We all know how much easier it is to commit to a goal when you have someone who is doing it with you! Two sisters, Mary and Sharon, have decided to take on the challenge of getting healthy together. For the last two years, these women have been each other's source of support, encouragement, enthusiasm, and, when needed, tough love. Though these amazing ladies share a lot in common (genetics, for instance) their fitness journeys are very different. Here is their story…
In May of 2017, Mary found herself newly wed and weighing around 270lbs. She was ecstatic about the former, but the latter was something she had to change. When her husband was transferred to Montana in October of that same year, Mary decided to start being serious about her health. Her husband, Jay, was going to be gone for long stretches of time, so this was the perfect opportunity to focus on herself. She hired a nutritionist, and started shedding pounds. Mary told no one but her sister that she was doing it because "if I was going to fail, I wanted to be the only person who’d know," she said. Jay returned home every 6 weeks, seemingly to a different person every time: Mary was shedding 6-10lbs between each visit! One time she had gone to meet him at the station, but he walked straight past her and didn’t recognize her until she called his name several times. Pleased with her success, Mary shared her excitement with her Sharon, the only other person who had known about her goals from the start.
Sharon visited Mary in Montana during the summer of 2018, and was amazed at how happy and healthy her older sister was. Upon returning to her home is Texas, she told her husband, Jaret, how great Mary looked, and decided to embark on a fitness mission of her own. Mary advised her to take weekly photos in the same outfit to keep track of progress, since a number on a scale only shows one aspect of a transition like this. Sharon took her advice and began her weight loss journey on June 20th, 2018 with the support of Jaret and sister. Though she did not hire a nutritionist like Mary did, she was still closely tracking her food and paying attention to portion size. She had had her husband's encouragement from the start, but he shortly joined her on her quest for health after he suffered a heart attack on his 45th birthday. "He had always supported me," said Sharon, "but now he had to take his health seriously." She described how they overhauled their diet and incorporated "a lot of chicken and salad… just overall cleaner eating!" Bolstered by each other and their respective spouses, and not daunted by the geographical distance, the sisters launched into a new era of their lives together.
Though Mary and Sharon are striving toward the same goal, their obstacles have been very different. Each struggles with her own weaknesses and has her own strategy for coping with them. "I’m not the fat person who eats sweets," Sharon tells us, "I’m a carboholic. I’ll eat bread, pasta, potatoes, grains— all that!" So she has focused on manipulating her tastebuds to enjoy a wider variety of foods and satisfy her cravings. Mary has implemented a strict "3 Bite Rule" for any craving she gives in to. "On bite one," she explains, "I ask myself how does it taste? On the second bite, I ask how does it feel? And on the third bite, I ask do I want more? And usually the answer is no!" Mary also meal preps to prevent mindless eating and control portion sizes. Sharon finds that she doesn’t need that structure as much, but still has to practice "mindful eating" and being aware of what/ how much she consumes. Unlike Mary, she struggles to motivate herself to go to the gym. "That is the first habit to go when I start to fall off the wagon," says Sharon, laughing, "it's so hard to break the habit of reaching for the candy jar, but so easy to break the habit of going to the gym!" That is one of the reasons mindful eating is a must, and why being there for each other has been such an integral part of their mutual success.
When it comes to exercise, Mary is the instigator, though Sharon definitely rises to the occasion! "Sometimes it takes me a long time to get to the gym," she admits, "when I finally get there, I’m okay, but I HAVE to get myself there first. They gym is the easiest habit for me to break!" Now, the two of them are unstoppable and had completed their 2,019 miles for the year before the end of August! The challenge has been a great way for the pair of them to stay connected, motivated, and accountable while still living in different states (Mary now lives in Colorado, not too far from our office!). Mary discovered Run The Edge in 2016 through a Weight Watchers program, and decided to try it with a group of work friends. Unfortunately, she was the only one truly committed to the challenge, and the team fell far behind on their goals. Disappointed in her first attempt, but still determined to try, she told Sharon about the challenges. Now that they were working on their fitness together, it would be a perfect time to give the virtual challenges another try! The sisters decided to tackle Run The Year 2019 as a team, and have been wildly successful! "2,019 miles is DAUNTING," says Sharon, but having the long term goal has kept them on track. "It's 5.5 miles a day between the two of us," added Mary, "it seems a little overwhelming until you break it down." Both sisters agree that they are each other's biggest cheerleaders and fiercest competition when it comes to the challenge. They encourage each other to put in the work, while simultaneously threatening to do more. They describe themselves as "healthily competitive." Most importantly, they never allow each other to quit, no matter how difficult it may be. "It's okay to fail," Sharon explains, "but not to quit!"
Both Sharon and Mary have encountered their fair share of judgement and negativity, especially in the beginning of their journey, but it has only served to sharpen their determination to succeed. Mary tried a crossfit class when she was experimenting with exercise, and felt like she was constantly expected to give up. "If I quit before this hour is up, then I am the fat person who gave up. I couldn’t enjoy it because I felt like someone was watching me, expecting me to fail." Sharon had a similar experience when she told her colleagues about the Run The Year Challenge she was doing. A few months after she started losing weight, a coworker approached her and complimented her appearance. Sharon thanked her, and her coworker replied, "We thought you were going to quit!" Sharon simply said, "I did too!" Surprising both herself and her peers, Sharon has definitely NOT quit, and continues to work toward her goals every day.
Another difficulty with pursuing health is the danger of becoming too caught up in numbers (calories, scales, etc.) and being "perfect" about adhering to a regimen. Luckily, Mary and Sharon grew up in a very supportive and loving home, which has provided them with the positivity and discipline they’ve needed to combat any external negativity. Their parents’ support continues as the two women strive for a healthier lifestyle. The household was never focused on weight, and that means that Sharon and Mary have avoided many of the pitfalls associated with weight loss. They can celebrate non-scale victories (NSVs) and find other metrics by which to measure their success, healths, and new lives. Being "skinny" was never the goal of this journey— the two sisters simply wanted to become healthier and happier! "[Our parents] never made me feel little or small or unimportant, unloved, unappreciated," muses Sharon, "I just want to be healthy. Healthy body, healthy heart, healthy mind!" Mary likes the hard data of the scale, but has also come to value her NSVs and find other aspects about losing weight that she enjoys. "I love the high I get [from exercise]!" She says happily. In addition to finding new and healthier ways to approach weight loss, they have also learned to be more forgiving of themselves when they do waver from the straight and narrow. For them, cheating on the diet doesn’t mean completely falling off the wagon. Missing a day of exercise doesn’t mean their whole effort is doomed. The scale doesn’t dictate how Mary and Sharon feel, and their sense of success is tied to much more important factors. The numbers are simply a tool for keeping them on track. Sharon told us, laughing that "Nobody likes the scale to go up. But it's a liar! [My approach] is changing how I think/ feel about myself and being okay with that. I mean I’m not perfect, but I’m damn near! I want to watch the scale and reflect on that, see if I did it right, and learn from it if I didn’t."
Anyone embarking on their own health journey can learn a lot from these two. Mary's organization and ferocity, Sharon's humor and diligence, and their combined encouragement are all necessary ingredients for success. It is never easy to overhaul a lifestyle, even if you have every reason to do it! But having someone doing it with you makes it a lot better. These sisters have shown that small changes make a big difference. We are so honored that they teamed up for our challenge, and we can’t wait to see what they do next! You go, ladies. Keep Running The Edge!