Real People, Real Stories

999032_10151604196654888_1330807071_nSARA SHARES: What she Learned from an Extreme Weight Loss Program

I tried out this more “extreme” weight loss regime a friend suggested to me. Normally, I’m not all for a magic pill approach, but she had such a good experience I thought I’d give it a shot. I’d needed a kick start back to my healthy self. It worked in the way it was supposed to – I lost a bit of weight over the course of a little over a week – but it also “worked” in unexpected ways..

The diet entailed taking 12 drops three times a day before the main meals, and by meals I mean meals stripped down to the bone. They’re minimalist, simple and sometimes flavorless (cue Pinteresting recipes for HCG diets). Here’s a look at one day’s meals to give you an idea:

  • Breakfast – Supposed to be just a fruit, but I had to adjust this step for health reasons. I had a cup of yogurt with the fruit, usually strawberries or blueberries.

  • In-between Snack – cucumbers & tomato salad (allowed: cucumbers and sugar-free salsa…I improvised).

  • Lunch – Chicken (poached, baked or grilled on pan with light coat of Pam) with salt, pepper and herbs & a vegetable – usually steamed or boiled broccoli

  • In-between Snack – either a tomato, cucumbers or a breadstick (i.e. I had a few pretzels)

  • Dinner – Chicken, fish or plain turkey burger with a side of veggies (asparagus, arugula, broccoli)

  • Second Fruit – usually an apple

This all looks very repetitive and boring and to be honest, it was. I’m used to making my own dressings or sauces to top my dishes, but oil isn’t allowed. Sometimes salt and pepper just isn’t enough and lemon can make things soggy. Though I am (usually) a health nut, I’m also a foodie and limiting my food options and creativity was tough for me. I like to make new recipes, try new foods and create “healthy” desserts. However, being this limited showed me something about myself – I’m really not made for half the things I like to eat.

I’ll give you an example: I’d been on the diet for about a week and a half (only a few minor slip-ups including a bachelorette party weekend) when the mini cadbury eggs I was bringing to Easter dinner were taunting me. I was strong for about 6 hours before I gave in. I told myself I’d just have four – and I did. Minor win! Well, I only “just had 4” because not even a half hour later my stomach began to churn. I know what you’re thinking: “Your body is reacting that way to chocolate?! How awful!” I’m just as shocked…and sad. The same seems to happen when I have too much dairy/cheese or sugary desserts – all things I’m not eating when sticking to the diet and, coincidentally, all things I love to indulge in.

So the question is, what did this extreme weight loss program do for me? The answer: Much more than I expected. I have to say the gains I’ve seen while on this diet/regime were pretty great – not just weight, but energy, mood and self-confidence. But beyond the weight loss, the bigger win for me is the lesson I learned, something my body has probably been trying to tell me for quite some time – without depriving yourself, eat what makes your body feel good.

I can’t say I’ll never have another mini cadburry egg or that I won’t pick up a cube or two of sharp provolone cheese from an antipasto platter, but I definitely will start listening to my body and learn my limits.



crop Andrew Romanella

The alarm goes off. It’s Saturday at 7am. I ask myself why the hell are you getting up this early on a Saturday? Before I can even fully open my eyes it hits me, all of this is for Barre class for your sister’s birthday. Barre class I say to myself. Why the hell am I up a 7am for something called Barre? Which in my experience is spelled with 3 letters not 5 and is meant only for the female population.

So I climb out of bed, unhappy and annoyed that my sister is for lack of better words ruining my weekend life for a glorified ballet class. I put on my clothes, pour my coffee and head out the door ready to conquer the Barre (or Bar for you normal spelling Americans) having no idea what I just got myself into.

My girlfriend and I pull into the back parking lot to what looks like an abandoned building scratching our heads in amazement in how this place was even found. After a solid 5-minute search for the right abandoned doorway we find an elevator. Having zero clue where we are and no contact to the inside world (no cell phones in Barre class) we decided to take a shot and jump in.

Much like a movie with a trap door or closet to a foreign land, the elevator stops on the 3rd floor and opens to a floor in which you never thought existed. A receptionist greets you, asked for your name and looks you up and down asking herself what this hairy, bearded creature is doing at the Barre (without alcohol of course). At that moment I should have known, run Andrew, run as far as you can.

