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Mariah Minges Klusman spent much of last summer carrying her young son back and forth to the beach. With her husband by her side, she would often hear his disbelief with phrases such as, “I don’t know how you can carry him like that.”

“I don’t have a problem with it,” Klusman says. “I can do it now because I have the strength.”

It wasn’t always this way for Klusman, though. And while looking back on a fun day in the sun with her family is also a memory of pride, it was the journey itself to that point that has been filled with ups and downs, as well as reaching a new mindset for health and wellness.

At the starting line

From a young age, Klusman says she was heavy and struggled with unhealthy eating, as well as overeating.

After graduating from college, she joined Weight Watchers and lost roughly forty pounds at the age of 22 before gaining the weight back shortly after. At 28, she attempted Weight Watchers again, lost the weight a second time, but then some major life events occurred. She got married and later pregnant, but she gained about 70 pounds.

Contributing to her weight gain was also her hypothyroidism, which she was diagnosed with after recognizing how quickly she was gaining weight. When her son turned four months old, she went back on Weight Watchers. But this time, she lost 70 pounds.

“The thing that was different about it this time was that I added exercise,” says Klusman, an English teacher at Wissahickon School District.

Making strides

Klusman admits that exercising isn’t her favorite pastime. In the past, she tried joining gyms intermittently, but it wasn’t until the Beachbody fitness corporation released a dance program that Klusman found her niche in the fitness world.

“I loved dance as a kid,” Klusman says. “I did ballet as a kid and as a teenager and was never really able to pursue it because my body shape wasn’t the right body shape for dancing, as much as I loved it. It also made me self-conscious about doing it recreationally or on the side as an amateur.”

But Klusman put that fear and anxiety aside and started Beachbody’s hip-hop dance program. She also did Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix, which she says perfectly coincided with her Weight Watchers meal program. It was also this combination that further helped Klusman develop her upper body.

Never eye the finish line

Klusman will be 40 in March. At 5’7, she weighed 217 pounds at one point, and in 2015, she recalls pursuing Weight Watchers once again, but without exercise. Then in 2016, she added in exercise on a regular basis with a goal of getting into her healthy weight range, which was 130–160.

Aside from wanting to lose weight and get healthy, two factors kept her eye on that goal: She wanted to be there for her son and keep up with his high energy, and her mom was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. To help ward it off herself, Klusman wanted to improve her diet and exercise.

Since accomplishing her weight-loss goals, Klusman has also done biometric screenings as part of her health plan, and she was told that her good cholesterol numbers went up and her blood pressure was in the proper range. Aside from eating better and exercising, Klusman credits much of her success to her Beachbody coach and Weight Watchers leader, as well as her support system. In fact, she says one of the most challenging aspects of her diet and exercise regimen was getting over any mental hurdles and avoiding excuses.

“I think it’s just about finding support, because when you have other people to commiserate with it’s so helpful,” she says. “You don’t feel like you’re by yourself.”

The journey isn’t over for Klusman. At the end of the day, she says there will always be that fear that her weight will come back. She also says that, although you lose weight, it doesn’t mean you are suddenly cured of a food addiction or an emotional attachment that could cause overeating due to stress. It’s an ongoing struggle. But thanks to her support system and keeping up with her daily regiments, Klusman never strays far from her path.

“I don’t want to have to go out and buy fat clothes,” she says. “I got rid of them all. I don’t want to have to start taking more thyroid medicine, and I feel like I’d be disappointing myself. I’d be disappointing my family.”

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