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How I Lost 35 lbs with Canyon Ranch

Jan 30 2023
By Marissa Baretich as told to Laura Roe Stevens
8 min read
Feet stepping on to a scale.

I tried the Integrative Pathway Plus Program to lose my post-pandemic weight and here's what I learned about my body and my habits in the process.

Before COVID-19 shuttered our world, I was working out regularly in a gym and hiking with my husband and our then-two-year-old little girl. From March 2020 to May 2021, our world shut down. My husband and I were both essential workers at that time, so when we returned home from work, we isolated ourselves to protect others—and we gained weight.

Without the gym, treks to the park, or hikes, my body became heavy, and my muscles atrophied. Of course, I could have done virtual classes, but the daily stress and anxiety made it hard to sleep. I was constantly worried and tired. Like many people, the pandemic hit me hard. I gained an extra 35 pounds and was at my heaviest non-pregnancy weight.

When I started my new job at Canyon Ranch in May 2021, I was beyond thrilled to join a company that helped people, but I knew I needed to put in major work on myself. The resort provided open-air, beautiful vistas, hikes, heart-felt classes, wellness talks, and fitness advisors that infused my spirit with the peace and confidence I needed to start over. I now know that mindset is half of the battle. I went to all the nutrition, spirit, and fitness classes available to me. I learned more from the presentations my Health & Performance colleagues would give on a weekly basis than I did in all my years in higher education—but don't tell my mom, the teacher.

Marissa Baretich before and after weight loss journey.

How the Integrative Weight-Loss Pathway Worked For Me

Working with the Health & Performance team, I had access to the origins of the Pathway Plus programs. During the development stage, I chose to test the Integrative Weight Loss Pathway Plus to help me release excess weight, understand my roadblocks, and learn new ways to maintain it all. The program offers the opportunity to work with multiple practitioners who coach you with personalized exercise, meal planning, self-care, and mindfulness strategies.

Here are the main takeaways that changed my habits, improved my health, and helped me balance my life:

1. Squeeze in physical activity when and where you can.
I dove into fitness and applied what I learned from my colleagues to my own life. Mike Siemens, Director of Performance Science, taught me the importance of understanding my heart rate because monitoring your heart rate during an exercise session lets you know the exercise intensity that is right for you. I began walking daily on a loop with elevations, added strength training, and hiked on weekends. On days that didn't allow an entire hour of workout at the gym, I would take a 15-minute break and power walk around the resort to get my heart rate up. And I tried to attend as many in-person meetings as possible rather than sitting in a chair all day for a virtual meeting. This mindset freed me up to think of possibilities.

Related Article: Calculating Your Target Heart Rate

2. Ask for help.
I am always the first to help others, but ironically, I felt uncomfortable seeking assistance. Now I feel empowered to ask for help in my professional and personal life. Self-care and self-advocating are signs of strength. They also bolster communication and let others know my needs and boundaries.

3. Adopt healthy cooking practices.
I’ve tried many diets that didn't work. They are restrictive, stressful, and a quick fix at best. I used to look at calories and fat only when eating. I would often eat on the go by grabbing a granola bar or eating a lot of microwavable, low-fat meals. Now, I see food as nourishing fuel for my body. My a-ha moment was when I started understanding how food fuels me rather than thinking of some categories of food as "bad" by society's standards. Your brain needs carbs, your muscles need protein, and sometimes your heart needs an indulgent dessert. What works for me, my family, and my lifestyle is to eat the foods I enjoy while prioritizing getting enough protein, nutrients, and water, making healthy selections, and, most importantly, enjoying food.

Related Article: The Role Food Plays in Losing Weight

4. Prioritize yourself and what is important for your health and happiness.
Remember when on an airplane, the flight attendant will tell you to put an oxygen mask on yourself first before helping anyone else? Well, that’s true in real life. If you are drained from your job and caring for the needs of others, your body will feel stressed and depleted. I learned that to be a better mom, wife, and colleague—I also needed to give to myself. This means working out, eating well, and getting enough sleep. (Oh, and planning fun adventures for weekend hikes and getaways!)

As the days and weeks went by, I felt better. Spiritual Wellness introduced me to accessing my flow state and discovering my core beliefs. Mental Health & Wellness taught me stress management through journaling and self-compassion. I slept better. And I learned how to be a leader in my own life from Health & Performance Coaching.

Focusing on myself allowed me to meet with a doctor who looked at my lab work and taught me how to address the thyroid issue I have had since I was 18 years old. I have hypothyroidism, which means my thyroid gland doesn't make enough thyroid hormones to meet my body's needs—and this can lead to weight gain. To counter this, I was advised by Stephen Brewer, MD, Medical Director of Canyon, to eat more leafy greens. I meditated too, to lower my stress and get better sleep. My lab work, six months later, showed amazing improvement. I could feel the positive shifts in my body and mind. I had fewer mood swings and it was easier to lose weight.

Related Article: Managing Your Many Roles in Life

5. Find a fitness regime that works for you and is fun.
I currently do cardio 3 times a week, lift weights twice a week, and enjoy hiking, yoga, and meditation. I really try not to be too hard on myself since my life is busier than ever with my career and family. On busy days I try to squeeze in a walk between meetings or on the treadmill. On days my daughter is feeling overwhelmed from school, we do yoga together to calm down and recenter. I learned to make fitness work for me, my life, and my schedule. And I lost 35 lbs in the process!

I’m forever grateful that Canyon Ranch provided the tools I needed to change my mindset and lifestyle. I became confident that I wouldn’t yo-yo with my weight, and that life really is working for me. Food is nourishing me. And, I can exercise anytime, anywhere to stay on track.

I tested the Integrative Weight Loss Pathway Plus believing it would help me with weight. But I came out of it knowing that my well-being is a priority—and feeling empowered, not guilty, for taking good care of myself.

Learn more about the Integrative Weight Loss Pathway Plus experience.

A headshot of Dr. Stephen Brewer

About the Expert

A headshot of Dr. Stephen Brewer

Stephen C. Brewer

MD, ABFM, Medical Director

Dr. Brewer knows from experience that the key to balancing a busy professional life with personal wellness is to find a plan that works with your lifestyle. He is passionate about helping our guests discover that balance for themselves.

Read Full Bio