Burn the Fat: How a Depressed Obese Mother of Five
Shed 76 Pounds of Fat to Become Fit, Trim and Cheerful

Moe's Journey

his is the story of Maureen Jeanson—how she learned to burn the fat, losing 72 pounds of fat from February to December 2005. Moe lost another 4 pounds of fat during January and February, a rate that is slower, but even more certain to be safe for health.

Moe says, "Picture yourself at your goal. Say to yourself, I will be at my goal, I will look great and feel even better!"

Moe before and after

Interview with Moe

Since the focus of this site is aging and Moe's age is only 33, this interview for Combat-Aging may seem out of place. Yet the message we are getting from the latest research on aging says that the aging process starts early: muscle loss starts around age 30. Without exercise and adequate protein, 5% of muscle will have been lost by age 40, 15% by age 60, and 10% per decade after age 60. Moe has reversed this process, something we can all do at any age.

I am inspired by Moe's journey and hope you will be inspired to "burn the fat" too. Moe's story touches me in another way. My own mother raised three sons and a daughter with little help from our father, who joined the army in 1940, soon after Canada entered the Second World War. In 1945, when my mother was only 35, our father was killed in Germany. She never remarried. As the eldest of four children, I was aware of my mother's fierce determination, something that echoes through Moe's account of her journey to regain health and fitness. Just after Moe mentioned her parents and their struggle with chronic illness related to lifestyle, she said:

"I want to stop that pattern in my family and change the future for my own children. I can do this by changing my behaviors and giving them the knowledge of how we need to treat our body for a long and healthy life."

Life has not always been upbeat for Moe

"I was a mother before I finished high school. I had a family to care for and after my husband died, I was a single mom trying to make ends meet with no time for college until later in life."

"In 2002 at the age of 29, I became a stay at home mom when I became pregnant for the fourth time. This is when I gained a more significant amount of weight. I was “normal” in appearance but was very familiar with yo-yo dieting as I have battled fat almost all of my adult life. I then fell into a pattern I think a lot of housewives fall into. Housewives like me have little contact and tend to eat out of boredom. That's what I did, and then when my baby was four months old I became pregnant again. This compounded my issues with food: I was nursing, bored and pregnant."

An Interview with Moe

Fred: Your body mass index [BMI] had reached 32 by late 2004. That's two points into the obese zone. If you had lost only fat and not gained muscle, your BMI would now be 21, just below the mid-point of the "normal" range, BMI 18 to 25. How much fat have you actually lost?

Moe: At the start, I was 5’10" [178 cm] and weighed 225 pounds [102 kg]. That's about 43% body fat. Fred, breaking it down, I was 126 pounds lean body mass [LBM] and 96 pounds fat. A year later, I weigh 174 pounds [79 kg] with body fat about 12%. Broken down, that's 154 pounds LBM and 20 pounds fat. I have gained 28 pounds of LBM, mostly muscle. Since weight varies right now, it's hard to nail it down to a specific number, but the amount of fat lost was about 76 pounds [35 kg].

Fred: How did you receive the wakeup call?

Moe:On my 32nd birthday, December 8, 2004, I had a defining moment that changed my life, leading me to where I am now. My husband Gregg had bought me a new leather jacket and some nice jeans as my birthday gift. He thought that if I had something new and stylish to wear it might help get me out of the funk I was in. I really was depressed, so much so that my husband even had a talk with me about it. I felt just "blah" inside. Anyway, he purchased the jeans at a plus-size shop, and they were too small. How sobering to try on jeans you are sure will fit and you cannot even zip them up. The jacket was the same, it was beautiful and it was too small. I felt embarrassed, humiliated and disgusted. We exchanged the jacket for the largest one they sold and it was still too small to clasp shut. I began planning my journey to lose weight on that day, but I still did not put it into action until February 2005. I first said I would it make a New Year’s resolution, but when the New Year Holiday came around I delayed a month to give myself some time to.... Well, I guess time to gain more weight, right?

Fred: How did you decide what to do to burn the fat?

Moe: The previous year I had been watching Dr Phil’s Weight Loss series on afternoon TV. I was pregnant at the time with my youngest child, as well as nursing an infant. So I was not able to do anything at the time about my weight.... How comforting an excuse for me! When the time came for me to implement a plan, I used the book Dr Phil had applied to the people in his weight loss series. I had great success with it and in 12 weeks lost 37 pounds. Dr. Phil’s success stories.

Fred: What was your goal when you started? Did you only diet or did you burn the fat too?

Moe: My goal when I started was to lose about 30-40 pounds. I used a diet base of about 1,200 calories a day, eating only whole foods, not processed carbohydrates or “white” products (white flours and sugars). I have FitTV on my cable network and I would workout 3 times a week to Gilad’s workouts. I preferred the circuit training to the aerobic approach alone. After all, big girls can’t jump. (Wink, wink). Gilad's workouts.

