Many of you will relate to Mary Keyser's life in her "before" photos. For eight years, her weight yo-yo'd constantly. To prepare for her wedding, in October 2014, Mary told POPSUGAR, "I crash-dieted and got to what I considered at the time was an acceptable weight." But after the wedding was over, by November 2016, she had gained more than 50 pounds.
Mary wrote in an Instagram post, "I made every excuse; blamed being over 40, early menopause?!?, thyroid, if there was a health issue I was ready to jump on the bandwagon and say that was why. You know what? It was all bullsh*t." Mary said, "I was tired of feeling how I did. I was tired of 'remembering' what it felt like to be fit, and I was tired of making excuses to keep sitting on the couch with my vodka soda, a bag of snacks, and trash TV."
Mary tried every fad diet, every kind of exercise class — anything she could find. She admitted, "The end result was always the same. Either I went a few times and didn't stick with it, or sometimes I never even made it out of the car in the parking lot! I was very intimidated to be around 'fit' people and thought they were always judging me."
"For me to be successful," Mary said, "I needed accountability and a win. Accountability made me get out of bed when I was sore and tired, and the little wins kept me going and wanting to see what else I could do."
On Nov. 9, 2016, Mary found a gym that was offering a five-week challenge. She had to complete 25 workouts in those five weeks and check in on Facebook after each visit. She brought her husband with her to the orientation, knowing if he was on board, he'd help her stay accountable and "kick my butt out of bed when the alarm went off." Mary said, "If you met the goal of losing 15 pounds in five weeks, you'd get your money back." Talk about incentive!
After the first week of five workouts, Mary said, "I was so sore, if the cat walked across me, I would cringe." But three to four weeks into the challenge, something changed. Mary said, "The workouts I dreaded every day at 5 a.m. started to become fun! It started to become a habit and something I didn't dread but instead enjoyed."
Did she meet her goal and lose 15 pounds? Not exactly. "Not because I didn't follow the meal plan or exercise or put in any less than 100 percent effort, but because I needed to tweak the meal plan for my specific needs." She did lose 9.5 pounds and said she "was damn proud of that." She wasn't upset she didn't get her money back. Mary got so much more from that five weeks that she would have "paid 10 times that amount."
After the challenge, Mary joined the gym and continued to attend classes and follow the modified meal plan. At the three-month mark, Mary said, "I had lost about 30 pounds and was five pounds away from my 'goal weight.' I put that in quotation marks because the number really had no meaning. It was a number I saw on the scale in my 20s when I remember feeling very fit. When I realized I was chasing a number that meant nothing, I needed to look for another goal to keep making progress. That's when I decided to compete in a figure competition. Then the fun began."
Mary shared, "When I decided to train for a show, my workout routine became much different. I trained six days per week: four to five days lifting [weights] and six days of cardio." Mary says, "I love to lift. It is the favorite part of my day. I look forward to leaving work and going to the gym every single day. Since I plan on competing in 2018, my goal right now is building muscle, and my schedule is designed around that."
"I almost find the word skinny insulting now. I prefer strong."
Mary's biggest nonscale victory was the day she didn't care what the scale said. She said, "It is possible. I would have never thought it would be. For 42 years, I have stepped on that thing religiously, weekly, daily. Now I go days and weeks without even thinking about it. It's one thing to avoid it, another to simply forget to care. I weigh myself periodically for check-ins with my coach now, but that's it. The idea that I want to gain weight now blows my mind, but hey, in my book muscles are sexy. I almost find the word skinny insulting now. I prefer strong."
If you're on your own fitness or weight-loss journey, Mary suggests, "Surround yourself with people who support you. Saturday morning brunch or killer hike? Nothing wrong with either, but for me, it set the stage for the rest of the day and the weekend." It's true she's lost some friends in the process, but says, "The people that stand by your side and support you no matter what are the ones who are truly your friends. And I've made some great new friends who love the same things I do along the way."
Setting goals is a great way to stay motivated. Mary doesn't suggest setting a long-term goal, but rather "mini goals to meet along the way." She shares, "Not only do they keep me motivated, but I'm shocked how my long-term goal adjusts as I move through the process. What I thought I wanted or could accomplish months ago is so different than what I want and can do today. And there's nothing wrong with that — my goals grow with me!"
Mary wants to add that it's important to find a method that works for you. It has to be enjoyable, something you're passionate about, so that you're motivated to stick with it. If you hate running, don't do it! Mary adds, "I won't lie, it's hard work. But when it becomes a habit and fun, you'll miss it when it's not there. The body can do amazing things. It blows my mind to see what I can do and accomplish with each passing month. I can't wait to see what's in store for me next!"