'I Totally Transformed My Body Once I Started Weightlifting And Eating More Whole Foods And Healthy Fats'

Mari Llewellyn, as told to Madeline Howard
·10-min read
Photo credit: Mari Llewellyn
Photo credit: Mari Llewellyn

From Women's Health

My name is Mari Llewellyn (@marillewellyn), and I am 26 years old. I live in New York City, and I am an entrepreneur. I’ve lost 90 pounds over two years through finding my love for weightlifting and learning more about nutrition that works for me.

Weight was never a struggle for me when I was growing up. I didn't think about what I ate, and I was always on the smaller side in terms of body size. However, all of that changed when I got to college. On the outside it looked like I was having a great time in school—I was going out a lot and I had a ton of friends. But in reality, I experienced a lot of inner pain.

It was a very dark period of time for me. I began to have issues with depression and anxiety, both of which caused me to use food as an emotional outlet, and because of this, I gained weight.

I felt like my life was spinning out of control. School had taken a total downturn, and all of a sudden I was failing every class. I was one quarter away from graduating, but everything was falling apart for me. I really hit rock bottom in my life, but that’s where the desire for change happened.

My turning point was when I decided to drop out of school and move in with my dad.

For me, living at home gave me more space to think for a period of time. I wasn’t forcing myself to go to class every day. It gave me the room I needed to see what my life had become. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have a degree, and my mental health was in a really bad place. I had this realization of what my mental health issues had done to my life.

Related video: 13 celeb weight loss transformations that will inspire you

People had been encouraging me to try exercising and eating healthy for over a year, but I feel like it's something that you have to realize you need on your own. I had gotten to a point where I thought to myself, okay, I need to change something. Finding a job and finishing my degree was so intimidating to me—and I felt like the one thing I *could* control was my health. So that's where I began.

I wanted to start out slowly, so the first thing I did was change my diet.

When I was struggling with my mental health, the concept of walking into a gym was really scary, as it is for many people with larger bodies. That's why I started off by first cleaning up my diet. It was something I could do at home, and I could feel free from the potential judgment of others.

I started with muffins. Muffins used to be my thing in the mornings, but I slowly realized that they didn't actually make me feel good, physically. I began switching them out for eggs and oatmeal. I also incorporated a lot of healthy fats into my routine like avocado, salmon, and foods that made me feel full for longer—and that helped my mental health too.

Here's what I typically eat in a day now:

  • Breakfast: Glass of Bloom Nutrition Greens, Bloom Supplements, three eggs, smoked salmon, and berries. (Bloom is my company.)

  • Lunch: Quinoa bowl with tuna and salad

  • Snack: A Smoothie with Bloom Protein, mango or banana, and almond milk

  • Dinner: Tacos with organic tortillas, avocado, shrimp, salad, and Greek yogurt

I always admired women with muscle, given that it shows the discipline and hard work it takes to build strength.

Once I cleaned up my diet, I started to incorporate exercise into each day. I’d do more frequent walks with my dog, Lulu, to get my heart rate up. And eventually, I gained enough confidence to walk into a gym.

That said, it wasn’t a perfect transition. Sometimes I’d show up at the gym and then I’d leave because I was too nervous. But it was just about showing up every day and getting comfortable in that space. Even if I didn't make it inside, I still considered my effort of showing up a win.

I was also educating myself a ton about fitness and nutrition. I was listening to podcasts throughout the entire day, trying to figure out how to lift weights in the best way possible for my body. My goal was to lose weight, but I also wanted to change my body composition. I wanted to feel strong.

I didn’t feel like I had discipline at the time, and it was something I was striving toward. That's why weightlifting, for me, was fun; it switched things up everyday but also was something for me to work toward with dedication.

For my workouts, I was super focused on bodybuilding-based exercises. Each day I'd tackle a different muscle group. For instance, on Monday I would do a leg day where I was focusing on quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Then on Tuesday I would do shoulders and triceps, and the following day biceps, and so on.

After losing over 90 pounds, I started turning my newfound passion into an actual business.

In 2017, I posted my first transformation photo on Instagram. I only had about 900 followers, and I definitely wasn't an avid social media user. My fiancé really encouraged me to post it. "You’ve done all this hard work, you should show off what you’ve done," he said.

So I posted it and it blew up that very same day. It was reposted by a ton of pages, and I was getting all kinds of messages from random people. Honestly, I couldn’t believe that people cared about my journey.

I thought, I’m going to see where this goes. I started posting more about my fitness journey, I created a YouTube channel, and from there I had more and more requests from my followers for a workout plan.

The first thing I ever produced was a workout PDF, then resistance bands, which we hand-packed and shipped from my dad’s house. Then, things just kept building and building. I fell in love with business, and I kept being myself online. Now we also have Bloom Nutrition, which is a supplement company designed for female fitness beginners, like I was at one point in time.

I could’ve never imagined that I’d be here right now, but I’m so glad that I posted that photo. Working with my followers has allowed me to follow my passion every day.

Exercise makes me feel like a stronger version of myself.

Now that I'm fully focused on running my business and maintaining my current body and ability, working out has taken on a totally different meaning for me. Exercise makes me feel like a stronger version of myself. The endorphins are definitely huge for me, since I get a major mood boost after I work out.

I like starting my workout at the beginning of the day. It’s like putting the hardest part of your day first. If you get that done first you can accomplish anything. Any hard meeting that’s going on, you know you can handle it because you already got that workout done. You know you can handle anything.

Exercise completely changed my life for the better. I only hope that through my brands and my story, I can encourage women who are struggling to get the help they need, too.

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