Moe: After about 12 weeks with the above program, I began looking for a more fine tuned approach to my new journey to wellness. I stumbled across Tom Venuto’s site. My husband got Tom's book Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle for me and printed it all out.

I changed from Dr Phil's program to Tom Venuto's program "Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle" because something inside me wanted more. Dr Phil’s program is fantastic, a perfect starting point, but I wanted a more detailed approach to fitness. Dr Phil approaches your mind, changing how you see things and how to cope with things. The Seven Key’s to Weight Loss Freedom gave me the mindset and the ability to apply Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle to my whole life and complete my goals. Had I not started where I did, I think I would not have been able to apply the Burn the Fat principles as completely as I have.

With The Seven Keys, Dr Phil changed my mind, but with Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, Tom Venuto changed my body.

From Burn the Fat, I learned about measuring body fat. Later, I saw how I looked in a size 12, down 37 pounds. I was able to walk into a store and buy clothing in a size so much smaller than I ever thought I could wear before reading Burn the Fat. But I wanted more than that and I knew I could push it beyond the "burn the fat" concept.

I have left behind the person I thought I wanted to be. Now, I want to look like the person I feel like inside. I have changed from wanting to become thin to wanting to become an athlete.

Fred: Have the relative roles of aerobics and strength training changed over time?

Moe: Well, aerobics are not my interest and I have always enjoyed weight lifting. Years ago, I belonged to a gym and was very good at weight training. I just never had the knowledge pulled together as a complete package. Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle laid it all out in front of me in an easy to apply format so I had no choice but to follow it, so I did follow the guidelines in Burn the Fat.

Circuit training eventually turned into a full weight set up in my basement where I now do a four-day split routine with weights. My husband got a treadmill for me and for a while, I was using it after my weight sessions to burn the fat more effectively.

Now for cardio, I strap on a heart monitor and dance around the house, jogging as well, honestly! I think as long as you are moving your body and increasing your heart rate, the cardio workouts you choose could be anything! Just work up a sweat and keep it going: you will burn the fat! I still use the treadmill when I feel like going a good distance.

Fred: How much time does it take?

Moe: I can’t say how much time it takes because it is natural to me. This is my life and that's the time it takes—a lifetime. Once you step out of old routines, you replace them with others. The time itself is no more or less than before—I just do different things now with the same time.

Fred: With a husband and five children to care for, how did you find the time?

Moe: To be honest, you have to want this. You have to say, no matter what, I will make sure I am free to do what it takes to change. When I first started, some days when I was working out, I would be doing stomach crunches with my one-year old baby lying on me nursing. I know that may seem a little too “off the wall”, but this was my way to fit in my workouts. I can’t set an alarm to get up early because I have little ones to take care of. I have to fit the workouts in whenever there is an opportunity to do something. That's why my cardio is dancing and jogging around the house. I fit the cardio in during house cleaning and tending my two toddlers who are with me all day. In the afternoons, my three older children come home from school and I fit in my weight sessions then.

There is always an alternative way of doing things. The days where I have no one to watch the smaller children, I do body workouts like push-ups, squats and lunges.... There's always some way to make sure I do my workouts. Always!

Fred: How have you monitored progress?

Moe: Well, at first I used a bathroom scale and judged by how my clothing fit. After a certain point, after you burn the fat and progress further with muscle building, the bathroom scale stops moving. Measuring inches lost around the waist and skin-fold caliper readings become more useful for monitoring change. Now I just use my own “knowledge of self” to measure progress. Tom Venuto mentions in Burn the Fat that if you know yourself well enough you will notice the small changes.

Fred: How about plateaus when no change seems to be occurring? Did you have plateaus in your campaign to burn the fat? And what did you do about it?

Moe: I hit a plateau when I was at the end of my first 12 weeks, which was why I also looked for a new direction in my approach to weight loss. I thought I had hit another plateau when the bathroom scale stopped moving. I took photos to compare myself before and after and could still see progress towards becoming lean that the calipers and the scale could not detect. I can also see changes in the muscle structure where fat has melted and muscles now fill the spaces where the fat used to be.

Fred: Did you have doubts about being able to burn the fat? And how did you restore your confidence?

Moe: I think we all tend to have doubts about a program when we reach the point where the results have slowed down. When I started this program to burn the fat, I was melting fat off so fast! There came a time when the fat loss became slow and I had to wonder if I was still on the right track. My confidence was boosted when I tried on my jeans and saw that they were becoming looser and looser. Confidence returned when I compared pictures of my progress and saw changes in as little as one month’s time.

Fred: When and how did you know that you were on the right track, that the 'burn the fat' concept works?

Moe: Last year, I finished a herbal medicine degree, which includes nutrition. My graduating thesis was on obesity, of all things! I knew the path I needed to follow to burn the fat; I just needed to take it.

