Journalist Mara Schiavocampo Talks About ‘Accidentally’ Losing 90 Pounds, Self-Acceptance And Her New Book, “Thinspired”

December 30, 2014  |  

How many of us are looking to drop the pounds in the new year?

Now how many of us are looking to shed about 90?

Sounds like a crazy and extremely difficult feat, but Emmy Award-winning journalist Mara Schiavocampo was able to do it. The ABC News correspondent, who can also often be seen on “Good Morning America,” always had problems with her weight. When she was younger, she was picked on by relatives about it. And while she tried to embrace her size as an adult, the weight she gained from giving birth to her daughter made her want to make a change.

She started off small and slow, and yet, the weight came off fast. She says she even feels like she lost all of the weight by accident because the pounds came off so fast. How? A change in her lifestyle, specifically the way she was eating food, and the need to get rid of her “trigger foods,” including sugary and salty snacks. The 35-year-old mom was able to lose more weight than she ever managed, and is happier and healthier than ever. Now, she’s sharing her journey with others in her new book, Thinspired: How I Lost 90 Pounds — My Plan For Lasting Weight Loss And Self-Acceptance. The book comes out today, and we had the pleasure of talking with Schiavocampo about it, and about how she was able to make such a major change in her life. Get inspired along with us.

The Inspiration Behind The Book:

When I started to lose the weight, people started to notice after a certain point. You have to lose a lot of weight before anybody notices, so I had lost about 60 pounds before people started really noticing. And then all of a sudden, it was like a tipping point where everybody started noticing at the same time. And so people started asking me, ‘what are you doing?’ I really wanted to give them an honest answer, so I wrote down a bunch of notes. Two pages worth of notes on everything I was doing, and then I condensed that into one email and I would send that to people. And that, essentially, became the book. It came about very organically, just in wanting to share my experience and lessons with those who felt they could benefit from it.

What Role Being On TV Played In Wanting To Lose Weight:

It’s interesting, because it didn’t. And you would think that being on TV would, but the way I viewed it at the time was that I really took it as a badge of honor to be one of the few women on TV who looked like most of our audience. The average woman is a size 14. I wasn’t ashamed of that. I was proud of that. It did become one of the few things that, in a way, I kind of feel like I let some people down about, because I said that I wasn’t going to shrink down. But I think that everybody should love themselves even when they’re in the journey of change. I was always okay with that, and no employer ever pressured me to lose weight because they always hired me at that size, so they always knew what they were getting [laughs].

Being Teased By Family At A Young Age For Her Weight:

That actually had a terrible effect on me. That’s a demon I fight every day so I would not suggest that anyone fat shame a child. I think it sets up a lot of mental issues that they’ll be dealing with for the rest of their lives. What it did for me was two things: One, it drove me more to food for comfort because I was constantly being monitored and deprived. In the moments of privacy where I could eat privately, I would do it in excess. And the second thing it did for me was that it created a real shame around my weight. That is something that I have only shed very recently, maybe in the last year, because I wasn’t even aware of it. I knew that I felt it, but sometimes it can be very hard to identify our deepest emotions. And what it taught me as a child was that you should be ashamed of yourself for gaining weight. But what I have come to realize as an adult on this journey is that there is no shame in gaining weight. There is no shame in being someone who seeks comfort or excitement or adventure in food. Those are all human traits. So I had to learn to get rid of those things. It was a huge epiphany for me that this wasn’t something to be ashamed of.

On The Magic Formula That Worked For Her:

When I was looking back at the big weight loss, I realized I was focusing, by far, the vast majority of my efforts on the food. That was the single biggest component that I had been missing in the past. I had been dividing my efforts equally among a whole bunch of other things like drinking water, or doing exercise, all these other things that are important to a healthy lifestyle. But if you want to lose weight, you have to fix the food. If you don’t fix that, you won’t lose weight. It sounds obvious, but it’s not. That was the single biggest component that I was focusing on, and that’s why I was successful this time around.

The sleep was a big surprise to me. I didn’t know that it played such a huge role in weight loss, and it plays an instant role. You get one good night’s sleep, the next day, you’re making better food decisions, you’re less hungry, you have more energy to go work out.

The planning I realized was becoming a huge part of my life. And making sure that I had groceries in the fridge and making sure that I set aside time to cook and knew what I was going to eat that day. Making sure that I had clean socks to go the gym–you have to plan a lot to support that lifestyle.

My biggest surprise in this journey has been how small of a role exercise plays in weight loss. I have not had any expert, whether it’s a personal trainer or doctor or nutritionist, nobody has disagreed with me. They’ve all agreed with me enthusiastically in saying that exercise is really good for your health, but it plays a very small role in weight loss. When you’re trying to get your diet in check, don’t work out. You’ll get there eventually, because I do think that exercise should be a part of everyone’s routine. But while you’re trying to fix your diet, that’s hard enough, so just focus on that. Once you get those habits in place, everything else becomes much, much easier.

Moving Away From Her “Trigger Foods”:

Most of us who abuse food are doing it for a number of other reasons. Food can be adventurous. You go to a new restaurant, get new cuisine. You go to brunch with your girlfriends. Whether you’re lonely or bored, there are a number of reasons that we abuse food that have nothing to do with hunger. What I found was eliminating the food I believe I’m addicted to allowed me to just eat. I’m not going to overeat broccoli, or salmon, or almonds or grapes. I don’t abuse those things. Once I got rid of the food I was abusing, I naturally settled into a much healthier eating habit. The only way that I was able to do that was with my faith. It was the single hardest thing that I’ve ever done in my life. I committed to a 4o-day fast of abstaining from them completely. The only thing that got me through each day, sometimes it was hour-to-hour, was prayer and knowing that I made that commitment to God. Be really honest with yourself about the foods that are standing in your way. There are probably only a handful of things that are standing between you and your ideal health. If you think about that, and you think about how much weight you’re giving those few things, it hopefully will be motivation to get rid of them completely.

The Importance Of Finding A Way To Enjoy Exercising:

There are people who say, ‘I don’t like to exercise.’ And to that, I say, you don’t like certain exercises. There has to be something out there that you will enjoy, because the human body is created to move. Take the time for yourself to figure out what you like. For me, the key was SoulCycle. That was the first exercise that I did that I really enjoyed. I loved it so I would go as often as possible and I’d get up in the dark, in the winter time, early in the morning to go. I loved it. It was the most fun I ever had exercising. So now, I exercise eight to 10 times a week, and not because of the weight loss or because I want to be shredded, which I do, but that’s a byproduct. The main reason that I do it is because it makes me feel so good. It’s like a dose of medicine.

If She Is Hesitant About Having More Kids:

I do want more kids! No, I’m not worried about the baby weight at all. I was really, really worried about it the first time around. I learned a lot. And being where I am now, there’s no way that I would go back to those old habits. I also learned a lot of lessons about how to get it off after the fact. My hope for my next pregnancy, God willing that it happens, is to just be happy and enjoy it.

Her Advice For Other Women:

My biggest piece of advice would be to set small goals. You are trying to change a lifestyle in your diet, in your habits and in your levels of activity. Set small goals. Your goals can be weight related–I never set a goal of more than three pounds at a time. It was three pounds, then the next three pounds, to one pound, to two pounds. And your goals don’t even have to be weight related. Right now, my goals are not weight related. My goal for the month of December was to work out 40 times during the month. This morning I did numbers 34 and 35, so I should be able to get there. Set small, manageable goals.

Be sure to check out Thinspired, and follow Schiavocampo’s journey on Twitter (@maracamp) and Instagram (@maracamp).


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