This Fitness Expert Lost 140 Pounds--and Has Kept It Off for 20 Years*

By , SparkPeople Blogger
A few months ago, we received an email from Debra Mazda, whose mantra is "Fitness Comes in All Sizes." We agree! She has a line of DVDs under her Shapely Girl brand, which she wanted us to review. When we heard about her success with weight loss, we couldn't wait to hear more about her story. She's such a motivator that we asked her to answer some questions for the dailySpark.

A little more about Debra:
At the age of 21 Debra Mazda weighed over 300 pounds. Depressed and battling high blood pressure, Deb made the decision to reinvent her life. She joined a health club. I was the only seriously fat person in the place. "I couldn't even buy athletic clothes in my size. I huffed and puffed and sweated my way through aerobics classes and didn't worry about whether anyone was laughing at me. At the same time I scaled back my eating. First, I reduced the quantity of my food. Instead of a rack of ribs and a milkshake for breakfast it was maybe, half a rack of ribs. Then I improved the quality of what I was eating. Next thing you know the pounds are coming off."

She lost more than 140 pounds and kept it off! With her new, buff body and a passion for sharing what she'd learned with others, Deb went to work for fitness guru Richard Simmons as the Training Supervisor at Simmons Anatomy Asylum health clubs in Denver, Colorado. Starting college in her 30s, she earned a Bachelor's Degree in Human Movement and a Masters of Education in Sports Psychology from Temple University. Deb has become a much-in-demand accredited fitness trainer who has the unique understanding of what it's like to overcome obesity.

Debra shares with us her secrets for keeping off 140 pounds for more than 20 years!

dailySpark: You really seem to have a "can-do" attitude.

Debra Mazda: I totally believe that anyone can do what I did with the right commitment, drive and motivation. Giving up was never an option and I am still the same today.

dailySpark: You once weighed 300 pounds. Could you tell us how you lost the weight?

Debra Mazda: Yes, my highest weight was 325 pounds. My biggest weapon was exercise. Once I began experiencing the amazing benefits of exercise, I started working on the nutrition. I gave up dieting and started to learn how to change my eating and my relationship with food. That allowed me to stop failing, which is essentially what I have been learning from diets.

dailySpark: You're a remarkable success story. To have kept off more than 100 pounds for so long is quite a feat. How did you avoid "relapsing"?

Debra Mazda: Well, I did relapse many times. When you’ve been addicted to food, relapse is part of recovery. But I was able to get a grip on myself before re-gaining all of my weight and more. I stayed very focused on my goals and decided that I would succeed. This became a passion of mine and still is today, changing my life.

dailySpark: You lost all that weight, started college in your 30s and eventually earned a master's degree. Was there ever a time in your life when you felt like you couldn’t achieve your goals?

Debra Mazda: I grew up with no direction or goals. I was obese and out of shape. The odds were truly against me, however, I had bigger plans for myself.

dailySpark: How did you overcome those mental plateaus?

Debra Mazda: I took back the power I had given to food. I stayed focused on my mission to not die young. Then I expanded my goals to include other choices to make my life more meaningful. By just believing in yourself and not letting anything get in the way you make progress. WHEN THE MOUNTAIN SHOWS UP, MOVE IT. I simply promised myself to stay on track and still do today. There are many times I want to give up but I have worked so hard and come so far. I think of those things and I do not listen to that INTERNAL NEGATIVE VOICE that so many women hear and act upon. That is not to say I am immune to fe Debra Mazda: eling down, but most of the time I can change my thinking and make things happen that are positive.

dailySpark: Your message is "Fitness Comes in Many Sizes." How do you help dispel myths about what a "fit" person looks like?

Debra Mazda: We have been taught to look at people and think because they are skinny they are fit. That is utter nonsense as I am a true testament to this. I am a size 12 and very fit and healthy. Thinness should not be the goal but good health. As an Exercise Physiologist, I have read quite a bit of research in the past few years that shows us that heavier people who work out regularly live longer than thin people who are sedentary. This is not to say that we shouldn’t try to get to a healthy weight, but I don’t want larger women to be discouraged and think that they have to be a size 2 to be healthy. Case closed.

dailySpark: How do you help people overcome their own body issues?

Debra Mazda: This is a tough one as I have all shapes and sizes in my classes in Philadelphia who do not feel good about their bodies. This issue is not one that solely affects plus-size women. There are plenty of thin women who detest their bodies. I have to think back to my days of being overweight and how I felt about my body. I knew I hated it, but the bigger part of me knew I WAS GOING TO CHANGE IT--so that gave me comfort most of the time. I did feel bad about my body but I never hated myself as that would have wasted my time and not allowed me to move forward. This process was an internal one for me and looking back my determination even amazes me sometimes. But I am here to say again, if you put you mind in the right place you can do it.

dailySpark: How do you stay in shape? What is your fitness routine like?

