Blogger Spotlight: Ari's Menu

When I started to seek out bloggers to share here I looked for two main criteria: Marathon runners or those who have managed to lose (and keep off!) a significant amount of weight. Those are the two areas I'm most often asked about and I thought you all would be interested in hearing other stores aside from my own. I lucked out and found a blogger who has done both! Ari blogs over at Ari's Menu and has lost 75 pounds and she ran her first marathon in January! thenandnow.jpg


What inspired you to start losing weight? This is always the hardest question to answer. I'd been overweight all my life, and for some reason, one day something clicked inside my head. I was honest with myself for the first time about my issues with food, and told myself I was willing to start making small changes to my lifestyle one at a time. It was after a long college trip where I felt miserable, and I had become so ashamed of my body that I didn't even feel comfortable spending time with friends. I don't know what changed that day other than releasing the fear and being truly honest with myself.

What type of dieting and/or exercise did you do to lose the weight? I started by just going to the gym and doing the elliptical. I was ridiculously out of shape, and I wasn't quite ready to tackle my eating habits yet, so I set a small, attainable goal of spending 30 minutes on the elliptical 3 times per week. Once that became habit, I gave up fast food, then deep-fried foods, then added in strength training. Essentially, I taught myself one small step at a time how to live a healthy life--something I knew literally nothing about before I began.

What advice would you give to those people hoping to lose weight? The two biggest things are don't do everything at once. I've tried that before and failed miserably. The tagline of my blog is "Little changes making a big difference" because I believe it to be true. Make a small healthy change until that becomes habit, then tackle a new goal. The other is don't be afraid to ask questions. Seriously. I had no idea why some people didn't eat red meat, why you were supposed to choose whole grains, or how to lift a weight--like any weight at all. I got over my fear, asked friends, and stopped worrying about looking stupid. I learned so much, and everyone I asked was more than happy to help!

What inspired you to run a marathon? I thought I was going to be obese for my entire life. I never imagined myself healthy, and I never thought it was something I was capable of. Even after I lost the majority of my weight, I always heard people talk about running and it just seemed like one more thing I couldn't do. One day, just like with my weight loss, I decided I needed to run a 5k. I never thought it would go any further than that--I just needed to prove something to myself. I'm sure you can see where this is going...I've become obsessed with tackling things I've always told myself I couldn't do, and I have fallen in love with the feeling of accomplishing goals and proving that pesky little Negative Nancy inside my head wrong.

What was your training like? I ended up signing up with a local charity to run the 2012 NYC Marathon, so I had a coach and I (like the teacher's pet that I am) followed the training plan to a tee. It was your typical marathon training plan for a beginner running 4x per week with track, long runs, etc. Of course that all changed when Sandy hit and the marathon was canceled, so I jumped back in and did more of the same until I ran my first marathon in January.

What was the worst part of the marathon? The best? Oh man, I was not a smart human, let me tell you. I had been experiencing an injury for a good month leading up to the race, but like a dumb runner, I thought it would be fine. Well, I was in pain for 26.2 miles, and that was without a doubt the worst part. The best part was running (and limping) all 26.2 miles with my amazing friend who never gave up on me, and getting to see my coach at the finish line. I can't wait to do it again, and not be injured because I'm pretty sure it will be a lot more fun. ;)

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What advice would you give to those just starting to train for a race? I hardly feel qualified to give anyone else running advice, but I would say do the work, and have fun. Essentially, you have to find a balance. When I'm training for a race, I work really hard. I wake up at 4am with the hope of running in less than 100* during the summer in Phoenix, and I miss out on some fun things when I have to go to bed at 8 pm because I have a long run the next morning, but every once in a while, I remind myself that I am nowhere near a professional, and there are more important things in life than running, like ya know, my husband. I didn't have nearly enough fun my first time through the training cycle, and after NYCM was canceled I realized how I had put this one thing ahead of everything else, and I realized I needed to chill the heck out. Also, if anything hurts, address it right away. That is a mistake I don't wish to repeat.

What is your biggest challenge to staying fit? I just really love food. Mostly healthy foods, and also fro yo and sweet potato fries. I love running and cycling, so the exercise portion is pretty easy for me at this point, but turning down dessert, and not getting sucked into too much unhealthy food never stops being a challenge. I try to combat it with making boat loads of healthier desserts, but really this is an area that I know needs some work.

What keeps you motivated to workout and eat healthy? I LOVE the way I feel when I do. As much as I love food, I absolutely notice a difference in how I feel when I eat junk rather than focusing on fruits and veggies. I also use race goals to motivate me. Going to the gym gets old and boring quickly and there is no one cheering for me at the end of my elliptical workout. To be 100% honest, I love positive attention, and being recognized. I use this to my advantage. I like being able to brag (err share?) about my accomplishments, and feeling like my family and friends are routing for me makes me feel like I don't want to skip that workout; I want to succeed and make them proud.

Sum up your blog: I focus on mostly healthy recipes (like I said, I really really really love food), but also share about my training schedules and races from time to time. Think 90% healthy comfort foods (like fettuccine alfredo and chocolate chip cookies) and 10% running love.

Link to your 3 most popular blog posts: The most popular post on my blog is something so easy that I make all the time and never dreamed it would get so popular--my Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad. #2 is my Spaghetti Squash Boats and #3 is my favorite dessert I've ever made--Vanilla Bean Cookie Butter Cup Cupcakes.

Ari - Thank you for sharing your story! If you have any questions for her feel free to ask in the comment section. Or, if you just want to tell her what a bada$$ she is you can do that in the comments as well ;)