How I Did It: Marla Tipton

She went from a size 24 to 14, and her journey isn’t over yet.

My name is Marla Tipton, and I live in Livermore, California. I am the senior graphic designer for SmartZip Analytics, a mom, wife and an early morning gym goer. Earlier this year, I couldn’t run nonstop for more than a mile.

This is my transformation story.

Week one, January 2017 (left); Marla in October 2017

24Life: Tell us about your fitness journey—do you remember what you said to yourself or the exact words or moments that you decided you wanted and needed a change?

Marla Tipton (MT): It started with an earache. Seriously. It was January 2, 2017, and I was sitting in my doctor’s office, in pain, waiting to be seen. I left with some relief for my earache, but also with a prescription for high blood pressure. At this point in time I was the heaviest and most inactive I had ever been. I was quickly rounding the corner on 40 and I knew that something had to change or that my life was not going to be as good as it should be. I sat in the car for a while staring at the bottle of pills and thought “this is not my life, this can’t be my life.” I thought about my kids and my husband and the life I wanted to live with them. When I closed my eyes I saw hiking adventures and long days at the beach running around. The path I was on did not lead me there. I had to make the change for me, but also for them.

I emailed my doctor and asked for a month to see if my efforts would help my blood pressure.

I decided that I wasn’t going to wait until a certain time. I had to begin immediately. That very night I changed my diet to a low-carb, low-sodium, high-protein diet and I made sure that I was drinking plenty of water all day. The very next day I stared using the free gym at work for cardio and started using an app to track food and exercise. I started with simple cardio workouts three times a week. I felt better within a week. My energy levels skyrocketed and I lost six pounds in the first week. After about three months I had lost 30 pounds and I accepted my sister’s invitation to join 24 Hour Fitness in April. I needed to have an easier morning workout routine.

24Life: Who helped you along the way?

MT: I have struggled with my weight my entire life. Before I was 12 I had been on several weight-loss programs. I would not call my weight journey a yo-yo cycle, it was more of a steady incline over about 20 years. No one knew my struggle better than my sister, Leilani. She heard every excuse I had a million times, but when I made up my mind, she was the one cheering me on and telling me that I could do it. She had a journey of her own and that really inspired me Plus, she was always the athlete in the family and I trusted her guidance.

There is no way I could have made it as far as I have without her help. She gets the 5 a.m. texts about what I’m doing at the gym—usually a workout she has given me. She has always been there for me and I feel like she sees where I am going and believes in me almost more than I do. And I need that person more than I thought. If I didn’t have someone holding me accountable I don’t know what this journey would look like.

I try to surround myself with at least a few really good cheerleaders. I have two friends from high school, Shannon and Jen, who are always encouraging me along the way. I draw so much power from little words of encouragement and “atta girl.” It helps if that person really understands your journey and has been there for a long time.

24Life: What kept you motivated to stay the course? Where do you find motivation?

MT: This is probably the hardest part about my journey. I find that I am prone to complacency. “That’s good enough, you don’t need to go any further,” plays over and over and over in my head. I have combatted the complacency with retraining my own perception of myself. I have to really work on what messages I feed to myself and what thoughts I allow to stick. I have to remind myself that there really is no stopping point to speak of—this IS my life. Now, I am the woman who gets up at 5 a.m. to get her 45-60 minute workout done, so that nothing else in her day can stand in the way. That is me, five days a week. (I give myself a little later start on my weekends.)

Measuring success keeps me going—not just in pounds gone or inches lost (which are 58 pounds gone and going from a 24 to 14 dress size). But weight loss is honestly not my main goal. I’m going for a strength and endurance goal. When I started I could barely run one mile in 18 minutes. My best time so far has been three miles in 30 minutes. In April, I could barely do a box jump and by October I could do 50 onto a 20-inch box.

24Life: Were there moments of self-doubt? What did those look like and how did you overcome those?

MT: I probably doubt myself 20 times a day. It is in my nature. I took a vacation in June and I was worried that I would take a break from my normal routine and just stop. Why not? It’s how it has happened every other time I have tried. We came home from vacation and I jumped right back on the horse. I had to talk myself into it every morning for about a week, but I overcame.

