Size 22 to 2 -- an inspiring weight loss success story

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

I thought it fitting to release this blog today since it's International Women's Day.  I love to share stories of women who have courageously transformed their lives, so when I was introduced to Charlene Bazarian, I immediately wanted to feature her on my blog. Charlene, like many women, juggles a million and one jobs. She's "mom" to three boys, wife, lawyer, part-time DJ, and most recently fitness guru.

Sixteen years ago, Charlene hit her heaviest weight of 208 pounds. It was then that she decided "enough was enough" and she challenged herself to get healthy. At age 51, she now maintains a svelte 117 pounds and has gone from a size 22 to size 2!  This inspirational woman has been featured in magazines (most recently Oxygen Magazine) and generously shares her tips, experiences and knowledge with others. I feel lucky to know Charlene and  I'm so excited to share her story with you. 

Susan:  You balance a lot of different, mom, fitness expert--even DJ! How do you do it all and keep yourself healthy?
Charlene:  You make time for the things that are important to you. I truly find that my workouts give me the energy and strength to handle all that life throws my way. I often try to multitask by working out while my boys are at karate or soccer or by hopping on the exercise bike when I want to watch TV.  I use a lot of "to do lists" to stay on task, which even include working out as an action item!

S:  What was your "aha" moment?
C:  After I had my first son I had hit my highest OMG weight of 208 lbs. I had treated myself to a day of beauty at a spa and was mortified when I had to return the robe as the "one size fits all" size was too small! It was then that I started my "all out" assault on losing close to 100 pounds!

S:  How did you set weight loss goals?
C:  My weight gain, like many women experience, had been gradual...a few pounds in college and law school and then more after I got married and pregnant.  I set mini goals for myself to avoid being overwhelmed...the thought of losing 100 pounds all at once was just too much! I tried to set 5-10 pound goals and then aimed for the next 5-10. I rewarded myself with non-food treats, like a manicure or massage. Between changing my diet in a big way and exercising (like crazy), I lost the weight and have been able to keep it off. 

S:  What does your diet consist of? What do you typically eat...and never eat?
C:  I start off the day with a lemon water. Breafast has been almost the same every day for years, which consists of a Luna Bar and coffee--I look forward to it every morning! Luna Bars were a huge part of my success as they're filling, just 180 calories and delicious (I like mine chilled since it takes longer to eat!).  I always keep one in my handbag for emergencies so I'm not tempted to make a bad choice.  Around 10:00 a.m. I'll have a Muscle Milk Organic drink and almonds and an orange. Lunch can be a wrap sandwich on Joseph's Oat bran and Flax Seed Wraps, or a bowl of whole oatmeal with protein powder, berries and almonds. I also love making protein pancakes for lunch. I have another snack in the afternoon, which can be almonds and a banana, and dinner is usually a lean protein (chicken, turkey, lean beef or fish), lots of green veggies and a sweet potato or brown rice. I almost never eat pasta, bread or white rice. I can't have a little, so it's easier not to have it at all. 

S:  Can you share some of your top 10 best weight loss tips?
C:  Sure!
1.  Make workouts like "brushing your teeth" --something you do without question.
2.  Plan:  Keep a healthy snack in your handbag for emergencies. Check restaurant menus online before eating out.  Bring a healthy treat to parties so you know you'll have something to eat.
3.  As a general rule "if it's white, don't eat it".  White chocolate Luna Bars and cauliflower are exceptions!
4.  Try not to drink your calories.
5.  Switch up your routines regularly and choose an activity that you genuinely enjoy. I love taking dance lessons, running stadium steps with my girlfriend on Sunday mornings and going for bike rides with my boys. 
6.  Eat as many unprocessed and whole foods as possible. For instance, eat a whole orange instead of drinking orange juice.
7.  BLT's count! These are bites, licks, tastes and sips. They all add up to calories!
8.  Think of food as a choice and not as a reward or punishment. You don't "deserve" a decadent dessert, nor are you "depriving" yourself if you don't have it. It's a mind-set!
9.  Don't get comfortable with success. There's no finish line or touchdown dance.
10. Make contracts with yourself.  I won't watch tv unless I'm on a piece of cardio equipment. I DVR my favorite shows and hop on the bike when I want to watch!

S:  The biggest complaint midlife women have is the midsection. It seems to expand and thicken as we get older. How can we battle the bulge? Is there hope?
C:  Yes there is hope! The mid-section is truly where diet and workouts collide. You can't "out-exercise" a bad diet and all the crunches in the world won't uncover a six-pack hidden by fat. I do a ten minute ab workout, typically a segment from one of my beloved Cathe Friedrich DVD's (love Ab Hits).  Cardio and clean eating will help show off well trained abs, but if you're eating clean all week and splurge on the weekends then all bets are off. Consistency is important!

S: Tell me about some of your amazing interviews...most recently with Oxygen Magazine!
C: I try to encourage others by being very open about my experiences.  My weight loss led to being featured as a success story in Good Housekeeping Magazine in 2012.  After I lost the weight, a few girlfriends messaged me on Facebook asking me how I did it, so I began helping them.  As they began to lose weight, several of their friends started messaging me as well, so I created a Facebook page and blog dedicated to giving diet/fitness tips and healthy recipes. I know my journey has encouraged a lot of people to lose weight so I try to live up to it by making the right choices. I think having been on both sides of the spectrum gives me an appreciation for the struggles, effort, and work that goes into becoming fit. I think everyone has a vision of where they want to be physically and mentally, but getting there can be a complicated road.  I feel tremendous joy in coaching others by sharing information and providing encouragement.  I've learned many lessons the hard way and from repeated failures, but I'm thrilled that I'm no longer on the sidelines of life! I went on to be featured in Pop Sugar Fitness, Fitfluential, and on the Luna Bar website.  I recently sent it my story to Oxygen Magazine and was so excited to be chosen as a fitness success story --I'm currently in the March issue!

S:  Of course I'm going to ask a style-related question! What was your style like before the weight loss?  Do you have more fun with clothes now?
C:  My style  has definitely changed a lot over the years. I've gone from suits to pant suits to jeans. As I got heavier the sizes just kept going up, but the selection and choices got slimmer.  As I was losing weight I would buy very few clothes, telling myself that I wasn't staying in those sizes for long. I also promised myself a splashy new wardrobe as a reward for reaching a goal. One of my stand-out memories was when I tried on a pair of pants at a store and the salesperson asked if I needed a another size. I remember tearing up as I told her that I had the smallest size and that the waist was TOO BIG! I now enjoy clothes shopping as I feel confident that I can rock more looks---the hard work a the gym pays off!

S:  What's next for you? What do you want to do in the future? 
C:  I'd love to find a way to turn my passion for fitness and writing into a career. It's an incredible experience to hear from people around the world telling me that something I wrote gave them hope, encouragement, and the inspiration to get healthier. I occasionally put competing in a fitness competition on my "bucket list" too. I was lucky enough to meet Jillian Michaels and would also love to meet Gilad Janklowicz and Cathe Friedrich, two of my favorite home workout (DVD) instructors--they've both been so supportive of my journey through social media.

S:  What would you like to leave us with? 
C:  "You're no busier than a fit person". 

You can follow Charlene on Facebook, Instagram and on her blog.

Photo by David Volkmann Photogaphy  --Janeen Jones Hair and Make-up

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