Patience and hard work helped Jen Sall lose 42 pounds.
Name: Jen Sall
Height: 5′ 6 1/2″
Starting weight: 192 lb
Current weight: 150 lb
Pounds lost: 42
The moment I knew I was a success: I went running with my dog, Ollie, and he tired out before me.
“Hey, fatso! Get out of the way!” a voice yelled as I pushed through the crowd heading into a concert. How rude, I thought, feeling sorry for the target of his nastiness. And then the truth kicked me in my size-16 rear: He was talking to me–I was the fatso!
Me, the once hard-bodied, soccer-playing girl who had moved to Boulder, CO, for college 12 years ago; got addicted to skiing, rock-climbing, and hiking; and eventually called it home. Me, who’d quit my pack-a-day habit so I could run faster, only to gain 15 pounds in 6 months. Me, who’d put on almost 40 more by staying in a relationship that was so miserable I ate my way through it.
It had been easy to ignore my weight. After all, I was still running and competing in mountain bike races, but the truth was, after a 20-minute jog, I was so wiped out that I’d retreat to the couch and do my favorite exercise: powerlifting a bag of Doritos and a pint of ice cream.
At the end of 1999, my boyfriend and I broke up, and alone at a New Year’s Eve party surrounded by cute, thin people, I forced myself to face the facts: I was fit but fat. Even though I loved exercising, I hated dieting, and this is where it had gotten me. I downed a few Cosmos and some fudge, and the pity party was over: I was ready to get for weight loss.
I joined a gym that had a much-buzzed-about trainer, Marcus Eave. (It was impossible not to notice the perfectly sculpted muscles his clients displayed.) I finally snagged a coveted spot in his Spinning class and concluded that even on my sales-job salary, springing for his $80-per-hour private sessions once a week would be worth it.
“I can’t take you on,” Marcus said, when I asked him to be my trainer. He only had time for clients who were really committed to weight loss and getting in shape. Apparently, he didn’t think I was, and I hadn’t been at the gym enough to prove otherwise. I glanced at a woman parading around in fab fitness wear, and thought, If she can be a member of the buff-client club, so can I. It almost killed me, but I exercised every day for 2 weeks and cut back my calories. When I showed up 5 pounds lighter, Marcus said, “Okay, you’re in.” His prescription: cross-training, to build up my strength and stamina. My drill was to work out five times a week, whether strength training or running and biking out in the foothills.
What I’d lacked before was consistency. I’d go 10 days between workouts. Now I was going to be lifting weights and doing cardio 5 hours a week. As an athlete, I could handle this challenge. I was less sure of his diet suggestions. I’d convinced myself I could eat anything if I worked out hard and threw in the occasional crash diet.
Marcus explained why my strategy wasn’t working: It was almost impossible for me to burn off as many calories as I was taking in each day unless I made exercise my job.
The weight loss diet I’d begun was a start, Marcus said. I’d eliminated sugar, but if I wanted to really lose weight for good, I’d have to make more permanent changes. He pushed me to eat five or six small meals a day–rather than three large ones–to curb cravings.
The bulk of my minimeals came from what he describes as “clean” ingredients: foods with slow-release carbohydrates, such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal. The carbs fueled my training, the fiber kept me full, and the constant supply of energy revved my metabolism. At each meal, I ate a lean protein, like salmon, egg whites, ground buffalo, or organic chicken, to help me build muscle, which would allow me to burn more calories.
Moving in Slow Motion
I was all geared up to start shedding pounds, and nothing happened. I wasn’t losing a thing! Where were the 5-pounds-a-week weight loss I was used to from my crash diets? I wanted to try it my way again, but Marcus kept insisting I eat. “Give it time,” he said. I visualized his thin clients and agreed. I outlined my meal plans and prepared preportioned snacks of raw almonds or cashew butter and ZonePerfect bars so that I could fuel up on minimeals all week.
After a couple months, I definitely felt fitter. I loved impressing Marcus by doing a one-armed push-up off a medicine ball, but the slight changes in my shape were barely registering, which made it, at times, very difficult to resist sweets.
For a long time, the experience remained more about the journey than the weight loss destination. It took months of hard work for the 2 pounds I was losing each month to become noticeable to me or anybody else.
A Thinner, Fitter Me
Half a year later, I got my reward at long last. I was in a dressing room and realized that for the first time since college, I had choices. That first glimpse of success gave me the resolve I needed to keep at it. Now, 5 years later, there’s no fatso in sight. I’ve gone from a size 16 to an 8. I’ve lost 42 pounds, shaved more than 2 minutes off my mile time, and packed on a lot of sleek, toned muscle. That’s not to say that it’s over. My get-fit journey continues–and will for the rest of my life.