#68: Mindset & Bariatric Weight Loss Success with Marilyn Clark

Mindset & Bariatric Weight Loss Success with Marilyn Clark

Drastic change can sometimes be our best choice. But in this episode, my friend, Marilyn Clark, shares how big change has to happen physically AND mental/emotionally for long term success. Whether you’ve considered weight loss surgery or not, it’s an eye-opening look at what’s required to create real change. Ready to address the full picture of your health (and life)? Get Michelle’s Signature System until 3/20/22 at http://ShesGotPower.com/system

You’ll hear about:

  • Marilyn’s story of burnout and her health going from bad to worse
  • Obesity’s impact on her health vs. health at any size
  • The mindset work needed for sustained weight loss  
  • When a drastic physical change can be the best choice for someone

Mentioned in this episode:

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Drastic changes for better health

Michelle (00:44):

Sometimes we know that things have to change. Something has to change, and then we can kind of get stuck right there because we’re not really sure what needs to change or how to make the change. And we can fall right back into the, the hole we were trying to climb out of. I we’ve all been there in today’s episode, I’m talking to Marilyn Clark, a friend of mine who made a big change in her life. And we’ll talk about how bariatric surgery was the change that needed to happen for her. And it’s interesting because in other episodes this season we’ve discussed health that any saw eyes, the idea of body acceptance and body love. And now here’s someone representing many, many, many people who have actually taken pretty drastic measures to change something about themselves. And I think it’s all valid. Somehow. It all makes sense at the same time.

Michelle (01:40):

You’ll see that we talk about that. It’s not just about, you know, have bariatric surgery and boom, all your problems are solved. In fact, that’s very much not the case. So take a listen. See what you think also know that this March starting March 20th, I have a kickoff for my signature system. I’ve noticed that so many women need help with the health effects that have come out of the pandemic, the stress associated with the pandemic, just life in general. Uh, not everyone can afford to become a private client. So I’m making the same exact system that I use with my private clients available to you, to women everywhere at a very, very tiny fraction of the price of working with me privately. I really don’t ever do this. So it’s a rare opportunity and I’m really excited about it. Like I said, we’ll be kicking off on March 20th and you can sign up to join us at ShesGotPower.com/system. Now let’s get into the interview with Marilyn. Hey Marilyn. Welcome to the show.

Marilyn (02:48):

Hi, Michelle. Great to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Recovering from burnout

Michelle (02:52):

I knew that we had to have you as part of the conversation this season, and I definitely wanna talk to you about this push and pull between body acceptance and wanting to potentially change our bodies. But as you know, this show has always been about recovering from chronic stress and burnout, which is everything to do with how our body looks and feels and how we wanna improve in different ways. So before we get to anything that has to do with your specialty, I was wondering if you had a story of a time when you had hit a point of burnout and how you climbed out of it.

Marilyn (03:25):

Yeah, I really do. So my story and how it became a health coach really has a lot to do with just that I’m a fixer by nature. And so I’m always doing for everyone else constantly. And so there was a point right leading up to when I kind of got my health together, where my dad was sick, I was taking care of him. I was working a fairly high level job for California state government. And I just, you know, I was an overachiever. I was doing everything for everyone else and I was just gonna fall apart. I losing my mind all the time and it was a lot of stress to deal with all at one time. And so after my father had passed, I realized like this is my opportunity to make a change in everything. I changed my thinking, I changed my job. I left that job. I stepped down to just be a regular worker. B changed. My whole mindset, changed how I ate, how I moved, everything just completely transformed my life. And that is what led me on my path to being a health coach.

Michelle (04:27):

Tell us a little bit more about what your health was like prior to all the changes.

Marilyn (04:33):

Yeah. So I’m one of those people and probably it’s not an uncommon story. I’ve struggled with obesity, my entire life, including now it’s, um, obesity is a super complex disease that requires a lifelong of management, but I had gained and lost and gained and lost and gained and loss and messed up my metabolism as I’m sure people understand that does happen. But during this period of time of stress, I gained 40 pounds and probably about six months or so. So I was run down. I was burnt out and I was like gaining weight. And I was a person who was fairly active. I was running half marathons, you know, 200 plus pounds, but you know, I was very overweight and it was really, really, I was basically destroying my body, but not taking care of myself both mentally and physically.