Debra Mazda: I work out 4-6 times a week and do all different activities. I teach the Shapelygirl Fitness classes 4 times a week, which include 40 minutes of cardio with weights and 15 minutes of core and Pilates work. I power walk 10 miles a week, teach step with body bar, spinning, and am currently training for a half-marathon in September. I have learned that in order to keep my weight down, it is 1/3 good nutrition, 1/3 fitness and 1/3 positive mindset. If one of those is out of order it usually creates an imbalance and that can lead to trouble.

dailySpark: What are some of the tricks and tips you've learned over the years?

Debra Mazda: I never beat myself up for not being perfect. I teach my girls to work on being better every day. We all have flaws and we need to deal with them and look at the positive in what we have going for us.

dailySpark: How do you stay on track and eat right?

Debra Mazda: Simply, I eat to live not live to eat. Over the years I have learned that FOOD is fuel for my body not an escape when things do not go well. I love wearing a size 12 and wear anything I want to--and that stays in my head. Feeling great and being my size beats binge eating any day of the week. Do I eat junk food? ABSOLUTELY. However, I rarely binge and have learned to eat the unhealthy stuff on special occasions. I teach my girls, the more sugar and refined carbs you eat, the more you want and that leads to binging.

dailySpark: When you were losing weight, did you ever encounter plateaus?

Debra Mazda: More than I care to talk about. It’s part of the process, although the diet industry doesn’t tell us that. We’ve been taught to expect fast, dramatic results through fad diets. I found a way to believe I would get through the plateaus but it was murder waiting. Jumping on the scale constantly is not something I do. First of all, sometimes the scale lies. Especially for women who have hormonal cycles. Second, I know that if I have been pretty much been on-program the scale will catch up. I find that a lot of overweight women allow themselves to become discouraged quickly. I have found by making small healthy changes the results will follow. Maybe not as fast as we’ve been trained to expect, but over the long term.

dailySpark: What advice do you have for SparkPeople members who are just setting out on their healthy living journey?

Debra Mazda: For anyone starting out or over again, here is my suggestion, stop putting limits on yourself. Stop beating yourself up, stop listening to those negative voices that want to tear you down. Get up and take a deep breath, get moving, get support, and always pick yourself up when you stumble. NEVER STOP OR QUIT. My weight loss has been the journey of a lifetime. I have laughed, cried, wanted to die, been happy, sad, frustrated and wanted to give up but through it all. But somewhere in my mind, body and soul I was bigger than any of that through determination.

Debra is giving away three copies of her fitness DVDs to the dailySpark, plus a T-shirt. To enter the contest, click here. (The usual rules apply.) (The contest closes Sept. 10 at 9 a.m. EST.)

Find more information on Debra Mazda and her DVDs here!

Were you inspired by Debra's 140-pound weight loss--and how she kept it off for 20 years? What is your own fitness mantra?

*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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SPARKLYEYES71 4/14/2018
I have used these videos among others in my journey. They.are totally do able at any size! 90 pounds gone so far. Report
Neat interview. Report
"I know that if I have been pretty much been on-program the scale will catch up."

I did cling to this idea during my 8 month plateau but couldn't have said it in these words. THANK YOU for verifying this!!! Report
Debra is a great inspiration for all women. Everybody is shaped differently. That's what makes us unique! Report
i can relate to the half a rack comment--i started by eating one less handful of M&Ms! it's taken a long time, but it can be done if you understand it DOES take a long time if you have a lot to lose like i did. there are going to be setbacks, but you gather yourself back up and keep on keeping on. the result is worth it, both physically and emotionally. Report
I have Debra's "Let's Get Stepping" DVD. It was the first step aerobic DVD I had ever purchased. Having 2 left feet I was worried I wouldn't "get it". The tutorial she presents before the actual workout was invaluable to me in learning the steps/moves (which were not difficult at all). After watching/practicing it a few times I was able to get through the first few times with minimal hesitation. I love this DVD, I have other Step Aerobic DVD's now but Debra's is one of my favorites.... Report
Absolutely true. All of her points are spot on. The times I've seen the most consistent weight loss to my 130 pounds lost have been when I've done exactly what she describes here.
Jocelyn Report
Beauty and people do come in all shapes and sizes.
Awesome blog and a truly inspirational and motivational life! Thanks Debra, for being YOU, and for empowering others to claim their personal health and fitness best! Report
I am inspired!! Report
Wow! I feel hopeful now:) Report
you are very inspirational Report
Very encouraging!!! I am ready to try again. Report
These blogs and contests should be removed when they are expired. Report
"I teach my girls, the more sugar and refined carbs you eat, the more you want and that leads to binging."

