How Marla Lost 100 Pounds & Found the True Meaning of 'Healthy'

By , Melissa Rudy, Health & Fitness Journalist
Marla didn't learn much about nutrition growing up. Her family dinners consisted mainly of meatloaf, spaghetti, pot roast and usually some canned veggies on the side—and always chocolate cake. It wasn't until after she moved away from home that Marla became more conscious of what she didn't like about her body. That negative body image triggered a vicious cycle of fad diets, exercise binges and yo-yo dieting, which continued for several years.
 
"I now know that I was a normal girl who decided she was fat," Marla says.
 
After Marla's first marriage ended, her bad eating habits became extreme, leading to an eight-year battle with an eating disorder, all in the interests of achieving the long-coveted status of "skinny.” Working as a nursing home administrator, Marla saw firsthand the devastating effects of poor health, but she refused to face the dangers of her own unhealthy diet.
 
"I knew I was doing it all wrong, but I was young, time was on my side and I considered myself healthy because, in my mind, 'healthy' equaled 'skinny,'" Marla says. "As long as I didn’t go above a certain number on the scale, I thought I was healthy."
 
When Marla remarried, her husband encouraged her to break free of her eating disorder. She slid back into her childhood habits as her weight crept higher and higher. A typical day might include a breakfast of chocolate doughnuts, a skipped lunch and a microwaved low-calorie meal for dinner. She drank soda all day long, and she always saved room for dessert.
 
Together, Marla and her husband steadily gained weight. "We really had no concept of the power of food, for good or bad," she says. "My mother had died at an early age from diabetes, so I knew my risk was higher than average, but I felt like I had no control over the outcome."
 
The Wake-Up Call
 
One day, after an appointment with the pediatrician, Marla's daughter told her that the doctor had asked if her mom had always been fat. That was enough to motivate Marla to join a gym, where she was surprised to discover that she loved fitness—so much, in fact, that she eventually purchased the business.
 
"I loved learning about fitness, and I was anxious to help others—but I still didn’t have the food piece of the puzzle," says Marla. "Keeping my weight within normal limits was a constant battle, and one that I consistently lost."
 
Like many other people struggling with their weight, Marla's "a-ha" moment came while looking through pictures of herself, not liking what she saw and realizing she could no longer chalk it up to bad camera angles. "I had thought I was maintaining a healthy weight, but it was pretty obvious I wasn't," Marla says. "Here I was, a 'health professional' who wasn't walking the walk."


 
The Missing Piece of the Puzzle
 
Marla's crash course in nutrition started with a bout of pancreatitis. While researching the best ways to heal herself and prevent a recurrence, she saw a common theme of maintaining a healthy eating plan. After stumbling onto a documentary about the benefits of a plant-based diet, she decided to give it a try.
 
At the same time, she discovered SparkPeople. "The motivational success stories gave me hope, and the tracking tools made it easy to get started," Marla says. "It all made sense. It was the missing piece!"
 
The Winning Recipe
 
The secret to Marla's 100-pound weight loss wasn't a fad diet or extreme eating restrictions. "I just eat real food," she says. "I gradually cut out processed foods and learned to crowd out meat with extra vegetables, fruits and grains, and started drinking water. I looked for ways to nourish my body and use food as fuel." She steers clear of animal protein, dairy, white flour and processed sugar, and also avoids packaged and processed foods as much as possible.
 
Marla does allow herself a "cheat day" once a week, although even her splurge foods have become much healthier than they used to be. She's more likely to snack on mixed nuts, avocados or apples rather than Oreos, for example.
 
"The key was finding something that works for me," she says. "Everyone has different needs and tastes. After a lifetime of struggling with food, I was finally enjoying what I ate, and feeling great." In addition to the weight loss, Marla was pleasantly surprised by the side perks of her new diet. She wakes up feeling rested and refreshed, has more energy throughout the day and no longer suffers from the headaches, mood swings and cravings that plagued her before the switch.
 
