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. Its 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?:
- Just keep swimming.
- 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?
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