Client Spotlight – Sarah S.

It’s been a LONG time coming, but this blog entry is finally going out.  I asked my client Sarah Shugars to answer the questions that follow back in May.  And yes, she sent them to me back in May.  Needless to say, it is not Sarah who lacks any punctuality, drive, determination, or follow-through.  As much as she credits me and The Training Room for helping her achieve her goals, I am truly inspired by her dedication, organization, and discipline.  Sarah’s positive attitude and strict adherence to her training program has led to 68.5lbs of weight loss… and counting!

H-  You’ve mentioned before that it had been a long while since you’d seen the other side of 200lbs.  What sequence of events led you to The Training Room and made you get serious about losing the weight?

S-  I’ve been overweight nearly all my life. I’ve tried on my own to change my eating habits and to exercise more, but I was never able to do so sustainably.  I had what I’m afraid is a pretty typical routine: I’d get to a point where I’d decide I really needed to lose weight, then I’d join a gym and/or change my eating habits.  I’d lose about 10 pounds. Then slowly I’d start eating the food I liked again and slowly I’d get too busy to go to the gym and slowly I’d put the weight back on. Then I’d do it all again a year later.

I started going to The Training Room because I was in one of my “time to do something” phases and I wanted to try something different than the same old routine.  Two things have always bothered me about typical gyms:

Sarah in October 2010, a few weeks before her first visit to the TR.  If you ask me, this is a “time to do something” look  🙂

  • #1-  I can figure out how to use a treadmill or a weight machine, but I didn’t really know what I was doing when it came to planning or doing a workout.  I just made it up – and the fact that I wasn’t getting results was a clue that maybe I was missing something.
  • #2- Membership gyms are like a black hole for my money.  With the cycle above, I’d typically hold a gym membership for 1-2 YEARS, while being an active user for 1-2 MONTHS.  That’s a terrible investment, especially when you’re not getting any results.


H-  What has been the most challenging aspect of your weight loss so far?  How have you stayed motivated?

S-  It can be very frustrating at times.  Sometimes I gain a little or don’t lose any weight.  Sometimes I try new exercises and am really bad at them.  Sometimes I aggravate an old injury and can’t work as hard as I’d like.  Sometimes I’m just really tired.

At the beginning, I made a commitment that for at least three months I would go to the Training Room for 2 classes and 2 training sessions a week. That was an usually large commitment for me and frankly I wasn’t sure it would pay off.  But ultimately, having that initial commitment helped me stick with it through some of the hardest times. I hoped to lose about 25 lbs in those three months.  I lost about 40.

After that, I knew I wanted to keep going and keep working hard.  I still have bad days, but sometime you just have to just take a deep breath and try again tomorrow.


H-  As a vegetarian, please describe the changes you’ve made in your eating habits.
S-  I have made drastic changes to my eating habits. I’ve long been a notorious junk-food junkie – not like I’m the only person who’s ever eaten an entire bag of candy corn in one sitting or finished a large pizza by myself. Two big factors influenced these habits: time and comfort.  It’s hard to make time to shop and cook – ordering food or picking up some chips is way easier.  And, I was a serious comfort eater – there’s just something indulgent about eating “bad” food that helps me de-stress.

Before I went to the Training Room, my typical day went something like this:

  • Coffee, skim milk and sugar (skim milk, see I was healthy!)
  • Fat-free yogurt and a cup of cereal (OMG, why am I starving?)
  • Carrots and celery (Hm, this is all the food I brought today and it’s only 10am is there a meeting today that will have left over food?)
  • Can/bottle of diet coke and whatever what left over from that meeting
  • Emergency afternoon snack (Good thing I brought this can of nuts/bag of chips to work.  Is it bad I ate half of it?)
  • Order out for delivery (Man, that was a long day!)

I sort of tried to be healthy, but my eating rapidly deteriorated as my lack of planning and busy schedule overtook everything else.  It wasn’t just that I liked the food that I could have delivered, but I structured my life in such a way that those were my only viable options on a daily basis.

With Heidi’s help, I’ve totally overhauled my eating. She’s not only helped me change what I eat, but has helped me figure out how to change my eating in a way that’s sustainable for me.  Now my typical days looks more like this:

  • Coffee, black
  • Greek yogurt (anything but vanilla!)
  • String cheese (I’m not ashamed to be a grown-up who eats string cheese)
  • Homemade trail mix – a handful of unsalted mixed nuts, a few pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, dried apricots, and just a little bit of whole-grain cereal (Yes, that was all pre-lunch)
  • Homemade lentil soup.  Bag of lentils, can of beans, celery, onion, garlic, zucchini, squash and spinach or kale.  Throw it in the crock pot Sunday morning, portion it out Sunday night – good to go for the week!
  • Fruit – an apple, orange or a banana are my staples
  • Carrots and celery (again, I portion these all out on Sundays so I can grab and go in the mornings)
  • If I’m going to The Training Room after work, I might have a multi-grain cracker or something, especially if I’m feeling hungry.
  • For dinner I mix it up a little bit.  Sometimes I have a flax-seed tortilla (actually really good) with some hummus and a garden burger.  I LOVE pasta, so sometimes I have a serving of whole wheat pasta with sautéed veggies.  And sometimes, I even go out to eat.