This is SO true...I was a refined sugar and carb FREAK! Once I cut them out, I had no cravings for them whatsoever...thanks for an affirming article! Report
What a story! Thanks for sharing. Full of amazing tidbits! Way to go Debra. Report
you can't beat this one Report
Thanks so much for this article. I am amazed when I do things my thinner friends cannot, and I am thus learning to love my body even as it is. My goal is now to become the fittest I can be. Food is fuel. I love that!!! And I am beginning to learn the difference. Thanks!!!! Report
Thanks for the inspiring article. It will help anyone of us, no matter what our size.
We should read it over and over. Report
Very encouraging .... Report
Inspiring!! Report
What an inspiring story! Thanks for sharing it with SP! It really motivates me, and I'm going to look for her DVDs. Report
I checked out her website- It's great. I live in SJ and I am going to check out her Shapelygirl classes. Report
That's awesome! I had no idea she started out overweight! Way to go, Debra! I hope you'll inspire many more!!! Report
Thanks! This was very true, heartfelt and inspirational! Report
what an inspiration!! Report
Way to go Debra!!! And thank you! Report
Great job Report
Thanks so much for sharing your story..

It is inspiring to me because I could work much harder then what I am doing now. Report
What a great, inspiring message, from someone who has been there! Report
Thanks for telling us Debra's story. Now that is a Spark to People. I went to her site and ordered 2 DVDs. That will get me up off the sofa and then I will go from there. This is just the start of a lifestyle changing journey. Report
Wow!! Very inspiring. Report
Great story and so motivating.

"I work out 4-6 times a week and do all different activities. I teach the Shapelygirl Fitness classes 4 times a week, which include 40 minutes of cardio with weights and 15 minutes of core and Pilates work. I power walk 10 miles a week, teach step with body bar, spinning, and am currently training for a half-marathon in September."

Let's see: she teaches 4 classes a week that last approximately 55 minutes. She powerwalks 10 miles a week, which at 4 mph, is 2 hours, 30 minutes - say 30 minutes a day. She teaches two other classes (an hour each?) and is training for a half-marathon, which means about an hour of running 4 times a week, minimum.

By my calculation, if she's working out 4 to 6 times a week, she's working out at least 3 hours a day- which is cool, but that's an awful lot of time to spend working out. Report
Great story and great tips. Truly inspirational Report
Hi Debra,
your journey is so motivating i'm a scale freek every time i weigh and it is not what i want to see i'm depress want to give up . THANK YOU SPARK PEOPLE FOR MAKING THIS WEB SITE. Report
What an inspiring person, and what an inspiring story. Just what I needed to hear. I have been spinning my wheels and her words may help me gain some traction. Report
This is EXACTLY what I needed! I'm on Day 2 of my "starting over" plan and to hear that Debra lost 140 lbs with regains and plateaus makes me not want to give up! Report
Makes me think that I can do it too when I don't have near as much weight to lose. It's possible! Report
This was inspiring. I am struggling to obtain a healthy lifestyle and needing all the encouragement I can get. Thanks! Report
Excellent blog entry on a lady I am enthusiastic about. I have lost a similar amount of weight and kept it off a similar amount of time through exercise mostly and watching what I eat and I love it each time I see Ms. Mazda's picture or her vids advertised here and there. She's an inspiration and a lovely person who provides a much needed, fun product for people of all sizes. Report
i was very impressed and inspired by Debra's story. Report
Very inspiring testimony.... a reminder to keep pressing forward. Report
i love the statement Take back the power food had over me that is where it all starts that is the beginning point of the visious circle Report
What an incredible journey you have been on! Congratulations, and I hope I can follow in your footsteps!! Report
This is awesome and so inspirational. It couldn't have come at a better time in my life. Report
She is absolutely amazing. I'm a size 12/14 and I am working at being comfortable with myself. It is easier for me to do certain things now. I have been maintaining my weight loss for about a year, I've gone up by three pounds and down by three pounds. But my body keeps returning to the same weight no matter what I do. If my body is comfortable here, I gotta get my brain in line too. =) Report
Yet another success story...assures me that I too will someday write my own. Report
Awe-inspiring, indeed! I'm proud of her for being proud of *her* body, and helping others learn to love their own!

For those who couldn't get the DVDs link to work, just go to her main page: ... you can link to the rest from there. It's a Flash site or something, it takes a while to load. Report
I'm glad she is doing what she is doing and can be such a valuable role model for so many. I have never been more than a few pounds too heavy but many of my close friends and family are. I can understand how unmotivating it would be to only have DVD's available with ultra-slim instructors insisting that we can do it. I guess it comes down to sensitivity and understanding and you get that with her because she can relate. She knows what physical limitations are because she's worked around them and not everyone can say that so I understand how motivating that could be. Good for her. Report
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