Name: Sarai B.
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LIVESTRONG.COM Username: sbaker0325
LIVESTRONG.COM Member since: 2015
Age: 36 years old
Weight: 204 pounds
Dress/Pant Size: 16 to 18
Weight: 125 pounds
Dress/Pant Size: 0 to 2
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
Sarai: The first part of my story is pretty typical. I was overweight throughout my teens and 20s. I was technically obese, with 45 percent body fat. I went through phases like we all do: “No, really, this time I’m going to lose the weight.” I tried every diet under the sun. All kinds of fat-burning pills, several wasted gym memberships, etc.
I remember waking up in the morning and trying to get ready for the day, all while doing my best to avoid the mirror. I became quite efficient at getting undressed and hopping in and out of the shower without accidentally catching a glimpse of my reflection.
Food dictated what/how/when I was going to spend my time. I was at its mercy, and I didn’t know how to go about undoing its chokehold. I was in the typical Catch-22: “I don’t have the energy to exercise, but if I could only go exercise it would help me have energy!” I know now that the right type of energy comes from clean eating, but that took years for me to realize.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration for making a change?
Sarai: My change came in two parts. First, I hit the opposite end of the spectrum. I realize in retrospect that I might have had some sort of eating disorder. I began to see food as the enemy, and I refused to let myself eat. I would limit my caloric intake to less than 1,000 calories a day, sometimes far less.
I became thin and lost a great deal of muscle mass along the way. I did begin to incorporate cardio into my routine, but all that did was increase the fat loss. In addition, I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was sick all the time because I wasn’t allowing my body to receive the proper nutrients it needed.
I knew there had to be a better way to maintain weight loss, build muscle and be happy. I decided to go online and start my search to see what options were out there, and that’s when I found LIVESTRONG.COM.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you reach your goals?
Sarai: I loved the idea that I could go to one site for so many things — diet tracker, exercise variety and articles on just about anything related to a healthy lifestyle. I immediately began using the MyPlate feature and utilized the Stronger workouts. I gained valuable insight into nutrition and incorporated strength training into my workouts. I was able to increase my lean muscle mass, and could feel myself gradually getting stronger and stronger. To this day, I continue to read the health and fitness articles. I don’t know what I’d do without my daily fix of LIVESTRONG.COM wisdom.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
Sarai: My family has been amazing and supportive from the start. My husband and I met when I was heavy, so the changes I have gone through have been an emotional roller coaster for both of us. He loves me no matter what size I am, but I still think he’s proud of me for embarking on this journey and accomplishing something that I’ve wanted for so long.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your favorite way to work out?
Sarai: I enjoy challenging workouts and being able to push myself. The more I can switch it up, the better. One day I’ll do the stair climber, the next day kickboxing and the next day boot camp. Constantly changing PLYO workouts that involve body-weight explosion moves gets my heart rate up and makes time go by fast. They’re hard-hitting and make me feel like an athlete, allowing me to push myself harder and faster each time.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your weekly exercise schedule?
Sarai: Part of my newfound strength allowed me to train for my first bodybuilding competition last year. When training for a competition — as I am right now — I like to start my day off right with a cardio session. Five days a week, I’ll do an hour of weight training, alternating lower-body days with upper-body days. Then I’ll finish up with 30 minutes of cardio. During the offseason, I eliminate one of the cardio sessions while still keeping the strength training going strong.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s a typical day of meals and snacks for you? Any food tips?
Sarai: My diet — and by that I mean simply what I consume, not “a diet,” as in restrictions — is five to six small meals a day. Protein at every meal is vital — protein with healthy fats, protein with carbs like potatoes or rice, protein with veggies. Whether I’m prepping for a competition or just maintaining during the offseason, I keep it clean, natural, easy to digest and low in sugar.
I find the more healthy I eat, the more I enjoy natural foods and the less I like ultrasweet-tasting foods. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my chocolate, but I enjoy more semisweet goodies than full-out sugar-comatose desserts.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the range of calories you eat on a typical day?
Sarai: It depends on what I’m looking to do, but it can range anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 a day. Most importantly, I have a positive relationship with food and look forward to each meal and being able to replenish the nutrients that my body needs and deserves.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
Sarai: Egg whites, nuts and nut butters, a variety of meats and veggies, rice cakes, coconut oil, butter and almond milk. Also I have about six different flavors/brands/types of protein powder. I enjoy healthy baking, so whipping up a one-minute protein mug cake with walnuts and sugar-free chocolate chips can be absolutely blissful.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize your meal preparation?
Sarai: We prep on Sundays. Food is cooked, weighed and divided into meal-prep containers. I take all necessary meals with me to work or whenever I leave the house. If I know I’m going to be gone for a while, I pack two to three meals along with my gallon of water and I’m on my way.
I find that having designated foods to be eaten at specific times greatly decreases the need for snacking. It also takes away the stress of having to rely on my willpower to choose a healthy meal over something less healthy. I have an agreement with myself that I have to eat all my meals before I reach for something that is extra or outside the meal plan.
Enjoyment of life should not be paused because of this lifestyle. There are always ways to work around it and incorporate healthy, clean eating into your daily routine. After all, isn’t that what this is all about? Being able to lose the fat, keep it off and be happy.
LIVESTRONG.COM: Were there any supplements that helped you during your weight-loss journey?
Sarai: I like to kid around and call my supplement cabinet “my pharmacy” because there are that many bottles, but I appreciate each and every one of them and what they do for my body. Some absolute essentials that I would recommend to anyone: Ubiquinol CoQ10, magnesium, fish oil, vitamin D and a good probiotic.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the biggest challenge you faced?
Sarai: Physically, I’ve had some digestive problems with processing certain protein powders. Mentally, there are a few reminders that help keep me going: Doing any form of exercise for X minutes is still better than those minutes spent sedentary.
Matt Acton [International Federation of Bodybuilders pro trainer] likes to remind me that if there’s something that is hard for me to do, such as a specific exercise, that means I’m weak in that area, that there is an imbalance. Most people’s reaction is to stop doing that exercise, but we do the opposite. We embrace the difficulty because that muscle needs the most improvement.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What advice or tips can you share with those trying to make a positive change in their health?
Sarai: I have very strong internal motivation, but sometimes I have those days — we all do — where the energy level is just not its usual. I could skip the workout, but instead I allow myself to lessen my intensity. By the time I’m there and using my muscles, I can’t help but want to fight for that rep.
On the food front, I embrace the concept of mindful eating. I find it incredibly calming and mentally satisfying, which in turn makes me physically more satisfied. I automatically chew my food more slowly and therefore get fuller faster. I’ve been eating mostly organic foods for a year now, but up until the last month or so, I was doing it to try to eliminate the chemical/processed foods. But thinking about how this food used to be in the earth and made its way to my plate is a much more meaningful connection with the planet, and that somehow makes it taste much better.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What is your life like now, and what part does LIVESTRONG.COM play in it?
Sarai: There are many benefits to my healthy lifestyle. I can wear pretty much anything and it looks great. I finally have my curves. I am strong and getting stronger every day. For the first time in my life, I feel like an athlete.
Those are the physical gains, but what means more to me are the mental gains. I have control over food. I am more centered, grounded and able to accept myself for whom I am because I know that I am strong on the inside for doing what I’ve done. My inner core — the part that makes me who I am — is strong and continues to get stronger every day.