When changing my eating, my I started out really strict.  Going into it, I really wasn’t sure what changes I could live with and which I couldn’t. I also knew that my portion sizes had been out of control, so I spent the first month or two really focusing on trying to get my portion sizes reasonable and getting used to the routine and eating different things.

I thought Heidi was crazy when she suggested I drink my coffee black – and I thought it was gross the first few weeks I tried it. After awhile, though, my tastes started to change.  I like drinking my coffee black.  I don’t miss eating bags (and bags) of junk food.  I got into the habit of bring snacks with me every time I left the house and its now just part of my usual routine.

At the same time, I’ve learned what foods I really enjoy (pasta!) and I’ve figured out how responsibly integrate them into my eating.  Similarly, I’ve learned how to go out for dinner or over to a friend’s house without going crazy.

Because I now snack all the time, I’m usually not very hungry.  So even when I’m presented with something awesomely delicious (or unhealthy) to eat – it’s more a great opportunity to “taste” something delicious rather than an overwhelming need to stuff my face.

As I’ve changed my eating habits I’ve found that I don’t crave junk food any more.  Seriously, I don’t know what they put in that stuff but I think it’s designed to be addictive.  And as I’ve gotten used to working out, I’ve found that has become my new comfort.  When I’m having a bad day, instead of looking forward to having an entire box of mac and cheese, half a bag of potato chips and a pint of ice cream for dinner and I look forward to my workout at The Training Room.  And no matter how stressed, exhausted, busy or overwhelmed I’m feeling when I walk in the door I always feel relaxed and energized (and ready to get back to work!) when I walk out.


H-  How many times per week do you workout and what is your routine?

S-  I generally work out 4 times per week (2 personal training sessions and 2 classes).  Occasionally during a really busy week, I only get to The Training Room 3 times, in which case I try to do at least one workout on my own.

Personal training serves as the core to my routine.  I generally schedule a month at a time and try to have fixed days and times – ex., Mondays and Fridays at 6:30.  I make a point of only scheduling on days when I know I can commit to showing up – there’s usually at least one day a month I have to adjust my “usual” schedule.

This helps me really stick with it and keep my workouts prioritized.  If something comes up – and something always comes up – I have to either do it before or after my workout or simply say that I needed more notice.

I supplement my trainings with TR classes on a more flexible basis.  There are times when I know a week is filling up and I schedule classes in advance to make sure to fit them in, and there are times when I have no idea what my schedule’s going to look like and I register for classes a little more last minute.

In general, I try to look at my calendar for the week every Sunday or Monday to figure out where I can fit my classes in.  If my schedule is just too packed, then I put an at-home work out in my calendar and ask for Heidi’s advice on what to do.

Each week, I generally have one cardio-focused training and one weight-focused training. I try to keep a similar balance for my classes – I may take one spin class, but I’ll balance it with something that combines strength and cardio, such as circuit training, 50/50 or a Kettlebell class.

H.  You’ve never missed an appointment, and you always arrive early to do your warm-ups.  What advice do you have for others trying to lose weight in terms of keeping this level of dedication?

S-  It’s definitely been a challenge to “keep with it” – like many people, I have a busy schedule and it’s almost too easy to say I’m too busy or tired to work out.

As I started at the Training Room, I realized that everything in life is about priorities – saying you don’t have time to do something is the same as saying you care about other things more. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a reality. We all have things that we are deeply passionate about – work, family, friends.  These are the things that we’ll push ourselves, rearrange our schedules or drop everything for.

If you’ve ever gotten out of bed earlier than you wanted to, gone to a meeting you didn’t care about or sat through an awkward social gathering you know what I’m talking about.  Sometimes, no matter how much you feel like you don’t want to do something you do it anyway because it just needs to get done.

Every time I schedule a personal training session or sign up for a class, I put it on that level of personal priority. Sure, a trip to the hospital would trump all other priorities – but for most every day things that pop up I figure out how to make it work.  Sometimes this means going from work to The Training Room then straight on to an evening commitment, sometimes it means planning ahead and changing my usual work out time and sometimes it even means saying I can’t do other things.


H-  What has been the most notable thing about this process (thus far) for you?
S-  The most surprising thing for me has been a change in my understanding of what it really means to be healthy.  As someone who has struggled with weight, I’ve often thought of health solely along this dimension. This can be dangerous because of all the social and psychological issues that go along with weight. Throughout my life, my yo-yoing weight was largely an external sign of my internal battle between my own desires to look good while not letting society’s norms pressure me.

While I’m proud to have lost so much weight, it’s been more exciting to discover the other benefits of a healthy lifestyle. The combination of diet and exercise has had an impressive effect.  I don’t get headaches or migraines as much as I used to, I’m not as sore in my back or joints as I used to be, I have more energy and I generally feel healthier. Oh yeah, and I can bench press your mom for breakfast.


Sarah at 238.5lbs, her starting weight on day one at the TR.


Sarah at 170lbs today.


Push-ups, Turkish Get-Ups, and Pull-ups are just a few of the exercises that Sarah ENJOYS at The Training Room.  Congratulations, Sarah!

Much TR Love!





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