Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo Health series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Marisa Hochberg is 27, 5 feet tall, and weighs 95 pounds. But in 2007, she weighed 170 pounds. This is the story of her weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
Growing up, I always loved food. I wouldn’t have described myself as an emotional eater, but I did struggle with my weight, and because of that, I was bullied. I didn’t feel like I fully fit in. I never had that classic high school experience that people talk about — instead, I was miserable. I could barely zip my size 14/16 prom dress.
Sure there were times when I lost five pounds here and there, but it was always short-lived and never enough to feel like I was making a real difference. When I went away to college to University of Michigan, I started to gain even more weight. I would fly back and forth from school and home in New York, and I began to develop this paralyzing fear of flying — or even getting on an airplane. When it started to turn into an anxiety disorder, I told myself that unless I confronted the fear head-on and challenged it, I would never overcome it. If I didn’t fly, I’d be holding myself back. I’d never see the world. I couldn’t let my fear and anxiety limit me like that. Working through this major fear — and eventually overcoming it — somehow made me know I could do anything. What else was holding me back? My weight.
Just as I began acknowledging how much my weight held me back, a friend of mine started dating a guy I liked. I was so hurt. I sat on a bench in Central Park one afternoon, and for the hundredth time in my life, I recognized how appearance-based our world is. I wanted more for my life — and it started with removing the limitations of my weight. I got up from that bench, walked to Whole Foods and bought a haul of healthy foods. By then I had transferred to New York University, so I walked back to my apartment, threw away all the processed foods, all the sugar, every white carb, and started over.
From that day on, I started changing. I didn’t use a nutritionist or a trainer. I really felt that this would be my personal journey. Nobody could lose this weight for me. I did all of the research on weight loss, food, and recipes on my own. A few of my nutrition practices included: cutting out all white carbohydrates and sugar, eating lots of protein (like egg whites) and vegetables, and filling up on fiber. I drank lots of green tea. I developed recipes that satisfied my cravings for foods I used to love. Instead of pizza, I made cauliflower pizza, and replaced pasta with zucchini noodles. After class every day, I would go to the gym and do about an hour of cardio and then some weight and ab exercises. The fact that I was consistent was what mattered most.
My body was transforming. As with anything in life, when you begin to see results for something you have worked so hard for, you’ll do what it takes to hold on to them. Even though at times the weight loss may have felt hard, I didn’t want to have to go back on what I had accomplished. I kept telling myself I would only have to start from square one and that would be horrible. I had friends, family, and social media cheering me on. I couldn’t let them down. Most of all, I couldn’t let myself down.
In about a year, I had lost 75 pounds. The better I felt and the more progress I made, the more my life improved. Suddenly, I had confidence. I’ll never forget the first time I walked into a store and picked up a size double zero. I cried. I just couldn’t believe it. I felt this extreme happiness — and not just because of the physical changes — but because I was proud of what I’d accomplished. I realized that no matter what you want to accomplish in life, it is possible if you put your mind to it.
Losing weight hasn’t just helped me to feel better physically and mentally — it has also helped me discover my passion for health and wellness. After I lost the weight, I began getting phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, and texts from friends and colleagues who were so inspired by what I had done that they were now leading healthier lives and going to the gym. They’d ask for advice on healthy living. One of my friends even lost 40 pounds with my help. To be able to take my journey and inspire others with it — that was truly gratifying. I started getting asked to be a part of all of these charity committees, which was something I’d always hoped to get involved in. One organization I’m so passionate about is Wellness in the Schools, which develops programs that provide healthy food and activities for kids in public schools. It inspires healthy eating, environmental awareness, and fitness as a way of life for kids. Doing something to benefit children means so much to me.
Soon, I was working with brands like Equinox, WTRMLN WTR, and other major brands, shops, eateries, and hotels in the Hamptons. Montauk was where I went every summer with my parents, and during the first summer of my weight loss, that was the place I went to escape the city. I’d go to the farmstands and the juice shops, go for runs on the beach, and take long walks. Montauk was, in some strange way, like my support system. So now, helping to keep Montauk healthy and make wellness accessible to visitors is very important to me. I work to bring some of the health and fitness industry’s top brands and experts (like SoulCyle, Tracy Anderson, ModelFIT, and Yahoo Health’s Editor-in-Chief Michele Promaulayko ) out there for curated wellness weekends. People can easily get away from their healthy habits while on vacation because healthy options aren’t available, and they don’t want to have to go far to find them, so I’m trying to make sure people can take what they’ve learned back to their everyday lives.
I’m constantly asked how I’ve kept the weight off. What’s your secret? The truth is, I don’t have one. I have made my diet and exercise routine a lifestyle. My everyday diet consists of lots of lean protein (no meat, just fish), tofu, seitan, egg whites, vegetables, salads… I try to stay away from anything processed or anything that comes out of a can. I shop the outer rim of the supermarket only — where all the fresh ingredients are. As a general rule, anything in the middle aisles are almost always bad for you.
For exercise, I’ll either go to SoulCycle or do my own cardio routine at the gym. If I can’t make it to the gym for a day, then I walk to my office and any appointments or meetings I may have. I try not to take taxis and always leave extra time to walk. Every extra step counts! There was a time when I couldn’t run for 30 seconds. Now, I can run for almost 45 minutes straight.
The key that I’ve learned to maintenance is: Continue to monitor. You can’t just say, “Oh I’ve lost weight, I can stop going to the gym now.” You’ve got to keep working at it. Sure, some people never have to worry about what they eat or if they’ll gain weight, but I have to work a little harder. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily. I actually think I’m lucky that I have to work hard because when you work for something, you appreciate it more. Being aware of what I eat forces me to maintain a healthy inside — not just a healthy-looking outside.
I do not let a week go by where I don’t monitor my weight. I make sure to stay within a healthy five-pound range. The reason for this is that once you slip out of that range, it’s easy to get discouraged and fall back into old (bad) habits.
Some of the healthy habits I swear by:
1. Pack some healthy snacks in your bag when you are on the go. Airport food, office food, and food on the road is almost always unhealthy. Packing some healthy snacks will give you healthy options when you get hungry.
2. Do not keep unhealthy food/snacks in your house. My motto is “If it isn’t in the house, I won’t be able to eat it.” This is so true. Stores close at night. If you don’t have the food in your house, then you cannot access it. Trust me, you will wake up the next morning feeling a LOT better!
3. Learn how to cook some healthy dishes at home and host dinner parties. Often, people say they cannot cook, but it is so much easier than you think. Also, so many times people think they are eating a piece of fish at a restaurant but little do they know it has been cooked with a stick of butter, or loaded with salt. Eating at home allows you to know EXACTLY what goes into your food and saves you a lot of calories. Dining is a social activity, so if you are afraid eating at home will be lonely, then host a dinner party!
4. Leave extra time to walk to your destination. Those few extra blocks of walking can make a huge difference in maintaining your weight!
If you’re just starting out, believe in yourself. YOU CAN DO IT. But start now. The longer you put off your weight-loss journey, the longer you have to wait to you achieve your goal. I also would urge you: Do not lose weight for anyone but yourself. If you do it for yourself, it won’t be such a struggle.
For those having difficulty maintaining their weight, recognize how far you’ve come! You have accomplished SO much. Don’t let it go now. Think about having to start all over again. Look at old pictures, new pictures, facts about what obesity does to your healthy — whatever you need to do. But don’t go backward. You are amazing and cannot let this accomplishment go!
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