Michelle (05:22):

Well, when you hear that you’re running half marathons and then you hear that you were quite overweight. It’s like, well, you were doing everything you could, but, but clearly there were other things that had to change. Right? How did you even, like, what was it like for you to make those changes? Did a light switch, just go off in your head. Did you read a particular book? What did it for you?

The importance of rest in your health journey

Marilyn (05:43):

I actually had been seeing an obesity medicine clinic and had been doing a medically managed weight loss program. And I was struggling. I just, I couldn’t lose weight. And so one of the doctors talked to me about sleep and talked to me about stress and they were like, you need to make time to do something like one day a week where you have nothing planned, which is so foreign to me. So I started thinking in those terms and was still not seeing success and I was referred for bariatric surgery. So I, I was considered myself a complete failure. At that point. I was very upset. I was embarrassed, but after doing some research and talking with people and finding the right surgeon, I decided to have a gastric bypass. This is probably about a year after I started making all those changes. And that was a game changer for me because it’s a medical tool for treatment of obesity.

Marilyn (06:39):

And I had heard so many, sorry, everyone has the friend. That’s had weight loss surgery that gave me all the way back. And I was so determined. I was not gonna be that. So becoming a health coach to me first, the first and foremost, I was really curious about nutrition and how with an altered digestive system, we absorb nutrients and why we need specific things as weight loss, surgery patients. And then I started looking at it as this is my escape path from my job. This is an opportunity for me to help other people. This is, this is a way for me to give back after I kind of went through my journey. And so I started focusing on it and taking it very seriously. So it was a, it was a huge transformation, but health coaching. I, in a lot of ways, when I, when I studied, really saved my life in a lot of ways, you know, mentally, you know, that was one of the biggest pieces of it, but I learned about gratitude and how that fosters a mindset of positivity.

Mindset as the missing piece to weight loss

Marilyn (07:38):

You know, that’s like one of my, my really big things when I’m working with clients and self-acceptance, I is a big piece of that too. So that’s when we get to the whole, like, thinking about body positivity and wanting to way less surgery is a drastic measure to change your body. But it’s not always about a number on a scale. And, and that’s when I work with people, I tell them that is, that’s not what this is about. This is about gaining back your health, taking control of your life. It’s not easy. You know, you’re not making anything easier for yourself. It is a hard path to do this, right. But I made myself accountable by making myself visible as well. So I started sharing my journey with others. I was posting before and after pictures and I was posting weekly pictures and, and all that kind of stuff.

Marilyn (08:29):

And then I started reading about how the before and after pictures can be triggering for people. You know, cause sometimes like someone’s before picture may look the same as someone’s after picture. And so it’s like, you’re setting up this whole comparison just based on the external. I had to think about that a lot. And, and it’s, it is such a conflict for me because I can look at it from my personal perspective of, I was, you know, 90 pounds overweight and I was not healthy, you know, I was running, but I damaged my knees. You know, I messed up my knees from running that heavy. I was starting to have other comorbidities and, you know, thankfully those have all resolved since I had my surgery. So that was a big piece of it. And that to me is more of a success story than achieving a certain size or a number on a scale.

Michelle (09:25):

Okay. I have so many questions.

Marilyn (09:27):

Um, that was a lot I know.

Michelle (09:28):

Yes. Cuz you’re saying so many things and I’m like, oh, we have to talk about that. Oh, we have to talk more about that. One thing that just popped into my head when you were talking about the before and after picture is wouldn’t it be cool if we had a, somehow had a before and after picture of your mindset, which you’ve mentioned a few times, if we did, what would it look like?

