Instructor Highlight: Debra Mazda
Eating the right food, exercise and living a healthy life. Sounds easy but can be very difficult. But does it have to be? We all want to stay fit and look good and of course to have good health, but we also know that it is easier said than done. However, just small changes can make huge difference. We may not all be able to be an athlete, but we can all improve, and always change small things in our day to day life. This story really shows that even if life is all but salubrious it is possible to do something about it. Be inspired!
You are a real fitness guru, but some decades ago your weight was over 300 pounds. That is a lot to carry around. Even with the motivation it must have been hard to start exercise. How did you manage?
Yes, I did weigh over 300 pounds many years ago, I was chronically depressed and hated myself, I was in a very dark place. Back then I was in an abusive relationship with food as my comfort, friend and saving grace back then. I was an emotional eater who was slowly going further and further into a world that I was not sure I could or would come out of.
Have survived sexual abuse and using food as my comfort my weight escalated over time. In my 20’s , at over 300 pounds, I decided that I had enough and found the courage and strength to begin my personal journey back upward and I started with exercise. I found the courage to walk into a fitness center where everyone was a size 2. I met a bodybuilder named John who helped me and never judged me, I took my first fitness class weighing over 300 pounds. It was a now or never moment.
I had been on every diet on the market, but it wasn’t until I began to exercise that I lost weight but more importantly I began to feel so much better. Sometime later, I walked into a Richard Simmons Anatomy Asylum, became the training director, and never looked back. I eventually lost over 150 pounds and still have my weight off 30 years later. Exercise was the catalyst for me!
You are talking about the aha-moment. What do you mean by that?
I was the diet queen, uppers downers, injections, starvation, binging, weight watchers, diet pills, and nothing worked long term. It was not till I thought I was having a heart attack and was told I was obese that nothing sank in to my brain. That was my aha moment!
I talk in depth about this moment, in my new book “Eating my secrets”. I became focused, determined and nothing was going to stop me. Once I realized that dieting was getting me nowhere fast, I took matters into my own hands. I began to breathe and learned how to live. I started not only to eat better but befriended food. I realized I was in control. I had the power not the diet. No longer was I focused on negative thoughts about myself. While that was many years ago, and those days are far gone, today I live a very different life. Learning how to use food as fuel and nourishment for my body to move changed my life.
Another interesting thing about your weight loss is that you began by cutting your portions in half.
Back in the 70’s obesity or being overweight was almost unheard of. Most people were a normal size; today two out of three women are either overweight or obese. When I decided to make life changes after being told I was fat and obese I had to find out how to eat differently. However, there was not a lot about nutrition for me to read that would be a help. I had to take matters in my own hands and came to conclusion that if I ate only half of what I normally ate that would do it and it did.
A normal breakfast for me back then was a rack of ribs, three or four eggs drowning in butter, quart of OJ and two to three biscuits again drowning in butter. Today, as a professional I know a lot about foods and tell women this, stop dieting! Find out what will work for lifestyle, such as environment, daily schedule, culture, etcetera.
Would you say that a lot of food and eating issues are due to bad habits and not hunger?
Yes, I would. Emotional eating has it grips on a lot of women not matter what size they are. Food becomes comfort, friendship and a friendly night out for a lot of women. Eating out of boredom, sadness, shame, or for whatever we use it for can be easier than to look at what we might be eating emotionally for. The move more, eat less philosophy is so complicated but we need to search inside to figure out what is eating us.
Emotional eating has nothing to do with hunger, there is a hole inside of us and for million food is the comfort to fill that hole. For me, pray and God has played such a part of my recovery. God has been with me thru it all and I give him the glory for pulling me out of the miry clay and he has never let me down even when I wanted to crawl in a hole and hibernate.
You are now 65 years old, how do you manage to stay healthy and not put on weight again?
At 65, I feel fabulous and am in great health. I do not take any medications, I eat well, stopped binging many years ago, sleep 6 - 8 hours per night and workout 4 - 5 days a week. I have some minor aches and pains every now and then, but I attribute my great health to my lifestyle.
I know that you have inspired many women to embrace a healthy living and especially getting them to move. Now you have also written a book, would you like to tell some about it?
My book is called “Eating my secrets” and is a book about health, healing and hope. This is not a diet book; it is a book about my journey as well as other women’s journey. I talk about my own journey to wellness. I talk about my weight, depression, sexual abuse and how thru all of those setbacks, trials, doubts, fear and shame I was able to come out and taste the victory! It is a fascinating story.
And to all who want to take the step, but hesitate. How shall they get started?
Take a deep breath, know you are worthy to look and feel better. Just take that first step and continue one step at a time. This is a journey not a destination. We are constantly evolving and so take the ride, move your body, eat well, laugh at yourself, have a great support system and know that you got this!