Thursday, June 26, 2014

'Biggest Loser' Marie Pearl shares her fitness journey

When Marie Pearl returned from her run as a contestant on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” she knew that to maintain her success she must make fitness a priority.

She wanted to exercise daily, find a way to share her experience and give back to her community. That’s why she decided to return to her accounting career on a part-time basis while she launched a career in fitness. This spring, she became a certified Spinning instructor and she recently joined the staff of CoxHealth Fitness Centers. We caught up with her as she got ready to teach her first class. Here’s what she had to say:

Q: How did you come to be on “The Biggest Loser”?
A: I’ve been overweight my entire life and my whole family struggles with obesity. It’s something I worked around: I tried to be outstanding in other areas – in school and my career – to hide my insecurities in myself. When my husband and I decided to start a family, and we were unsuccessful, it forced me to see the truth. I’ve been unhappy with my weight, but now it could affect my future and my ability to have a family.

I decided, “What do I have to lose?” I went to a casting call and went through the process. I went into it knowing that it was a blessing and I was going to take advantage of every opportunity and fight as hard as I could to get everything out of it.

Q: What was the most surprising part of the show?
A: The most surprising thing was how much the behind-the-scenes people and the people on the show really care about you. There are people who really care and they take their jobs on the show because they’re invested in the success of the people. It really taught me you can get outside your comfort zone, build a new support system and build a new family.

Q: How has the experience changed you?

A: It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I had no idea that I could even survive it, much less get to the end and prove to myself that I’m strong and I’m worth it.

Everyone has their opinions about Jillian Michaels (laughs), but one of the things she is very good at is finding the “why.” Why are you the way you are? Why do you do the things you do? Why do you continue to do them and not change? That was a big piece for me. I had lost weight before on my own and I gained it back. I couldn’t figure out why.

Ultimately, I didn’t feel worthy of it. I lived a blessed life: my family, my education, my marriage, my friendships. I was wealthy in that respect. So, on some level, I wondered, “Why do I also deserve to be fit and healthy and look great, too?” I wasn’t sure that I was worth that opportunity. But I found peace, strength and confidence that I am worth it and it was meant to happen to me.

We all have genetic predispositions, but you get to decide what kind of life you’re going to live and what choices you’re going to make. Success is possible for everyone, you just have to decide that you’re ready and that you want it. More than you want sitting on the couch, or eating bad food.

Q: What’s your best advice for others?
A: Seriously look at your priorities. Health, fitness and being happy with your overall life is important. Stop, think and prioritize what’s important. I hope to be a parent and I hear people say, “I need time with my kids, so I don’t have time for fitness.” But what if you’re not there in 10-20 years? Taking time to exercise for 30 minutes a day for yourself pays off. Just like retirement planning, you can’t start too soon. You have to invest in your health.

When you’re ready to commit yourself to the process, you cannot do the same things every day and expect different results. Once you’re ready, I suggest investing in it – see a nutritionist, a dietitian, your doctor, a trainer – surround yourself with a support system.

I can say from experience: it is totally possible. If I can go do this in an extreme circumstance, you can make small changes at home that can make a large impact. You are able to make changes that can affect your life forever, you just have to do it. I didn’t feel empowered to take control of my life, now I feel empowered to do that every day.

Q: What role has The Meyer Center played in your success?
A: Before the show, one of my best friends had worked out at The Meyer Center for years. I knew that when I came home, I’d have a built-in gym buddy. What I didn’t realize is how much of a family and a supportive community I would get at The Meyer Center. The Meyer Center was invested in my health. The personal trainers have helped me and I love the classes. When I got certified to teach, I had options, but I wanted to be part of The Meyer Center.

Q: What made you want to teach Spinning?
A: I fell in love with it during the show. In eight hours of exercising every day, that was the part I couldn’t wait to do. There are so many people who don’t know what indoor cycling is and how it can help them – and that it can be fun! Spinning is for everyone and people may not know that. This is a way that I can be side by side with people, helping lead them on their journey.

Q: What are your short-term goals now?
A: I’m ready to find a groove with the Spinning classes and gain more experience. Personally, I’ve done a 5K and a 10K and I’m working toward a half-marathon. And, of course, I’m still hoping to start a family.

Q: How does that list compare to the list you had before this experience?
A: Whew! Well, before, I had one goal: become a mother. That’s a great goal. But before the show, I thought that was the one thing that would bring me happiness in life. Now, I find happiness in so many different places.

Before, I had tunnel vision, focused on one goal because I thought it would bring me happiness. And now … I’m just happy!

If you’re chasing “that one thing,” step back and ask, is that really going to bring you happiness? If I had become a mother as the person I was a year ago, I guarantee you I still wouldn’t have been happy.

With my new confidence, the sky is the limit. I don’t know what’s in store for me, but I’m open to it now. It’s amazing to say, but I’m happy and I want to continue to build an environment where I’m happy every day and I’m the best version of me every day.