Marilyn (09:48):

I was not a happy person at all before I was very much a victim. And so I talked before with people about this whole victim mindset and someone called me out on it one time and I was so upset and it was like, it actually like destroyed a friendship, but then I had to go back and take a hard look at myself. And I was like, yes, I was blaming everything on all these external factors. It was my job. It was my dad. It was this, it was that I don’t have time to do this or, or whatever. But it, it, it truly is that whole self-care story where you have to put yourself first or you can help no one else. And I never ever did that. I always put everyone everyone’s needs ahead of my own. I always worked double, extra hard as the overachiever so that, you know, someone was say, thank you to me.

Marilyn (10:37):

You know, I was very needy in that way. I think I was raised that way to be like, you know, always needing feedback and, and that kind of thing. And afterwards, I mean, my, my confidence level even way past is even since I’ve been doing what I’m doing now, which we, I ended up purchasing two gyms during a pandemic, just crazy. But my confidence level has just like gone through the roof. It’s, it’s kind of crazy. And I always looked, you know, when you think about the physical person and I know we’re talking about mindset, but when I became a personal trainer, I was like, I don’t look like a trainer who is gonna wanna train with me. But when you think about it, there’s so many people that have that phobia of the gym because they don’t feel like that they look like the gym bunnies or whatever, and it’s opened so many doors for me. And so that’s boosted my confidence a lot and just seeing how many people need help and are coming to me for help has really done a lot for my confidence level.

Michelle (11:39):

I love that before and after. And I’m, I’m assuming correct me if I’m wrong. Maybe in some alternate universe you could have gone from here to there without the surgery at all. Maybe may,

Marilyn (11:50):


Michelle (11:51):

Or could somebody maybe

Marilyn (11:53):

I think somebody can, right. So I think if you have the right support and the right tools, and unfortunately I didn’t have the right support and the right tools until after my surgery. Mm. So some of this is like 2020 hindsight, cuz I definitely have had a lot of success with weight loss and feeling accomplished and whatnot, but I never took it fully all the way. Cuz this, this victim thing was always there and I have to keep it in check. That girl is loud. Sometimes that little voice in my head, it’s a lot of work, not just, you know, like the physical and like what I eat and all that stuff. But my mindset is a lot of work and I have to always be grateful for where I am and look back to where I was, which is, that’s the thing that I value the most about the before and after picture to stay on top of your game. That way mentally is a huge challenge. Sometimes it is, especially this last year has been quite a year.

Michelle (12:49):

I has been. And I apologize. I didn’t mean to suggest that you shouldn’t have had had the surgery. I just thought we’re talking, we’re talking about two different things. Right. And then I also wondered, could a person have the surgery, but they don’t do that deeper work, the mindset work. And then what is there before and after really look like.

Marilyn (13:09):

Yeah. And, and the people that I work with. So as a health coach and as bariatric lifestyle coach, I’ve been focusing very specifically in the area of regain. And so after surgery, a certain amount of regain is expected. And you know, there’s many statistics about that, but you do hear the stories about the people who gain their weight back and the people who do that are the one that don’t change their mindset. That’s the thing that I work on. And it’s more about habits and thought patterns and doing more of an internal change. Cause everything else is just kind of like, here’s some rules that you have to follow, but if you don’t embrace it mentally and if you don’t find a way to love yourself throughout the process, then you’re not really fixing anything. Um, there there’s a saying in, in the weight loss surgery community, it’s like we only operate on your digestive system, not your brain.

Michelle (14:05):

Yes, exactly. So we might think like this, this medical tool is gonna fix this medical condition, but not completely, right.

Marilyn (14:14):


Can we have health at every size?

Michelle (14:14):

We need to, we work on what’s up here. That it’s really interesting. Thank you so much for sharing. And I know it can be vulnerable for anyone to talk about this type of big change that they made in their life. And I appreciate your, your willingness, you said something earlier about you got your health back, right? So I imagine, you know, when I have clients that are significantly overweight, you all are, numbers are elevated. They’re looking at pre-diabetes, you know, this stuff can all change with weight loss and then we have the health at any size movement. And I’m wondering your thoughts on that.

