Former weight: 300 pounds
Current weight: 120 pounds
Pounds lost: 180
Height: 5 feet
How long she’s kept it off: 10 months
• Personal life: Marnell is a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor (www.fitbyjen.com). She works at Gold’s Gym in Douglasville and Austell. She and her husband, Chris, have been married for 12 years and they have a daughter, Alexis. Marnell and her family live in Douglasville.
• Turning point: Marnell had a weight problem from the time she was 8. Her turning point came after a series of embarrassing moments. “It wasn’t one particular moment; it was a lot of small things,” she says. “I couldn’t fit into a booth. I waited in line at Six Flags to go on a ride, and then they couldn’t close the lap belt, so I couldn’t go,” she says. “I was a nanny at the time; I worked with children, and children are brutally honest. They will tell you if you’re fat. I got fed up with the embarrassing moments. I had to set an example for my daughter. I didn’t want to be called the fat mom.”
• Diet plan: “It wasn’t the diet — I knew how to diet all my life. It was changing my mind first,” she says. That happened about three years ago. “I drastically cut my calories. I went from fried to baked foods. No more fast food, no more soda, just water and fresh vegetables — basically, just a lifestyle change and eating healthier.” Because she weight trains, she eats more protein than the average person. She eats five to six meals a day and tries to eat every three hours. For breakfast, she has eggs with fresh fruit, usually an apple or a pear. For a midmorning snack, she’ll have an apple or almonds. “Almonds are very good for women; they have calcium as well,” she says. Lunch and dinner are very similar — lean protein such as baked chicken or baked fish with vegetables. She also has a snack before bed to keep her metabolism going, but it’s usually something small like a salad with leafy greens or fruit.
• Exercise routine: She does one hour of cardio at least every other day. She alternates between step classes and swimming. “It’s called cross training,” she says. “It’s good to change your routine. When people hit their plateaus, they don’t know what to do. Your body will catch up to a regular routine.” She also does weight training four days a week, alternating between upper-body and lower-body workouts, and she teaches a weight/aerobics class for an hour three days a week.
• Biggest challenge: She says her biggest challenge at the moment is maintaining. “There’s always a fear in the back of your mind of going back; I know I’ll never let myself do that.”
• Munchie antidote: “Chewing gum,” she says. “If I want something sweet or a burst of something sweet-flavored, I keep sugarless gum with me. Or if it’s something sweet I want, I’ll eat fruit.” If she really needs something sweet beyond fruit and gum, she reaches for Weight Watchers’ frozen desserts. “It’s already portioned for you.”
• Secret to success: “Putting my mind to it,” she says. “[It] wasn’t the dieting or anything of that; it was changing my mindset.” Also, the support of her family helped a lot. “My whole family was behind me and helped me.”
• How life has changed: “My health has improved 100 percent. I feel like a teenager again,” she says. Shopping has changed greatly. She can frequent trendier stores. And she feels better physically and mentally. “It just really pushed me down a whole different career path,” she says. “This led me to help others.” She went from mustering the courage to work out at the gym to becoming a certified group fitness instructor and certified personal trainer. She also was recently first runner-up in the Gold’s Gym 2007 International Convention award, Change Your Body, Change Your Life.
For people who have a lot of weight to lose, Marnell recommends easing into an exercise routine. Water aerobics is a good place to start because it’s easier on joints, she says. “Being 300 or 250 pounds, you can’t ride the treadmill,” she says. “You have to start off somewhere. Just get up and walk around the house more, park somewhere farther away, don’t get that first parking place, walk in little 15-minute increments. Start there; somewhere is better than nothing.”