Down 57 Pounds, Heather Shares Her Secrets

By , SparkPeople Blogger
The big news of December was the launch of the paperback edition of "The Spark," the New York Times Best Seller written by our own Chris "SparkGuy" Downie. The new and updated version not only has a lower price (WooHoo!) but it contains the Strong Start Guide, which was written by SparkGuy and Coach Nicole.

Found only in the updated paperback edition, the Strong Start Guide shares the proven strategies to lose twice the weight in two weeks--and keep it off! What you do in the first two weeks can make or break your weight-loss program, and we found out what works.

The paperback also features three new Success Stories of people who've lost weight and kept it off using SparkPeople and the 28-day plan outlined in "The Spark."

I reached out to one of those successful members, Heather Johnson (HEZLIZZIE) of Jacksonville, Florida, who lost 57 pounds and just ran her first marathon. She shed five pounds in the first two weeks, and that strong start was crucial to her continued success. You can read her full Success Story in "The Spark," but this former cake decorator wanted to share a few more secrets and tips with you!

dailySpark: How does it feel to be featured in the new Strong Start Guide in “The Spark”?
Heather: It's honestly a surreal experience! I was excited to see that the feedback I gave was printed almost in its entirety. I feel validated, very motivated, and humbled that my example may help others feel strong and able to live a healthier lifestyle. My husband (who is dancing with me in my 'before' picture taken in 2007) was surprised to be included in the printing and has referred to it as a "wake-up call". He has since expressed interest in getting fitted for running shoes and training to run a 15K together in March 2011!

dailySpark: Does that keep you motivated?
Heather: Yes, absolutely. I feel great when I exercise regularly and make healthy food choices, and having my profile listed in The Spark is a great reminder of my success in taking great care of myself.

dailySpark: What is your current fitness routine?
Heather: I just ran my first marathon on Sunday, December 19th, so my current exercise routine is centered around gradually building up my running endurance. I'm a slow and steady "turtle" runner and I am not currently focusing on my pace, but rather on going the distance and crossing the finish line with a smile on my face! I also am fortunate to live two miles away from work, and I commute by riding my bike.

dailySpark: What advice do you have for members who are trying to motivate themselves to improve their health?
Heather: I am living proof that the "butterfly effect" is real - making small changes, consistently over time, adds up to lasting positive change. Choosing and tracking Spark Streaks when starting out on the journey towards good health is a very powerful tool that builds a foundation for success. Don't try to overhaul everything at once; it's too easy to become overwhelmed and to go back to familiar unhealthy choices. Try not to focus too much on "fixing to get ready" - get a few good ideas and/or short-term goals to focus on for a week, and when you achieve them and celebrate your success you can start planning the next steps.

dailySpark: Aside from weight loss, are there any other health benefits you’ve experienced?
Heather: Yes! Improved quality of sleep, a much more even energy level throughout the day, and more energy than I know what to do with sometimes! I always find it interesting how expending more energy through exercise gives me more energy to tackle my workday and get everything done. I feel great when I get lots of fruit and veggies in my diet, and I have lots of fun trying new healthy recipes.

dailySpark: Your new job involves helping other people make healthy choices. How did your own journey to health influence your career path?
Heather: I know from experience how difficult and overwhelming it can be to take the first steps on the journey to increased health. My coworkers watched me become healthier and more fit, and it opened up opportunities to talk about healthy food choices. I work for a natural food store, and being able to talk to my fellow employees and customers about the health-promoting properties of food is wonderful! I learn so much from the conversations, and I am lucky to be able to demonstrate and teach others how to prepare healthy recipes. The way to a person's heart is certainly through their stomach, in my experience, and introducing delicious and healthy food to others is such a fun and fulfilling job to have!

dailySpark: You’ve said that you’re a lifetime student. What was the toughest lesson for you when it came to eating right and working out?
Heather: It was tough for me to adjust to smaller portions. I truly didn't realize that I am not supposed to feel tired after eating until I consistently reduced my portion sizes and replaced simple sugars and sweets with complex carbs and fruit. Now I feel energized after meals and that has motivated me to keep making healthier choices. Sure, eating a half of a pan of brownies might taste good in the moment, but I will feel uncomfortably full and tired five minutes later. I'd rather make the choice that results in feeling good over the longest period of time. It's fresh fruit for dessert for me, and when I want something rich and decadent I enjoy a small portion and eat mindfully.

dailySpark: You’ve just completed your first marathon. How was it?
Heather: It felt amazing crossing the finish line! I ran the race with my best friend, LEONALIONESS on SparkPeople, and my husband and parents cheered us on at the finish. It was very motivating to have a big goal to work toward and I am in awe of what my body can do! Running a marathon is something I never even considered as a possibility for me until I started walk/jogging about 18 months ago and realized that I love racing and the incredibly supportive running community. Training for and running my first marathon was challenging at times, but I put my stubborn streak to good use and stayed focused on believing in myself and in achieving my goal. Not everything is going to go perfectly, and that's okay! Focusing on the big picture is key. I'm already thinking about where I want to go for my next marathon race. I've officially caught the running bug!

dailySpark: What is your next goal?
Heather: I will be running a half marathon in the spring, an all-women race, with wonderful family and friends (my Mom, FAVRE4EVER, sister, MELISSR, and friend, REBASO on SparkPeople). I will be focusing on yoga and strength work over the next few months as I give my running muscles a bit of a rest. I want to keep things fun and interesting, and there are so many activities to try!

dailySpark: How has SparkPeople helped you reach goals aside from weight loss?
Heather: What I always tell people when they ask about how I became more fit and healthy is that SparkPeople's community and unconditional support makes all the difference. My SparkPeople friends mean more to me than they know. I appreciate the wealth of knowledge, the camaraderie, the accountability, and the fun competition that SparkPeople provides. I never feel alone on my journey to health as long as I have SparkPeople as a resource.

dailySpark: What is your favorite meal now?
Heather: I love making a raw kale salad with avocado dressing, chopped apple and cashews. I could eat it every day!

dailySpark: Any other parting thoughts?
Heather: Thank you so much for the honor of this interview! SparkPeople rocks! :D

Click here to learn more about the book, the bonuses--and Heather!

Did Heather's story inspire you? How?