Marilyn (14:49):

It’s a tough one because I, I know my own perspective and I know the direction that my health was going and I, I probably had fewer co-morbidities than a lot of other people that I know that I’ve had surgery, but I also have some clients that have, you know, quite a bit of weight to lose or not surgical patients. They have perfect health. Their numbers are great. That’s a thing that exists. Right. So the only thing I can say about that is that’s awesome. And you should embrace that and use it as an opportunity to like make sure that you stay healthy. So it’s, it’s, it’s a tough one because I don’t ever wanna try to convince someone to do something that’s not right for them. You know? So I try to work with people where they are, where their thoughts are and people are not gonna come to me typically until they’re ready to change.

Michelle (15:41):

Of course. So,

Marilyn (15:42):

Yeah, it’s, I, I have a struggle with it and it’s, I, I am very careful because I don’t wanna offend anyone know, like in this age of social media, sometimes you just have to tread lightly on certain topics. And so I honestly, when you asked me about talking about this topic, I was like, oh gee, this is the one that I try to avoid talking about as much as possible, but it’s, you know, I look at it from my perspective of, of things that I’m trying to help people with. So there are there by trying not to engage in those arguments. So it’s, that’s a, it’s super tough for me. It’s tough for me cuz I just know my own path and I know that I don’t know, good genes can only hold out for so long.

Michelle (16:25):

Okay. I appreciate this. It’s there doesn’t seem to be an easy way. Like this is the right way or this is the wrong way or yes, you should have bariatric surgery or no you shouldn’t or yes, you should accept yourself at any size and you are, will be healthy or no, absolutely not. Because you know, your health can be really impacted by your weight, such as you, um, were mentioning with your knees, even though you were running and that’s a great thing to be doing. You were kind of destroying your knees in the process. So I think it’s complicated. And my goal is to just like air out the conversation, not come to any conclusions necessarily, but it’s, it’s heartening to know that you are working with clients who care about their health are coming to you, right. For personal training and help with nutrition and maybe there’s weight that they could lose, but all their markers are unhealthy range. So these are variables that they’re not having to weigh on like a pros and con list of, you know, like how much does this matter? How much, how much do I need to change? Maybe they’re in like a pretty good place.

How weight stigma influences healthcare

Marilyn (17:25):

Right? Right. And I think like my role is to help people find their safe space. One of the gyms that I own is as an all women. And so one of the things that I work really hard there to do is create an environment where people do not feel judged for their bodies. And we have all kinds of bodies in here, all ages of people and they’re coming to the gym because they’ve been in other environments where they felt judged or looked at weight. Stigma is a huge issue, not just at the gym, but in, in the workplace. It’s a huge issue in the medical field. It’s a huge issue. I mean, so many patients that are dealing with obesity, there’s so many stories about just how rudely they were treated by doctors, myself included, you know, where you don’t get helpful information, just other than eat less, move more. Well, that doesn’t help me, you know? But, um, they don’t, they’re not willing to work with you on things. You know, it’s like if you have a knee injury, lose a and weight, if you have X, Y, Z lose and weight, that’s not, it’s not always that cut and dry, but that’s just kind of where medicine is right now.

Michelle (18:37):

Yeah. That’s a really great point. I hear a lot of stories like that you could have had, I don’t know, you could have rheumatoid arthritis happening in your, your joints, but if you say my joints are hurting, lose weight, we’re not even gonna do anything else for you. Just lose weight.

Marilyn (18:51):

Right, exactly.

Michelle (18:52):

Right. So it can be detrimental. Right. And then diseases can be allowed to progress because no one is looking beyond the weight loss as a, the culprit

Marilyn (19:02):

They’re not looking beyond, but also there’s this like fear of going to the doctor because it’s like, I don’t wanna go to the doctor for something that’s serious because they’re gonna tell me I need to lose. And so then you’re not getting treatment at the same time because you just have this fear of being, you know, I don’t wanna say ridiculed, but sometimes that’s kind of how it feels.

