Tanis Tzavaras was a yo-yo dieter (like many of you).
For most of her life she was neither lean nor fat. In 2002, she decided to find her inner-workout warrior and became a fitness competitor (those women who get super fit and show off their amazing physiques while doing gymnastics routines on stage). Tzavaras stands five foot nine and when competing her weight was around 140 pounds — she always looked awesome.
The only problem was how she dieted and ate in between competitions. Often, she’d gain as much as 30 to 40 pounds. When she got pregnant a few years ago, Tzavaras knew she had a problem — she ballooned to 244 pounds.
I asked her what happened and she said, “I still worked out while I was pregnant, but less frequently and with a lower intensity. What really changed was my eating.”
She had always been able to focus on healthy eating for short bouts of time — whenever she had a competition. But as soon as she walked off stage, she allowed herself to eat junk food (and when she got pregnant, she allowed herself to move far, far away from her healthy habits).
“I ate everything. It seemed like being pregnant meant it was OK to gain weight. Every day felt like a binge.”
Shortly after giving birth, she began her quest to shed the 100 pounds of excess weight. Instead of going on some crash diet — succumbing to the promises made in magazines or television commercials — she decided to lose the weight slowly.
“I made good progress during the first year, but to get back to competition weight took two full years.” She also learned to be less rigid with her diet. “I would cheat frequently. At least three or four times a week. I realized cheating on your diet doesn’t kill you though; it’s your consistency over time that leads to weight loss.”
And how did exercising go? “Initially, I lasted 12 minutes on the elliptical and was exhausted. I felt like I was going to puke.” Gradually, however, she worked her way up to six hours of intense exercise a week. Coupled with getting her eating under control, she was able to get back into competition form.
The thing that amazed me about her transformation wasn’t that she lost a bunch of weight, but that she still had the ability to look so amazing after being so overweight. What about stretch marks and sagging skin?
“I worried about that, but it didn’t turn out as bad as I thought it would. I think being in my 20s made a difference. I do have stretch marks and I do have loose skin.”
Today, she’s much more committed to keeping a stable weight rather than binging post-competition and doing the yo-yo diet thing.
She’s also pregnant with her second child (due in March) and is keeping her weight under 200 pounds. After giving birth, “I’m going to take six weeks to heal. Then I’ll start working on losing the weight. I’d like to compete again in 2012.”
Tzavaras considers fitness modelling and competitions to be a hobby and makes her living as a fitness trainer — running group classes and helping people with nutritional meal planning. To see more photos (where you can try in vain to find stretch marks), visit her website at www.tanisfit.com.
James S. Fell is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a middle-aged family man with a desk job and not much free time. Still, he’s able to keep in shape because he loves exercise and doesn’t mind eating healthy. He is the author of ‘Body for Wife: The Family Guy’s Guide to Getting in Shape.’