The most challenging moments were the ones where I was sure there would be a point where I would give up. I have a long history of failure when it comes to health endeavors. I am continuing on my path, but I have to fight my inner quitter voice every day.

24Life: What surprised you the most about yourself during this journey?

MT: Honestly, I am most surprised by my need and desire to keep going and how that somehow encourages other people. I am so focused on how much other people inspire me that I never thought I could be an inspiration. A woman came up to me during a circuit workout once and said “I just wanted to let you know that you are killing it!” That surprised and amazed me. How could I inspire someone? I don’t sit around thinking of myself as a fit person. I find myself identifying as the woman who was there in January, but I am so different from that person today.

24Life: What was the most challenging part of your journey? How did you overcome it?

MT: Other than not singing out loud to my playlist at the gym? I don’t see my journey on a set time limit, so I imagine I am going to encounter countless challenges along the way. I would consider myself over halfway there at this point in my journey. The most frustratingly challenging part of this journey has been accepting that weight loss, muscle gain and body shape don’t happen the same way at 40 as they did at 20. It takes a lot more effort now that I have kids and a family than it did 20 years ago. I don’t know WHY that surprised me, but it did. My method of overcoming is not complicated. I think of Dory from [the Disney film] “Finding Nemo” and “just keep swimming.” I sing that to myself all the time to signal that, even though I’m tired, I have to keep going. If I don’t push myself, no one else will.

Food is challenging, too. I love food. I have really had to keep myself focused on indulgences being a one-time thing. I cannot live in the cheat zone (that is what I call it). I can visit from time to time, but it needs to be rare. I find it hard to get back to great diet balance if I am not recording it. I have to accept that this might just be how my life is for quite some time. Because, currently, if I don’t record it, I start sliding. The other way I overcome the food challenge is by really spending time looking for tasty recipes that also are low-carb or better. My chiropractor has encouraged me to break up with sugar, so I’m working on that, too. I think we all know how bad sugar is for our bodies—especially processed sugar.

24Life: Did you have a specific goal in mind? What was it?

MT: To have a healthy blood pressure reading. Check. To learn to run nonstop for more than a mile. Check. To stop shopping in plus size clothing. Check. I am constantly adding to my goals once I complete one.

24Life: What is your go-to workout?

MT: I love to fit in a BODYPUMP class when it works with my schedule. Often times I scour Pinterest for circuit-style workouts. But currently my favorite workout is:

24Life: What advice do you have for others who are just starting out or want to quit?

MT: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Maybe you have a long journey ahead or maybe it’s a short-term goal. You cannot reach it if you tell yourself all of the ways you cannot get there. Stop making excuses for yourself. It’s super easy to do. I have done it my whole life up to this point. But the only person who can change your health is you. It can’t be done for you. Stop telling yourself why you can’t do your workouts, take that energy and apply it to how you CAN fit it into your routine.

I cannot stress the importance of having an accountability person in your life. I have a few. I have a personality that craves encouragement, but I think we all do. It’s not easy to stick with a healthy habit if it’s new to you. I think keeping my journey out in the open has helped me stick with it.

24Life: Any specific rituals that you have that you think may be helpful to others?

MT: Like getting my kids ready for the next day at night, I do the same for my early-morning workouts. I set out my workout cloths, fill my water bottle, charge my ear buds and check my alarm. It’s old hat to me now, but it saves me so much time to have everything ready to go. PLUS when I look around it’s hard to talk myself out of a workout when I have already planned for it.

24Life: What’s next for you? Do you have any future goals that you’re going after next (or currently)?

MT: One day I will report to you that I have lost 100 pounds. Maybe I’ll toss in a marathon, because I have always wanted to say I could run a marathon. It scares me, right now, though. I guess that means I better sign up for one.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Marla Tipton

Please note that the results that Marla has experienced are unique to her, and your results may vary. Always consult your health care provider before undertaking changes in your diet or fitness regimen.