. I just started so I have a long way to go but I can see that it is possible and that this elephant will someday be gone-one bite at a time. Good luck to you and thank you for being an inspiration. Report
Thanks so much for sharing your story! I got a lot of inspiration from it as well as some great ideas for my own weight-loss journey. And I did a double-take when I read the ending part. I use "Just keep swimming" too. Such a great motto! And I must watch Finding Nemo again soon. Report
Thanks so much for sharing. You looked like a totally new person and I'm sure you feel like one too. You are quite the inspiration!!. Keep up the good work.

Judy Report
Congratulations!!! You look absolutely stunning. And I'll be you feel ever so much better.
Thanks for passing it forward as inspiration to all who read your story. Report
Congratulations! You are such an inspiration!! Thanks for sharing. Report
Fabulous job. You inspire us to stay committed. Report
Thanks for putting my head in a focused place. I have been waffling for some time, but reading your story has put be back on the track of putting myself first and not giving up on me. Thanks again! Report
This is a WONDERFUL story. It helps me realize that it DOES TAKE TIME and IT WILL HAPPEN as long as you do not give up. THANK YOU for sharing your story. Report
You've done extremely well!! Way to go!! Report
Fantastic and don't you just love it when you walk by someone you haven't seen for a couple of years and they have no idea who you are! Report
Congrats you look amazing!!! Report
You did it !!! I am sure there was a lot of temptation and struggles but you persevered through.....and exercised. Thx for sharing your wonderful success !! Report
An inspiration: I need to lose about what you have lost - am six pounds in! It's great to know you did it in 21 months. Report
Love what she did for HERSELF. Her husband eating junk food around her sounds SO typical. Glad she stayed away from it and did this for HER. Report
What an amazing and positive transformation you have made! Very inspiring! Report
You are a wonderful Power of Example and look amazing. Your story of your journey is so encouraging. People like yourself show others how SparkPeople works so well. Report
I have been away for a while and trying to get started again. Your story has given me a real kick start. A big Thanks for sharing Report
Very inspiring Sarah. You look amazing! I really liked reading about how you manage your weight with good food choices while allowing yourself to enjoy eating out and having (smaller) desserts. You make it sound do-able. Report
I have a lot of weight to lose, I hope I can be as successful as you! Way to go! Report
I'm going to look into some of these exercise programs you mentioned. Thanks! Great job! Report
I love how she's "made a plan" and works her plan! That is a big key to continued success.
Way to go!! Report
Member since Jan 2006? Fantastic!
My congratulations for your excellent result. Report
I needed to read this... Thank you Report
what an inspiration!! Thanks!!! Report
Thank you so much for sharing this inspirational story! Report
great job, and thank you for sharing. Report
great job, and thank you for sharing. Report
Wow... what a great interview and informational... Very very proud of you! YOU DID IT!!! Report
What an inspiration! Thanks for being open and sharing with SP! Report
Yes, she certainly inspires. Amazing job! Report
Wow! Good for you. I'd love to look like you and I am going to!!! Thanks for your story as it has motivated me. Report
I SO needed to see this! This is amazing Sarah! I'm currently doing TurboFire and love it, but kept restarting and restarting when I messed up. I've done Chalean Extreme before but never stuck with it either. I have a lot of weight to lose and sometimes I feel like I won't be able to lose it, but every time I see an article like this one I feel like I can do it. Thanx for the inspiration! Report
What is your favorite healthy food?:
I love sweet potatoes. I canít get enough of them.

I'm SOOO in agreement on that one. Yummy.

I think one of the things that has helped me is as she described - learning to eat healthier bit by bit so we don't feel cheated out of what we want to eat, but rather feel like we have a lot of choices we like allowing us to pick the healthier one. Report
I just want to say that this is really inspirational. I had my sweet little boy 6 months ago have been trying to lose the baby weight for a couple months now, but I haven't really fully committed until this week. I know I have less to lose than you did, and I know it will take time, but I am so thrilled to have read this. Because I know that if you, or anyone can do it and get results over time, I can do it too. I have a big problem with "I want to see results NOW!" I'm worried that I'll turn into my brother. He is losing weight too, but he's doing it in an unhealthy way, because he wants to lose it all at once. He's lost over 60 lbs but has hardly gained any muscle. It's scary, but he won't listen to anyone. Anyway, that you for being a wonderful source of motivation. Also, I REALLY want to try ChaLEAN and TurboFire.

I'm sorry for the novel. I guess I really needed to get this out for some reason, and your story have been such a help. Thank you! And keep it off! Report
I agree with STELLASMYBEBE!!!

PS you look amazing Report
Great motivation! Report
You look like a completely different person! Way to go! :) Report
Sarah, Even though you are young, and I am nearly 62, I can see the similarity in our THOUGHTS and PLANS! I too, plan out everything the day/evening before! It might have to be tweaked, as stuff happens, but it makes me more accountible for my actions. Exercise, well, I love ZUMBA (Gold for Seniors), Senior Aerobics (tougher, than you might think) and the pool! I make sure I do 2-3 per week MINIMUM, most weeks fitting in 4-6 types of exercise! Plus my "at home" daily routine of exercises! But you are so right!
If you work at it, PLAN it, and be CONSISTENT, than the pounds, and good feelings just seem to happen! So good luck, my friend! I have been at SP for nearly 16 months and lost 70 pounds! I have photos too, ironically, in my BLOG I posted just yesterday! Now that is another first for me!!!!! Report
Congratulations! All the best Report
Thanks for sharing. What an amazing story! Congratulations! Report
Congratulations on all your accomplishments! Hope your biz is doing well! Report
Beautiful! Report
Amazing transformation!
Thanks for sharing your story! Report
I love her honesty...............the struggle will be there but what an inspiring feature story Report
Yeah!! Congrats on your amazing success and what a great attitude! Report
Such a cutie. I see the healthy glow in your face & your positivity is just through the roof. Thank you for sharing this.Some days these great motivational stories help me make that step toward the front door instead of the refrigerator door.Blessings Report
Well done to you, what an achievement! And thank you for sharing your personal journey, it is really motivation and full of good ideas! Report
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