The classroom is a perfect rectangle with mirrors and a ballet bar surrounding the entire room. There is anywhere from 15-25 people in the class with 1 really amped up instructor. Each person is given a matte, 2 different sized weighted balls and a workout ring. You are required to wear socks that have grip on the bottom so you don’t slide all over while performing your moves.

The scene is set, 5 guys, 15 experience Barre women and 1 amped up instructor ready to dominate the glutes of each individual male who walked through the door. The class starts off with what is considered a warm up in the Barre world, the beginning of the end for every muscle on my body located below my waist band.

Much like every guy challenged to a workout competition by their older sister, I started out on fire. Moving my body up and down, side to side, pulsing on the toes, level 1, level 10, it didn’t matter I was determined to dominate ever human within a 10-mile radius of this Barre. 5 minutes goes by, okay the legs are feeling good. 7 minutes, okay Rocky is neck and neck with me, Kris is sweating gallons and Rich and Sean are holding their own, I GOT THIS BABY! 10 minutes and I’m feeling good. F this barre! I can do this shit in my sleep…………………That was of course until we did the last 50 minutes of the class.

By minute 20 I don’t think I could remember my name (much like a regular B-A-R). My legs were shaking so much you would have thought there was an earthquake where I was standing. Every time I heard, pulse, pulse, come on just 1 more time, I thought about opening the 3rd story abandoned window and launching myself to the bottom. Anything was better than another pulse, another hip thrust or another stability hold.

By minutes 35-40 it was all downhill. Sweating like I just jumped out of the pool. Trying everything mentally to get through the pain saying in my head, “Come on Andrew your pregnant sister is doing better than you” “Don’t fail….there is a 45 year old women making you look like you’ve never touched a dumbbell.”

It was nearly impossible. With every movement, every change, the pain worse and worse. The entire time watching in amazement of all 15 women in there doing movements without a groan or what look like a single ounce of sweat. How are they doing that? Are they hurting like I am? Is Kris going to make it? All questions that I didn’t have the answer too or had a second to think about

FINALLY, minute 55. We are almost there.  Only core left. Yes I say to myself just get through the core and then we are done. Regaining some energy, my brother and I decided to end it on the highest level. Jumping jack pushups with a hold. Thinking we could dominate those we bang set 1. Okay, good shit we are back baby ready to finish. And then we did number 2. “Terrible idea!” I say to myself, “What the F was I thinking?” “F’ck Rocky is doing them too so now I really cant stop”

1 minute left the instructor says, FINALLY a light at the end of the tunnel. 30 seconds, lets gooooooooo, 15, I’m going to need a real bar after this, just gotta finish 10, 9,8, come on baby you got this. 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, you got 1 more just finish, 2, 1 And at that moment summed up the feelings of every male in that room then when the clock struck 0 and the class finished. Everyone dropped, laying in their own pool of sweat when my Rocky screamed out, “IS IT OVER??”

After a well-deserved and warranted laugh from every female in the room, yes Rock the torture is over. You can go home now and attempt to walk normally, sit on the toilet comfortably or even begin to think about walking up and down a set of stairs.

I bench over 200 pounds, go to the gym 5 days a week and have been obsessed with working out for 8 straight years and never once did I think one of the hardest workouts of my life would be barre class.

12376703_10100734338526769_8664659653944889016_n Girls, 1 Boys, 0



0216432c-118f-4e5b-9411-95fc3c70aed6Marla Chicky, Wellness Coach + Body “Cheerleader”

So is your “Food Hangover” feeling extra guilt ridden this Monday morning?

Take a deep breath, gorgeous, Thanksgiving dinner is over.  Even though fitting into your Little Black Dress, or prized skinny jeans, now seems like an impossible feat without the presence of bulging love handles.  (‘Ugh, I so didn’t need that slice of apple pie + whip’)

I recently read a statistic that sited two-thirds of women struggle with disordered eating.  Sounds like a resounding majority.  To me, this was deeply saddening to read, but oddly, equally comforting.

As a wellness coach for a nutritional cleansing company, I have the utmost pleasure of coaching women on the road to their most gorgeous selves.  Yet, so much of the journey does not necessarily seem to be around the food itself.

Dropping 10 pounds does not seem to equal Victoria’s Secret Angel body confidence.  Or Jake Gyllenhaal look-a-like’s lining up outside your apartment door with roses.


Yes, the holidays seem to be coupled with the notion that you are inevitably going to pack them on,  no shot in avoiding it.  Seriously babe, you’re doomed to go up a dress size.