How our environments may impact weight

Michelle (19:21):

Sure, sure. You know, you said earlier, um, you know, you called obesity medical condition and I wondered with that. How much do you talk with your clients and I, how much do you kind of point the finger at the world around us? The biogenic world that we live in that is pretty much entirely outside our control. Is it even worth focusing on that? Like how do you think about it?

Marilyn (19:44):

That’s a good question. I dunno how to answer this, Michelle.

Michelle (19:49):

Um, well like I’m thinking about tox in our water supply and our food supply and, and just things that we’ve grown up with the other generations did not

Marilyn (19:59):

Exactly. So, so I grew up in the seventies and that was a time where women were going back into the workforce and convenience food kind of started coming around. I mean, I remember being a kid and looking forward to this once TV dinners. Oh yeah, yeah. You know, and things, things when I work with people and typically I’ll ask someone attractive food for five days. So I get an idea of what they eat and just people are eating so much processed food and that’s the very first place I always start. And it’s like, you can, you can come to me for anything. And I’m always gonna tell you to drink more water and eat or grains. When I look at that and just people are, you know, keto this and keto that, and it’s just, what about just food? Eat some real food. There’s just so many, like, you know, they always talk about the vegan junk food stuff. People think it’s healthier. So it’s like trying to help people identify what healthy eating really is, because there’s just so so many messages in media and online and you know, everyone’s got their try this and your weight will just fall off. And you people get into that diet mindset that, that whole kind of like diet culture where it’s like all or nothing thinking instead of like, just thinking more simply.

Michelle (21:16):

Yeah. It’s really a cultural thing, cuz same. I remember growing up with the hungry man meals and the swans and dinner with that little foil dessert packet that you look forward to in the middle. Oh yeah.

Marilyn (21:27):

Peel that back. Don’t forget.

Michelle (21:28):

Exactly. And you know, it’s just, it was just a cultural thing, you know, and getting whatever chocolate milk at school and it it’s baked into our culture. I feel like for many of our generation, it’s it, it’s not, it’s not eat less, move more. It’s like, hi, you’ve been handed like a whole slew of things since you were very young that has positioned your body in such a way that this is an overwhelming problem. It’s not something that’s just gonna be solved by like cutting back on a couple calories.

Marilyn (21:59):

Right. Right. I recently spent like a bunch of time out of the country. And when I was there, I was in Mexico. Um, when I was there, I felt amazing and we ate out, but we also cooked, but everything is so much more simple there. Even the food labeling is kind of interesting because they, they get very obvious food labels about things with sugar or excess fat or excess this or that. So it’s a lot easier to shop in a way to find healthy choices. But, um, just everything is like local and seasonal where we were and we felt amazing. And I ate pretty well here at home, but I noticed like such a huge difference in that how I felt, and I was not tired. I had so much energy and it was just so great to be able to like capture that feeling. And so we even went as far as doing a weird food experiment where we came up with a one week meal plan and we cooked it here in the states then went down there, bought all the same ingredients. And we tried to look at, you know, what’s gonna be available during the season cooked the same thing to see like, is it just cuz we’re on vacation or is it because it’s different and I’m telling you it’s different. It’s different. Everything is just like way more simple.

Michelle (23:16):

Wow. That’s fascinating. I’m so impressed that you carried out that experiment.

Marilyn (23:21):

Yeah, me too. I would’ve Thought about you followed through on it. Yeah.

Michelle (23:24):

I would’ve thought about it, but not actually done it, but you really did it. It does. It makes me different. So there’s all these factors that play resulting in whatever health issue or resulting in how we feel about our bodies. And then I imagine that’s gotta be a big piece of it saying like, this is not personal. Maybe I wanna say, it’s not personal, personal failing. It’s not a personal, you didn’t do enough. Right? Like there are just so many different factors in our environment. Yeah.

