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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KHALIA2 4/9/2018
AWESOME! Congrats on your success! Report
SLENDERUP 3/19/2018
That is just amazing! You have truly transformed your life! Thank you for sharing your story, you are truly inspirational! Report
PAULAJEAN659 12/19/2017
I love how I feel after a good workout too! Report
WOW Great Job!!!
Keep it up and make sure you keep looking back because that'll help you to continue moving forward. Report
Great Job Sarah! You are a huge inspiration. Report
Congratulations! Not only for losing the weight, but also for keeping it off! I really like how you said that you eat ridiculous amounts of protein and just make some really good choices. I also love what you said about wanting to love how you looked and being comfortable in your own skin. This is where I hope to be one day. Again, congratulations!
Congratulations on your healthy approaches! I liked when you said the part about asking your partner to support you in the way that works for you by keeping junk food out of sight for you. If my partner had even once complained about eating veggies, sweet potatoes and clean protein again, I think I never would have accomplished my goals. Or maybe I would have, but I think it might have taken longer. Good job standing up for your needs in a healthy way. I think we as women all need to learn this lesson! I'm so happy for your journey! Report
Congratulations! I love the Finding Nemo reference at the end of your post. I saw that all the time too! I think you look at least 5 years younger in your "after" picture and your haircut is super cute! Way to go! Report
Congratulations on your success!
You look wonderful!
Thanks for the inspiring message. I needed a little boost
this evening. Report
Congratulations on your overall success! =) Report
Congratulations. : ) Thank you so much for sharing. I'm doing some "motivation" reading this morning and yours was the first story I've read. Take care. : ) Report
Thanks so much for sharing. I was especially touched by your comment "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." Many times I have trouble with this (hat looking in the mirror or at pictures) and it's good to know that you made the change. Congratulations on the hard work. Report
So much truth in your words! We just have to fight for what we want, not try to find ways to justify our failure! Hope I can have as much power as you had! Report
Wow! Your accomplishment is amazing!!! Hope you got those 10 pushups by now! It took me months to meet that goal. Report
Thank you for being so inspiring. You are beautiful. Congratulations on your success. I hope to look that good a year from now. Report
Congratulations! I really enjoyed reading your story, such an inspiration. I too do Turbo Fire & agree with you on Chalene Johnson keeping you motivated. Her workouts are so much fun! Report
I am new to Spark People and this is a very inspirational story.
Thanks for sharing. I just hope I can stay committed.
wonderful story. Congrats on your successful journey. I love that you got your hubby on board with you. That much be a great support for you. Keep up the great work. You def inspired me! Thanks for sharing. Report
Sarah, I can relate to the before part of your story so much. Congrats on your healthy lifestyle. You look amazing. Report
Thanks so much for sharing your story. I'm finding it difficult to put this journey into words - I appreciate you being able to do it so well! Report
Thank you so much for sharing your story! It is really great to see all your progress through your photos. You truly are an inspiration. Report
Sarah - I want you to know that it was your story that inspired me and introduced me to sparkpeople. I've just begun my journey and have a ways to go; but you've given me hope and I am thankful for that. Bless you to the moon and back! Report
Thanks for sharing, you are an inspiration not only to me but to many. I am just beginning my journey and we are the same age and I hope I will have as much success as you have. Keep it up and all the best. Report
You look great! Good to know that you are maintaining too. Report
Thank you for being such an inspiration!
Yours and my story are similar. We are of a similar age, we both struggled with weight throughout high school and we both have discovered a need to lose weight when comparing pictures of others with ourselves in it. I have never really truly felt like any inspirational weight loss story connected with me. I hate exercise and am going to be integrating it into my routine, but gag a little when people talk about how much they love to work out. I lost 80-90lbs before and never got to like exercise! :) I had the cheapie gym equipment that I never used too. You look incredible. My goal is to lose 40lbs. Your story makes me wonder if when I get there, I should keep going. :) Report
I like the idea of checking out a restaurant's nutritional information on menu items before going - I had never thought of that - it's so simple and genius!! Report
Thanks for being such an inspiration. Report
Woot - somebody else who knows what "ants on a log" is! I tell people about it and they look at me funny.

Fantastic job, keep it up! Report
Congratulations Report
Congratulations Sarah! Thanks for sharing your story. I am really inspired by your weight loss! I am just beginning my weight loss journey and I agree nothing is without effort. Report
Wow, you look so so happy and beautiful... I have just started my journey but am so ready for the challenge. I too plan my daily menu as soon as I wake up so that I know exactly what my plan for the day is. Works great! Report
Sara is so right about using that time of change (job loss) to make other changes in her life. Those "aha!" moments in life need to be taken advantage of when they happen! Report
Wow Sarah! I'm so happy for you, proud of you, feel inspired by you and what else can I say. Way to go gurl!!!!!!!!! Report
Not only meeting your goal, but maintaining too. Your commitment is inspirational! Report
i just started and your story is a great inspiration i hope to do as well thank you,you are amazing Report
and mini Sarah was in there all the time....I wonder if inside of me there is a mini Jackie....I sure hope so!!! Thanks for sharing and Congrats on your journey to VICTORY Report
CONGRATULATIONS!!! I know it must be awesome to reach your goal and to maintain. Thanks for being an inspiration! Report
What an inspiration you are! Report
You look AMAZING! Report
Wow I am so proud of you! You look great! Report
Congrats on your accomplishments so far and keep up the good fight. Report
You are very inspirational! Thanks for sharing our story! Report
congratulations! Report
What an inspiration you are. You have an amazing story and great accomplishments. You are awesome. Report
Thanks for sharing your inspirational story!

Thanks for sharing your wonderful story! Report
Well done and thank you for sharing your experience. It is great to see how well you have done, and your photos of before and after show the difference. Your face looks both younger and more mature, and you look happier and more at ease. Report
Awesome Blog. Congratulations on your weight loss. Keep It Up. You inspire a lot of people to lose weight and adopt a new life style and way of life. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. Report
Awesome! Report
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