So body hang-ups kick into high gear with dropping temperatures—and baggy sweaters get pulled out of our closets along with renaming winter ‘sweat pants season’.  Clearly there’s no longer summer time pressure to rock a crop-top and Abercrombie jean shorts.

Still, there has to be a better way to combat the seasonal binging/restricting cycle.

As the self-proclaimed “Body Cheerleader”, and someone who has lost over 20 pounds in the last year—going from zero physical activity, to running 2-3 miles a day, I’m right there with you beauties!  The struggle remains real as stretch marks, for me included, even post weight-loss.

What I have come to realize is the element of self-love is paramount, and the road for perfection is one we need to take an alternate route from.

I use to print out pictures of girls with the “perfect” bodies (Petite, hour glass waist, thin legs, and big you know what’s J) and hang them all over my fridge if I was tempted to snack.  They’ve since been ripped down and replaced with hot pink affirmation Post-Its.

So let’s make a pact to end the guilt surrounding indulgences this holiday season.  If you drank the real eggnog instead of my signature ‘Skinny’ recipe, FORGIVE yourself.  It happens!

The pressure we place on ourselves to look a certain way is a useless self-inflicted heavy burden to carry, and an unnecessary one at best.

Just know that if you find yourself eating all of Santa’s cookies (and milk), or depriving yourself completely … you’re not alone, and never will be.

Dig deep and find what your triggers are, accept yourself for where you are right now, and realize tomorrow is always a new day.

Happy Holidays, gorgeous!

Big hugs from your cheerleader,

Marla Chicky

Body Cheerleader (1)

—Mommy-To-Be: Becky’s Story21890

Hollywood portrays pregnant women as raging, sobbing, irrational creatures who eat everything in sight and occasionally solve crimes in North Dakota. Some of this is true and some of it….actually it’s all true, even the crime solving (“Fargo” is based on a true story).

There are some women who embrace pregnancy as a chance to shove everything they can down their gullets. They indulge all their wildest cravings and fatty food delight without a care in the world. I love these women and applaud every milkshake and chicken leg! And then on the flip, there are the women I have seen in Los Angeles where I live, who are strict and only eat the most healthy, nutrient rich foods full of all the things that will make the baby smart, strong, sensitive, kind, funny and destined to be President or at least win an Oscar.
My heart wants me to be the latter of the two of these two, but the rest of me is like “cake and peanut butter and hamburgers and fries and cake and nachos!”.  I guess this shouldn’t come as any surprise to me. I’ve been in a love/hate relationship with food since I was 10 years old. Always chubby, I dieted all my life until about 5 years ago when I started to go to therapy for what I soon discovered was disordered eating, a condition that plagues nearly two-thirds of women today. The cycle of depravation and binging had repeated itself so many times in my life and at my highest weight ever, it clearly wasn’t doing me any favors.
I discovered new ways of looking at food and dealing with my emotions that didn’t involve cheese and cookies. Eventually I felt good about going back on Weight Watchers with additional therapy (these food issues run deep). When I got engaged, I really struggled with the idea of weight loss for the wedding. I wanted to for pictures, but at the same time I resented it. I compromised and I concentrated on getting into shape. And I have to say, I looked good on my wedding day.
Over the last year, I gained some weight. Post wedding let down, then the holidays and then one injury after another that sidelined me from the gym. So I am not at a great weight to start this journey.
So, I am having a really hard time wrapping my head around the idea of HAVING to gain weight. And how could I not be scared of the scale going up when my whole life I have been told to fear the scale and the higher numbers and the bigger pants and the “wobbly bits”. But now all of the sudden I’m supposed to LOVE all that? I cannot make that switch in my brain. Not as quickly as I need to, at least.
At 14 weeks, I am just showing a little bit, so I just look fatter, I don’t look pregnant. I have the urge to tell passing strangers “I’m not fat!! I’m pregnant!”.  And I envy the women who love their pregnant bodies, although I am discovering that those ladies are fewer and more far between that we are led to believe. But the thing I struggle with the most is food. What do I eat? Do I indulge the Hollywood stereotype in me? Or do I go with the Hollywood reality around me of green juice drinking preggos who workout with vigor until they are 9 months pregnant?
I’d love to have an answer right now, but life and pregnancy is a very messy ordeal that sometimes doesn’t present you with answers at the moment you need them. I suppose what most people would say the answer is to have some will power. I guess I would say to those people, imagine the most tired, sore, sad, angry and bloated you’ve ever felt. Now imagine feeling like that for weeks on end and knowing at the end of it  all your life will change forever….now which would you like… a piece of cake or a salad?
So usually an article like this would have a picture attached with a photo of me in a mirror showing off my adorable baby bump. And I tried, ladies and gentlemen, I tried. But every outfit made me feel more and more terrible. Every angle only accentuated every non-cute bump. Eventually, I fell into a pile of tears on the bathroom floor.I could have posted a picture of that, but it wasn’t a pretty sight. I can promise you this though, I am working on loving this journey and part of that will be eventually be me being able to post a preggo picture.  Deal? Deal.
Nicolette’s Story



