Name: Alissa Mashburn
Residence: Massapequa, NY
Job: Administrative Assistant
Home life: Single, lives alone
Peak weight: 235
Current weight: 140
Alissa Mashburn has lost a substantial amount of weight not once, but twice. "After losing 70 pounds, I thought it was going to be easier to maintain than what it was," she says. "I stopped going to the gym. And slowly but surely, started eating everything I missed from my dieting era." To get to her weight-loss goal, Mashburn had put herself on a very restrictive diet — no carbs or sugar — plus two-a-day workouts that involved a two-mile morning run followed by an evening stint at the gym.
It wasn't sustainable. "I noticed that my weight was creeping back up, so I did what many sane dieters do ... I hid the scale. Put it away so I wouldn’t have to look at it," she says.
Making a change
Mashburn started a new job in September of 2018 and found herself surrounded by temptation. "There was nothing but food and stress as far as the eye can see," she says. "Every day someone was bringing in treats or candy and I was having to learn an entirely new process. So this combination meant, by the middle of October, I was weighing in at 230."
It was a combination of seeing that number on the scale and a change in her relationship status that pushed her to make a change. "I also became single for the first time in my adult life, and I used that as my motivation for putting myself and my health first," she says. "Self-care and self-love really became the staples of what I was doing this for. I deserved to be healthier and look the way I wanted to look, feel the way I wanted to feel."
She started by taking one small step
In October of 2018, Mashburn started with a simple goal: to walk three miles in 30 minutes Monday through Friday after work. "Even that was tiring," says Mashburn. "[On the treadmill] my walk was a 3.0 and my run was a 5.5, no incline. I would stay at a speed for a few days and then up it by .1." By the end of the month, she felt her stamina increase, and even noticed her clothes were looser.
During month two, Mashburn added resistance training into the mix. "I'd complete my three miles on the treadmill, hop over to the Stairmaster for a quick 10-minute walk/jog up those steps, then head over to the weight machines," she says. At first, the machines she chose were at random. "I'd jump on whatever was free at the time," she says. Mashburn would then head home to do at home resistance training (exercises she was too embarrassed to do at the gym). "Any sort of crunches/core work was always done at home because I wanted to get better before anyone saw me work out my toughest parts," she says. "I was sweating and cursing and did not feel ready for anyone, even like-minded workout souls, to see me struggle like that."
Her typical at-home workout consisted of:
Get the better newsletter.
- Crunches: three sets of 15 crunches, center, left and right
- Leg Lifts: three sets of 15 leg lifts
- Squats/Sumo Squats: as many as she could perform in 60 seconds
- Scissor Kicks: 30 seconds
- Plank: 30 seconds
- Dumbbell side bend: three sets of 10 bends; holding a 10-pound dumbbell
"My at-home workout is where I really felt the difference," says Mashburn. "I was losing a few pounds every week. My muscles were looking toned and while I was exhausted because of the long hours of working out, my body never felt stronger!" After five months, she was down 40 pounds.
She changed her dieting approach, focusing on portion size not eliminating foods
Having tried and failed at keeping the weight off with a super restrictive diet, Mashburn made sure she wasn't setting herself up to fail by dieting in a way that was so limiting it wouldn't be sustainable in the long run.
"During the first month of this journey I made some quick cuts to the amount I was eating as well as being aware of the amount of sugar I was putting into my body," says Mashburn. "I had to start seeing food as energy and sustenance, not just something to kill the boredom." To make sure she didn't feel deprived, Mashburn still paid a visit to her favorite fast-food chain, Taco Bell, 3-4 times per week — though she modified her order to include less items. "It let me keep some semblance of my normal routine, and still let me have something delicious while losing weight," Mashburn says.
Mashburn educated herself on portion sizes during her first few months of the diet, paying attention to the serving size on labels and making sure to proportion her snacks and meals accordingly.
She also scheduled her meals and snacks around her workouts. "I would eat breakfast at 8 a.m., a snack at 10 a.m., lunch at 1 p.m., a small snack before the gym and dinner whenever I got home from the gym," she says.
During her weight-loss journey, Mashburn didn’t take anything out of her diet completely, but modified the amount, which she says was key. "I knew that if I didn’t allow myself to have what I loved I would binge on it whenever I gave myself the opportunity and do more harm than good," she says.