I Finally Learned to Cook — And It Helped Me Lose 46 Pounds

Mara Jefferies teamed up with a Philly nutritionist to rework her take-out-filled diet.

Photographs courtesy Mara Jefferies.

Changing your body takes hard work, persistence, and dedication. Here’s one Philadelphian’s transformation story. Want to share yours? Email me at ccunningham@phillymag.com.

Who: Mara Jefferies, 24, a nurse from Collingswood, NJ

Starting weight: 220

Ending weight: 174

How long it took: Around 2.5 years

Why I wanted to make a change: I decided to make a change during nursing school. I’d spent the past couple years eating like a typical college kid (lots of pizza and junk food), and it was starting to show. One day, I looked in the mirror and it didn’t feel like it was me looking back. I was also thinking of my future self and career. At 22 my blood pressure was borderline high, and my cholesterol was elevated. My doctor told me to either make a change or get ready to be on medication for the rest of my life, so that was a real wake up call.”

What got me started: “I started with OnPoint Nutrition in July of 2015 after my mom showed me an article in the Inquirer about Britney and the success she’d had so far as a nutritionist.”

How I changed my diet: Before I started working with OnPoint, my diet was mostly pizza, soda, and other carb-heavy foods.  But Britney gave me the tools to create a more balanced diet. My diet is now based around protein and lots of vegetables with an allotted amount of healthy carbs, dairy, fruit, and fats. A typical workday menu for me is egg whites with salsa, cheese, and turkey bacon for breakfast and a banana with peanut butter for a morning snack. For lunch, I usually do a veggie bowl with a protein. My favorite proteins are chicken, turkey sausage, and tofu. My afternoon snack is usually yogurt and fruit. Dinner is usually similar to lunch.”

“Before, I was ordering take-out multiple times a day. Now, I know how to make healthy, interesting meals that are delicious and keep me full throughout the day.”

How I changed my exercise routine: I had stopped exercising consistently in college because I was studying all the time! Once the weight started to come off, I started running and completed Couch to 10k. I did the Run the Bridge race in Camden with my family a couple years in a row. I also go to yoga, spin, and TRX classes. When I’m working, I get in about 9,000 steps a day!”

What I’m most proud of: “How much I’ve learned about food and cooking. Before starting with Britney, I was ordering take-out multiple times a day and really didn’t know how to cook. Now, I know how to make healthy, interesting meals that are delicious and keep me full throughout the day. My favorite thing to make is a lime-marinated chicken with beet and goat cheese salad. So good! I’m also really proud of how well I’ve learned to balance my food. If I eat a heavier meal, I make sure the next meal is a bit lighter.”

The hardest part: I have a huge sweet tooth! It is so tough for me to resist sweets. Just the other day, I walked into the break room at work and found three boxes of doughnuts, and of course I went for the chocolate.  But that’s okay! I don’t eat a doughnut everyday (anymore) and I made sure my dinner was a little bit lighter to account for the higher calorie lunch. It’s all about the balance and getting back on track when you indulge.”

How I changed: After the first few pounds came off, I noticed that I had a lot more energy and was sleeping better. I also felt a lot more confident when I noticed that the program was working. My clothes, that were previously too small, started to fit again. That encouraged me to keep going.”

What I want you to know: “True weight loss isn’t going to happen with a fad diet. It takes a true lifestyle change and it takes time. It’s hard work, but take it one day at a time.”