Marla's 7 Weight Loss Tips
 
As someone who has struggled with yo-yo dieting and weight fluctuations, Marla knows that consistency is key to maintaining her new physique. We asked her for some tips to keeping the weight off.
  1. Start with one small change. "Set one goal today that you can meet and build on," she recommends. "Maybe it's to not eat everything on your plate, or to drink one more glass of water or to walk 100 more steps. Just pick something that's doable for you, and you'll be on your way. Self discipline is a muscle and must be used to be strengthened."
  2. Weigh yourself daily. Marla found it motivating to step on the scale every morning. "It's a lot easier to lose one pound than it is to lose 10.
  3. Mix up your diet. By eating a variety of foods, Marla has been able to enjoy different tastes and textures while staying within her target calorie range. "I've learned that in order to maintain a healthy weight—something that had always been just out of my grasp—I didn’t have to eat a grilled chicken salad or yogurt for every meal."
  4. Think of food as fuel. "It's amazing when you realize what your body can do when you nourish it appropriately," Marla says.
  5. Eat more food without labels. One of the keys to Marla's success was buying real, whole food from farmers' markets and the produce aisle.
  6. Look for opportunities to move throughout the day. Even small bouts of activity add up over time, and they don't even have to look like exercise.
  7. Go social. During her weight loss journey, Marla turned to SparkPeople and social media sites for education, support and encouragement, using online communities as a source of workout ideas, recipes and success stories. After posting photos and stories of her transformation, Marla has become a resource for others pursuing a healthier lifestyle.
These days, Marla works as a personal trainer, giving her clients online guidance about clean eating and plant-based diets. "I would never advocate something I don't believe in," she says. "If I preach it, I'm going to live it. There's nothing better than a community of people on a journey toward health!"

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Comments

KHALIA2 5/16/2018
You rock, Marla! You are an inspiration to so many others. Report
GOODGETNBETR 4/22/2018
Way to go Marla! Report
TCANNO 4/17/2018
Motivation for everyone Report
ERICALEAHA 2/10/2018
Thanks for sharing your story. I will find what works for me. Report
GEORGE815 12/25/2017
Nice article Report
GYPSYHOLLY 12/2/2017
I love this story. What an amazing journey. Report
DJ4HEALTH 11/26/2017
Congrats and way to go!!! Report
FELICIA1963 11/17/2017
Thank you so much for sharing your journey. My son and I are in similar situations and it's so good to know that we are not alone and that it can be done when we apply ourselves. Report
PASTORDAN_ATDCC 9/15/2017
WTG! Report
CHERIRIDDELL 8/26/2017
What an amazing story! Report
DEE107 7/31/2017
way to go Report
DRLMAZ 7/2/2017
great Report
DRLMAZ 6/30/2017
Thanks for sharing Report
LEANJEAN6 6/10/2017
looking great! Report
AWESOME blog! Thanks! Report
You are an inspiration, thank you for sharing and I am definitely going to try some of your tips! Report
Marla is an inspiration to us all. Thanks for sharing your story. Report
Marla is an inspiration to us all. Thanks for sharing your story. Report
Thank you for a wonderful and motivating story. Congratulations to Marla on her success. Report
Congratulations on your accomplishments. Report
What an amazing story!.. I am so happy for Maria and how wonderful she shared her testimony which will inspire everyone who reads it! Report
Great inspirational story! I can't wait to share mine someday. Report
Gives me hope to hear this! Report
I am so glad to hear about another person who has found success with a daily weigh-in. Weekly just doesn't work for me - I need the daily reminder and reality check to help me stay focused. Everybody is different, so the one-size-fits-all advice of never weighing yourself more than once a week is not reasonable. Do whatever helps you succeed along a healthy path. Great job, Marla! Report
Inspiring - you look absolutely fantastic...now that's motivation! Report
Good tips--thanks! Report
You look fantastic. Glad it worked for you. Report
Congrats! on your amazing journey to a life of awesome health with happiness! Your story is inspiring, and thank you for sharing it! Report
Great Job!! You look amazing. Your an inspiration to all of us. Report
Amazing! Report
SNASEEM
Congrats Marla! You hit the target. I have also lost my pregnancy weight, not 100lbs but just 35 lbs from my body by drinking an organic tea called mummy magic weight loss tea. Report
LIFES2SHORTNOT2
It's great to hear success stories! Thank you for inspiring me! Well done! Report
GRANDKATZ
Wowie! Wowie! Wowie! Well done! Report
Way to go Marla. Glad I read your story. It was very inspirational. Report
Just once, I'd like the person in the article to share the meals plans they used, along with recipes, if possible. Report
Marla, you look great!!!! It is so hard abut you did it well. Report
PATRICIA005
I don't know about that weighing every day part. I mean, yes, it's a great feeling to see that one pound or two but I try to stick to a weekly weigh-in. She looks terrific, though! Report
MELTING01
Inspiration for me. Keep it up. Report
CJOHNSTON2001
way to go ,you did a great job,keep up the good work,one day at a time,so proud of you !!!!!!!! Report
ORTELLE1
Fab Report
Great job, Marla. You have really inspired me. Thanks. Report
Thank you Marla, fantastic that you can help others reach their goals. Report
Marla, I'd love to see your online info...Where would I find it ? Report
Great job and you are a inspiration. Be proud of yourself for the accomplishments you have made. I love the information that you shared about your journey to success. Very good advice and doable for so many others that need to make changes, like myself. Report
Wow that is fantastic! Great inspiration! Report
Very motivating for. Me! Way to go Marla Report
LADYCSP
awesome!!!! inspirational!!!!! Report
Great job! Keep up the hard work! Report
Truly inspirational! Report
 
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