Marilyn (23:51):

And there’s, there’s definitely a genetic component as well. Yep. Um, it means that I think there are people that are definitely predisposed for it, but just because you have a predisposition for something doesn’t mean that it’s your inevitable outcome. And, and so that’s where I try to get people to like take care of it. Not blame it on genetics. Cause that’s, that’s that victim thing, you know, I blamed a lot of mine on genetics, but there’s a lot that you can be doing to like counteract, you know, a predetermined destiny,

Body inclusivity in media and advertising

Michelle (24:21):

100%. I have one more question for you. And then I want you to tell all of our listeners where they can, can visit your gyms and learn more about you. But lately I would say in the past year I’ve been seeing a lot more in, um, Victoria secret catalogs, the gap, you know, all over the place, a lot more plus size models in advertising. And I wondered, how do you feel about it? Are they doing enough? Is it too little too late? Like what’s your general instinct about that?

Marilyn (24:47):

It’s so interesting. And I’m not sure you wanna hear my answer, but um,

Michelle (24:51):

I do now

Marilyn (24:53):

It’s, it’s, it’s actually really cool. Cause it’s, you know, that whole mindset of like, I don’t look like a personal trainer. It’s like, well, what, who defines what a personal trainer looks like? You know? Um, so seeing that I’ve seen a lot of like really negative reactions to it. But seeing that gives me an idea of what something’s gonna look like on me and on my body. So it’s like seeing other people, it makes you feel a little bit more normal, but I’m gonna throw this. It’s so weird cuz I there’s this whole body dysmorphia thing that happens when you lose weight. And when you lose a lot of weight really quickly, I still see myself as the way I was sometimes, you know, it’s very hard for your brain to catch up with what is in the mirror. And so sometimes it’s like, I, I look at that, look at the, the clothes and the models and stuff.

Marilyn (25:47):

And I see myself more on the plus size of things. So it’s very hard for me to get contact. So it just kind of depends on the lens that I’m looking at it with. But I think it’s interesting. And I also love that there’ve been some ads that show athletes of all different sizes and you know, body structures and whatnot. And it’s like that I think is to empowering for women to know that there is an athlete inside of them. Um, and I feel like those things are, are very motivating. So it’s, you know, it’s, it’s another conflicting thing in my mind, you know, just as being a person, um, who has gone from being, um, you know, much heavier to where I am today to kind of reconcile that in my own brain for myself. I bet.

Michelle (26:32):

I bet. Thank you for sharing that. That’s a perspective I wouldn’t have ever seen on my own or thought about tell everyone who’s listening, where they can learn more about you and your work and maybe they can even hit you up in your gyms.

Marilyn (26:45):

Yeah, absolutely. So our gyms are located in Northern California, so we have a women’s gym that’s in Woodland, California, and then we have another gym that’s in as Faro, California, teeny, teeny towns, but um, really great communities, super awesome members. So I’m here. I, I actually also do personal training over zoom as well. So, um, COVID has made us embrace the virtual world as well. So you can find me and my health coaching practice is off the plate mc.com and our gyms are slate fitness, SL the number eight fitness.com.

Michelle (27:21):

Awesome. And we’ll put links to those in the show notes. Thank you so much for being here today.

Marilyn (27:26):

Yeah, you betcha. Thank you so much for having me, um, difficult topics, but kind of fun to think about.

Self-acceptance or self-improvement?

Michelle (27:47):

So I’m curious where you land on all of this. You know, if you’ve been listening to the show this season and we’ve talked about everything from health at any size to now, we’ve just discussed bariatric surgery. Where, where do you sit on these issues? Is it possible to both love and accept yourself and to make improvements and do something to make your life better? And gosh, how do we reconcile all of that? Send me a DM over on Instagram. I’m @shesgotpower. I’d love to hear what you’ve taken away from this season of the show. It’s been a challenging topic to approach, but I’m really glad that we did. I just wanna remind you that we are kicking off my signature system with five days together, starting March 20th, if you ever wanted to work with me, but private coaching just wasn’t in the cars. You weren’t quite ready to jump in that deep. This is a perfect step for you. You can sign up to join us at a very accessible price point at shesgotpower.com/system.