Strong Really is the New Skinny by Marrisa Lopez


The day I went in to have my daughter, I weighed in at 209 lbs. and when we brought her home I weighed in at 200 pounds. “Nine pounds… That’s it?”  I cried out with an open jaw. How could I have only lost nine pounds, I was sure I’d at least drop 30 from just giving birth, but that was not the case.

Breastfeeding for a year helped me lose 32 pounds, but that was still not where I wanted to be. My goal was to get down to my premarital weight, which was 148 pounds. I decided to make it an even 150; I figured I’d add 2 extra pounds for my two children.  My husband took pictures of me from the front, back and sides. When I look back at these pictures, I see a smile of hope on my face or maybe I was just blushing because he was directing the photo shoot.

The following day we had a pot luck at work. Several teachers were typing in their phones and talking about the amount of calories in the green enchiladas. I didn’t really think I needed a calorie counter so I asked, “Does that really work?” After hearing all of the great things about it, and still a bit skeptical, I joined My Fitness Pal, which I downloaded to my phone at no cost. Immediately, I fell in love with the program. It was like a mixed version of Facebook and Weight Watchers. Day 1 of my food diary helped me realize that I was eating almost 3,000 calories a day which I couldn’t believe because I was still hungry. Instead of being hungry all the time, I learned how to make better choices, eat more and stay under my calorie goal.

marissa3Keeping a food diary on my phone became addicting. I would type in every bite, every snack and take a look at what my friends were eating as well. There were workouts you could include or create which would give you calories. At first, I would use those extra calories for a third snack but later on I realized that if I just left them uneaten it would help me reach my goal quicker.  According to Dr. Jack Hollis, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, "Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories." I found this to be true and not only has it helped me lose weight but it’s helped me realize that simple things like lemonade can have over 300 calories when you get a refill.

With the help of My Fitness Pal, I was finally at 158 lbs… so close I could almost cross my weight goal finish line. Taking walks around UTPB became a ritual, it was my way of working out and it worked very well for me. My sister in law and I would talk about our fitness goals and about my brother all at once; it was great!

Shortly after, my walking partner had to stop walking due to a high risk pregnancy and I stopped as well. It was a lonely feeling being all alone on a track. The headphones would get in my way, and if I took the kids; they would be running in two different directions so that was not good. I recently read an article in Motely Health that states: People who work out with a partner lose up to 10 additional pounds than if they exercise alone. Now that I had lost my partner; I sort of just gave up. I stayed home, ate more and started to gain the weight back.

As talk was rapidly spreading about the latest workout facility in Odessa, Texas, so was I. Spreading in all directions, like a mother of two small children was supposed to. It had been several months that I had gone for a walk and it was becoming easier to just sit back order take out and indulge in all the sweets I had already cut out of my diet. Just when I was about to turn to a fad diet, my husband asked if I wanted to join the gym with him.

My excuses for losing weight and joining a gym spewed over like an overflowed toilet:  I don’t have the time, I’m too tired, and what if my kids don’t like the day care? I began to think that the gym was only for the wealthy people who didn’t have a job, or for those who didn’t have kids to worry about. These things repeated themselves over and over in my mind until I just had enough.

It was time to come up with a real solution. One that would not only would change my body but also my mindset. Joining Flex 24 was the catalyst I needed to achieve my fitness goals, but it didn’t initially start off that way.

Why is that skinny girl even here, she’s already thin? I asked myself, as I walked into my first class, which was the Les Mills Body Pump weightlifting class.  It wasn’t until I saw the same girl get on the floor for pushups that I realized, she wasn’t here to get thin… she was here to get stronger. I almost just wanted to watch her because it was so amazing to see a woman that strong!

Here I was, with my knees on a padded floor struggling to get my body off the ground, while she was on her toes doing what I refer to as “man pushups” like nobody’s business.  Prior to joining the gym, all I could think about was “get skinny fast” but after several weeks of intense classes, I began to change my thought process about the whole thing. My goal was no longer to lose weight, it became… “I just want to do a single pushup!”

marissa2Today I am proud to say that I have surpassed my weight goal and am currently at 142 pounds!!! There was a point in my journey that I never thought I would see the 150’s much less be anywhere in the 140’s and now that I am here it feels amazing J Shopping for new workout clothes is my new hobby and actually being able to wear short shorts without feeling any bit of embarrassment is an amazing feeling. I can do 35 “man” pushups and I’m getting stronger every day. Every morning I wake up sore, and it’s a constant reminder that change is on the way. I’ve made so many new friends that have the same goals as I do and it’s amazing to see them transforming along with me. Any chance I get, I find a mirror and flex to see if my arms are getting that muscular tone definition. I take pictures to keep track of the progress and notice that my already big smile continues to grow. The weight is no longer my nemeses, doing a one handed push up now is.

Without Flex 24, I would be stuck. In the past, I had visited two other gyms, but I felt lost. The machines were there and people seemed to know what they were doing, but I had no clue. Flex 24 is not just a gym. It’s a place to escape your mind and forget all your worries. It’s place to be inspired by others without feeling out of place because we are all there to be better versions of ourselves. There are absolutely no excuses when you walk into the gym. Someone is there to challenge and motivate you every step of the way. Someone is there to welcome your children and hold them in their arms so that you can get the best workout knowing they are well taken care of.

I absolutely love the variety of classes and have taken them all. From Zumba, CX, Step, Attack, Pump and Combat, there is something to meet your interests. Recently, Flex 24 has opened up a new class which is the Les Mills RPM indoor cycling class. My first day taking the class was an experience that can only be described as profound and exhilarating. Yes I was drenched in sweat, and yes I was feeling the burn, but something in that moment of feeling fatigued and ready to quit; is the sense that someone is there to make sure you are successful. “Marissa, I know you can do it, lets go!!!” shouts Shellie Porras, RPM instructor, as my eyes are shut tight ready to quit. Her tone of voice is so impassioned and was exactly what I needed in that moment to push through. As I opened my eyes, a few tears of accomplishment joined the puddles of sweat. No one is left behind. At last, I have found my niche.

marrisa2 marrisa3   Key points to remember when trying to get healthy:
  • Keeping a food diary can help you lose twice the weight
  • Focus on getting stronger
  • 2.7 million people die each year as a result of not eating enough fruits and vegetables
  • 2.6 million deaths each year are due to obese-related illnesses
  • Regularly consuming high fat and high sugar foods can influence the development of depression. According to
  • Having a partner or motivator can help you lose 10 more pounds than working out alone.