Leah Segedie Organized Herself to Battle the Bulge & Win…And She Can Help You Do the Same

Every once in awhile you meet one of those people who you just know is going to change the world.

Leah Segedie is one of those people. She is a vivacious and slender woman with enough energy to power a large city. But that wasn’t always the case. Not that long ago, she weighed 170 pounds more than she does today. Re-read that sentence, and just let that sink in for a second. She’s lost the equivalent of one whole person! And she’s now on a mission to help other overweight moms do the same.

We caught up with Leah to talk to her a little bit about how she organized herself to finally get to (and maintain) a healthy weight, and to learn how she’s helping other moms make the transformation too. As it turns out, the path she followed bears more than a striking resemblance to the core buttoned up principles: ditching perfection, focusing on the handful of tasks that make the biggest impact, and asking others for help along the way.

Let’s start at the beginning. What sparked your desire to lose the weight?

I was definitely someone who was overweight for most of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I desperately wanted to be thinner, but it seemed like I was just destined to be chunky. I tried every diet known to man. Nothing seemed to work. I’d lose a few, then put it all back on…and then some. The tide turned for me when my kids were born. I suddenly had a reason to lose weight that was bigger than just me. I didn’t want them to be obese. I wanted to have the energy to keep up, and more importantly, I wanted to be a good role model for them. The importance to me was not on me or what my body looked like. What was important was how my children were going to be affected by my weight. I didn’t want to pass on a lifestyle that was going to lead to severe obesity or diabetes. If I changed my behavior, they’d see that and model my behavior. It was a powerful motivator.

Talk a little bit about your frame of mind at the outset. What was your goal? What kind of leeway did you give to yourself to be imperfect?

Right off the bat, I embraced the notion that I was going to suck at [losing the weight], but I was going to do it anyways. I also didn’t set out to lose one hundred pounds. I knew from years and years of failing that setting big goals like that didn’t work, they were impossible to comprehend. So originally my goal was just to lose five pounds. When I lost that first five pounds, I was very happy and had a “Yay! I did it” moment. And the interesting thing about when you succeed at something, you want to try to do it again. So, I said to myself, let’s lose another five pounds. I became so successful at losing five pounds, that I looked back and realized I had lost thirty.

Another shift I made was embracing a more realistic expectation of myself, particularly where exercise was concerned. I had it in my head that the perfect person goes to the gym at least four times per week. But that just wasn’t me, so I was going to have to do things differently. I focused on the fact that one size does not fit all. Instead of thinking about what others did or what the “perfect” weight loss plan included, I focused on what made me feel good. When you’re not used to moving much, you have to experiment a little before you start to like how it feels. I changed it up a lot before I landed on Tae Bo, which just happens to do it for me. I tried yoga, but it just didn’t make me feel good. So I skip it.

So in a nutshell, I did not force myself into a perfectionist type of mindset. If you expect perfection you are going to fall flat on your face and never get up. It’s interesting, we don’t necessarily expect others around us to be perfect, but we expect it of ourselves. Why is that?

At Buttoned Up, we like to talk about planning for imperfection. How did you deal with failure along the way? What kinds of things did you do to pick yourself up if you were “imperfect?”

You have no idea how many times I fell off the wagon. Sometimes a week would go by and I wouldn’t have exercised. I had periods where I fell flat on my face and actually gained weight. That happened to me several times. The worst were the times when I plateaued for long periods of time. Imagine, no movement on the scale – for a month straight. In those moments I forced myself to sit back and ask myself what I had accomplished. I’d look at how much I had added up over a longer time period. I’d say to myself, “Look at all of the blood, sweat and tears you shed back there. How dare you throw in the towel after all of that! Don’t waste it.”

As with all things, the 80/20 rule is a useful framework. It sounds like, while you may not have explicitly applied it, you really did put it to work for you on your weight loss journey. What are the handful of things you focused on that made the biggest difference?

Sure. I started with a few changes that made a big difference.
I quit soda…including diet soda They simply have no nutritional value. Plus our bodies not meant to process corn syrup. CNN ran an interesting (and scary) story a few months ago that if you drink just one soda a day (on average 5 per week), you increase your risk of pancreatic cancer by 87%. Our bodies are just not equipped to handle the spike in blood sugar. So cutting out sugary drinks and switching to water is something that makes a huge difference.
I started reading labels. Before I ate anything, if it was packaged, I’d turn it over and look at what was in it. The things I pay attention to are: fat, calories, and fiber. I lived by the general rule of thumb that the more fiber something had, the more calories of it I could consume. Funnily enough, once I started reading the labels, I became much more attuned to processed food, and started ridding my life of it. Now if there is an ingredient I can’t pronounce, I ditch it. It has made me much more vigilant about what I feed my kids too. Even things that are supposed to be healthy, like kids’ yogurt, have corn syrup in it. You know you can just buy plain yogurt and put honey or jam in it. You can add things that are natural that don’t spike your blood sugar. It was amazing how educating myself (even just a little bit) about the ingredients in the foods I was eating and my children were eating made a huge difference.
I found an activity that I enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it.

In addition to these big three things, I would warn others to avoid starting their diet with a complete lifestyle change. That’s particularly true for label-reading if you have a family. They may not take kindly to having their favorite foods okay one day and forbidden the next. You don’t want them to sabotage you.

Leaning on others for support along the way is critical. You started a whole community and really almost a new weight loss movement called Mamavation™. Tell us a little bit about that.

It stared with a conversation my husband and I had one evening over a glass of wine after the kids were asleep. I was talking about how I wanted to reach out to mothers who were overweight or obese and help them make the transformation I had, one mom at a time. He said, “that’s a great idea, why don’t we do that?” So we created a whole program called Mamavation™. It’s an opportunity for two moms (Mamavation™ Moms) to change their lives together by entering into a 7 week healthy living boot camp created to give them the tools they need to succeed. The two lucky moms receive a professional nutritional plan created by a physician that specializes in nutrition and a custom fitness program created by a professional trainer. They will also receive a treadmill from Smooth Fitness, Earth Footwear, an EA SPORTS Active, and Tracey Mallett & Tae Bo DVDs. The whole program is managed by me (Twitter handle: @bookieboo).

We also created what we call the Mamavation™ Sistahood. It’s the first official sorority in the virtual world, whose members make a “pledge” to learn how to live healthily. The purpose behind the Sistahood™ is support. They support each other daily and are the backbone of the Mamavation™ campaign.

What should people do if they are interested in becoming a Mamavation™ Mom or joining the Mamavation™ Sistahood?

If you want to become a Mamavation Mom, we are accepting applications for Campaign #4, which goes from April 13th to May 28th right now. Submit your application between March 22nd and April 1st. Visit the application tab at Mamavation.com for more details. I will chose 5 finalists from the applicant pool who I think can hack it. Then I open it up to the community to pick the two finalists. Voting for the top 2 Mamavation Moms will go from April 5th to 12th and the winners will be announced during the Twitter Launch Party April 12th from 5-7pm PST/8-10pm EST.

Thank you, Leah for sharing your incredible story with us! We started the year off talking about the power of baby steps, and I’ve yet to encounter a more powerful embodiment of that lesson than you. So, whether you want to lose weight, tackle a big project like a move, or just declutter – let Leah’s example remind you to start small, embrace (and plan for) a little imperfection, and limit your focus to the few, really important things. Congratulations in advance on your transformation.