Author Mara Schiavocampo knows a thing or two about reinvention. She literally wrote the book on it called THINspired: How I Lost 90 Pounds: My Plan for Lasting Weight-Loss and Self-Acceptance…
“People have been able to connect and relate to what I’ve been through and my journey and it seems to be helping a lot of people. That was all I ever wanted…” Mara Schiavocampo
I love watching Mara report for ABC News. This Emmy-award winning journalist has been covering the news all over the world for years, and was even dubbed “the next Diane Sawyer” by Marie Claire Magazine.
But perhaps this wife and mother’s biggest scoop is the plan she uncovered for losing weight and gaining self-acceptance, a plan that helped her lose 90 pounds and keep it off. I recently talked with Mara on The Women’s Eye Radio Show, where she shared how to “eat clean and train dirty.” Here is an excerpt…
EYE: How happy are people that you decided to write this book?
MARA: The feedback has been so wonderful. People have been able to connect and relate to what I’ve been through and my journey and it seems to be helping a lot of people. That was all I ever wanted so I’m happy with that.
Mara’s “THINspiring” story on ABC’s Good Morning America
EYE: You really didn’t hold anything back in writing about your journey, did you?
MARA: No, it was important for me to do it honestly. There are so many misconceptions about weight loss that are often repeated that just aren’t true. We are constantly being fed bull on how to lose weight.
EYE: You wrote about a relative who was very hard on you about your weight growing up. You called her “Aunt Shirley.” Do you think everyone has an “Aunt Shirley?”
MARA: I hope not! Often, it’s just the voice in our head. I was a little chubby growing up, and a family member I call “Aunt Shirley” was hard on me as a kid. She forced me to diet and have weekly weigh-ins. If I lost weight, I would be rewarded with food, which was twisted.
“If I gained, then I’d be punished. That really set up a very complicated relationship with food for me that lasted to this day.”
I think a lot of us have complicated relationships with food and a lot of us are battling some voice in our head, whether it’s our own voice, or an “Aunt Shirley,” but a lot of people have to deal with that mental aspect.
EYE: How complicated is your relationship with food?
MARA: It gave me a sense of shame. As I wrote, these were my “dirty little secrets.” I never shared any of this because I was so ashamed. My family learned about this through my book.
My shame taught me to eat in private. It was a safe place for me—where I could eat in peace—but all of our challenges in life make us who we are. Looking at my past, I say it is what it is, and it certainly made me who I am. I now try to use what I’ve learned to help others.
EYE: What happened when you gave birth three years ago?
MARA: I was in a very bad place in my early 20s. I had an eating disorder and spent two years in the throes off that; it was a very dark place for me. After getting through that, I came to a place of acceptance. I was a little heavy, a size 14, and I was fine with that.
I wanted to be smaller, but I wasn’t so desperate to make any changes in my life. Then I gained 40 pounds in pregnancy. After having my daughter three years ago, I was 90 pounds overweight.
That’s when I became focused and determined to lose that weight. It was not coming from self-loathing; I just became focused. I declared, “It starts now!” I was then able to figure out something that really worked for me.
EYE: What is your formula for weight loss success?
MARA: I need to point out that this formula was developed after the fact. After I lost the weight, I set out to figure out what I had done that worked so that I could help other people.
“My efforts in losing weight were divided this way: 70 percent = food, 10 percent = sleep, 10 percent = planning and 10 percent = exercise.”
EYE: What you eat is the biggest part of this formula?
MARA: I learned that with food I could not eat certain things in moderation. One of the biggest lies is that you can eat everything in moderation. A lot of us are functioning food addicts so when you are using certain foods as a drug, you can’t eat those in moderation any more than a drug addict can have their drug in moderation.
I had to eliminate my food drugs from my diet. Once I got through that excruciating detox period of giving up my trigger foods, losing weight became like rolling down hill. There were no more obstacles in the way. You’re in control of the food. Now you are eating for fuel until you’re full, not because you’re bored or sad.
EYE: You describe this as a 6-week process.
MARA: I committed to a 40-day fast and most days I was just trying to make it through dinner. I want people to be prepared for the challenge. If you go into this thinking it’s going to be easy, you won’t make it one day.
EYE: What do you say to those people who are afraid to commit to changing their lifestyle?
MARA: You have to take baby steps because it is a journey. I lost the weight but that’s not the endpoint; it’s part of the journey. You have to look at it that it’s taking the first step to changing the rest of your life in a wonderful, rewarding way.
“Just commit to putting that first foot forward and I think the single most important thing should be cleaning up your diet.”
EYE: Trigger foods are not created equal. Is it different for everyone?
MARA: Yes. You have to be honest with yourself about what your trigger foods are. I had to give up flour, dairy, candy and wine. I eliminated those three years ago, and I do not eat them to this day. Now I focus on chicken, fish, fruits, veggies, nuts and grains.
EYE: You write in your book about how African-American women have more self-confidence than other women when it comes to their body.
MARA: Yes, African-American women have higher self-confidence, which is a fantastic thing, but, on the flipside, 80 percent are overweight or obese. It comes down to an issue of health. I think the conversation we’re not having as black women is about health.
EYE: What do you mean you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet?
MARA: Exercise plays only a small role in weight loss. It’s good for you for a million different reasons. But if you are exercising for the sole purpose of losing weight, you are probably going to be disappointed at some point.
Doctors, nutritionists, and personal trainers have confirmed this to me. I now work out six to ten times a week because I love it. I have started making a mind-body connection. It is my best stress reliever. I learned there are so many other reasons to exercise that have a positive impact in your life.
“You have to work really hard to make a difference. I also learned changing your body requires working at a high intensity. When you go to exercise, go to work your butt off even if it’s just for 20 minutes.”
EYE: What has this journey meant to you?
MARA: The biggest gifts have been totally unexpected. If you had asked me 90 pounds ago what would be the best thing about losing the weight, I would have said fitting into a smaller pair of jeans. But that is at the bottom of the list right now.
The best things about this journey are the clarity; the freedom from the foods I was addicted to; the gift of physical fitness; and feeling great after working really hard. I get these gifts every single day. It gives me the energy I have when I wake up and it’s how I’m able to cope with life.
I really wanted to share this with other people so that they can get the same gifts. This is about weight loss, but there is so much more at the end of the rainbow and we should know that and that should motivate us to keep on the journey.
EYE: Mara, thank you for getting us THINspired!!