MD: What was the moment you decided to make a change?

Nicolette: I was tired of looking like crap—not feeling comfortable in certain clothes or the way I looked in pictures – Pictures embarrassed me the most. Especially in my bathing suit when I was with others. Or even when I was wearing sleeveless shirts I hated the way my arms looked– I was always so hard on myself for that. But I just got tired of telling myself tomorrow or next week  – I was tired of telling myself I’m okay when deep down emotionally I was not at all with myself. I realized how crappy I felt, I wasn’t used to this feeling and I knew it had something to do with my diet – actually I knew it had everything to do with my diet. I grew up very athletic, I played competitive volleyball since I was 11 and all through college. My team was top in the state and we made it to the state championships every year.  Volleyball was my entire life, traveling all over the east coast every weekend and practices every night after school. Eating in high school didn’t really affect me,(my young metabolism also played a role) my diet was good and it was on track. I also didn’t have a lot of time to just go binge, I ate well with my team and with my family every day. It was in college where things fell of track—but we all also want that college experience of letting go of what was in the past or what you were. A time for change is how I looked at it. I went away to school and that was that… Weekends consisted of eating what I wanted, oh and also during the week I ate what I wanted. My “healthy choices” then are foods I wouldn’t go near now 4 years later. Freshmen year, even playing a sport for my school I gained 30 pounds. It was scary.

MD: How did you get started?

Nicolette: I started going to gym again, I started being very disciplined with myself, I started making a change in my diet. I cut out carbs and I stopped eating past 7pm every day. I started feeling better, Less bloated, full of energy. I also noticed that I lost 5 pounds too! I was so happy. But I was very hard on myself too and nothing was good enough so I kept going. I wasn’t playing volleyball anymore- I didn’t have a hobby to keep up with, and I didn’t have an “outlet” any more. That is why lifting/yoga/running has now become my new therapy. Every day I make it a goal to go to the gym and I set a goal during the day of what I am going to accomplish. Doing this for myself everyday is reflected in how I feel- in the most positive way.

MD: You made a bold decision that you wanted to be strong, not skinny….BIG DIFFERENCE! Why?

Nicolette: I think this stronger build look is just about the challenges you choose – the goals you set for yourself. I find it amazing the ability for a female to complete and lift and train as hard as men do. Its beautiful–I used to just run every day and that was that, or do the elliptical for an hour and be done with the gym… but as the days went on I was getting bored—I wanted to set the bar higher – I wanted to challenge myself in a way I never would have, even years ago.  There is always more you can do—ways you can make a difference. I found this out by lifting, and getting stronger everyday

MD: What’s the biggest lesson you have learned about yourself?

Nicolette: Be mindful in the moment, every rep, every minute- just be mindful of it and know that it is getting you closer to where you want to be. It is okay to be tired, or sore or in pain- you’re making a difference.

MD: Do you agree with this statement: “A Healthy outside starts on the inside?”

Nicolette: Yes- I agree completely— you need to make the changes mentally in order to be where you want to be physically. It is all in your head first—the results and where you want to be on the outside is all inside

MD: What’s your advice for anyone reading who wants to get healthy on the inside?

Nicolette: “if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you”

MD: Ok, Nicolette…from the strongest girl I know…does muscle weigh more than fat?!

Nicolette: Yes! I absolutely think muscle weighs more than fat. In choosing strong, I was scared to gain the weight back that I lost. The last month I noticed the scale was getting higher and higher but I do not look like I am gaining weight. I gain a pound or two every week. It’s definitely a mental battle. You need to remind yourself you are working hard, you are pushing yourself, you are fulfilling your goal, the scale plays a game with you.



If you want to continue to follow Nicolette’s journey follow her on Instagram: @niccfit_