Fred: What made you choose herbal medicine for your degree studies?

Moe: I chose herbal medicine because of the slant western medicine takes for people. I saw how conventional medicine treats people’s symptoms but does not find real cures. Things like depression and obesity-related illnesses are treated with pills, and they are treated that way until a person dies. How can this be "successful medicine"? I wanted to follow a more natural approach to illness. I believe disease is only a symptom and we should look deeper to find the cause. We see so many commercials now for depression, anxiety, high cholesterol on TV and in magazines. If people were told they had a deficiency in a vitamin and it could be the answer to their depression, how would conventional Western medicine regard this treatment? I think if we went back to natural treatments, we would see fewer incidents of these ailments, along with other illnesses being cured.

I took the "alternative medicine" approach to change how I was living, health wise. I knew I was on the right path because I had studied proper nutrition and symptoms of faulty nutrition. If a client came to me for help and had the same symptoms that I had, I would know how to treat them. My symptoms were little to no energy plus depression. You can see by my skin coloring in the “before” picture [above] that I was unhealthy, with bags under my eyes and pale skin. I was obese, yet I was not meeting my nutritional needs, malnutrition made worse by breast-feeding. I believe I noticed a change almost as soon as I started improving my nutrition. I felt more energy the first week and was able to burn the fat easily. I grew more excited as I progressed and added proper food to my daily meals in place of the junk I was eating before.

Fred: What role does nutrition play in your wellness plan?

Moe: Nutrition counts for 80% of success with health, affecting both fat loss and muscle building. The remaining 20% is application of knowledge about exercise. I have played with my macronutrients so much in the last two to three months and have manipulated calorie timing as well. I think when you get very lean and you want to see how your body works, macronutrient ratios become important: percentages of protein, carbohydrates and fats. For meeting the basic needs for proteins, carbohydrates and fats in a balanced diet, I prefer finding them where they are created—in whole foods. I do use a protein supplement, but only to make certain I have enough protein to support my body in adding muscle mass through weight training. I chose a low carbohydrate whey-based powder for my protein supplement, avoiding soy products.

Fats are also important in today’s diets, something we forget. I prefer to fat from natural sources like animal products, seeds and nuts. We need fats to regulate metabolism, possibly the reason that the 1980’s “fat fear” did not answer our growing obesity problems. It is just important to understand good fats from bad fats and how much is too much. For good fats, I prefer nuts and avocados.

Getting the right micronutrients is important for whole health. Once you really get into a health program like BFFM [Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle] your search for complete wellness is a natural progression. My herbal medicine studies guide me here. I prefer to meet all of my nutritional needs from food rather than from a multi-vitamin or supplements. I think the body can utilize the natural sources for our needs rather than synthetic sources found in vitamins. I look to whole foods like whole grains and whole fruits and vegetables that provide huge benefits from vitamins, natural fibers and minerals not found in packaged foods.

Fred: What supplements do you use?

Moe: I use a protein supplement when I need to get added protein while avoiding excess fat. Otherwise, I love meat. As far as protein, I am on a huge beef kick right now. Lean beef is my top pick, then of course chicken and fish.

I am using creatine although I am not certain about its effectiveness. The added mass I see on the scale leads me to think that creatine is helping to build muscle.

Fred: What reactions do you get from friends, family, and in-laws?

Moe: My father-in-law always comments on how much fat I have lost, but he urges me to stop now. He is not too keen on the idea of a woman with a muscular build and he wants reassurance I am not out to win the Miss Olympia Contest (Wink, wink).

My husband is interested now in pursuing his own fitness program, so he is supportive. My middle son is now weight training with me, so he is supportive as well. They have all encouraged me in their own way.

Fred: Now you have reached most of your targets, what are your immediate goals for the future?

Moe: We are hoping to join a local no-frills gym that is economical and will allow our older children to train with us. As they offer no day care services, we need the whole family to pull together for all of us to schedule our workout needs.

Fred: What are your longer-term goals?

Moe: I watched my father’s mother die from obesity. She had diabetes and suffered strokes and was so unwell. She died because she was obese and for no other reason. My father now is on the same path: he has type II diabetes as well as heart troubles because of his obesity. I want to stop that pattern in my family and change the future for my own children. I can do this by changing my behaviors and giving them the knowledge of how we need to treat our body for a long and healthy life.

I get so passionate thinking about how I made such a radical positive change in my life.... Honestly, I feel like I want to save the world now. I want to help others beyond my own family. I can do that by becoming certified in youth training. I want to help people avoid getting to a bad state where they need great effort to burn the fat—beginning when they are young to develop the keys to fitness before their health begins to suffer. I want to apply my degree studies in herbal medicine, become a personal wellness trainer helping whole families journey into complete health, not just fat loss.

Fred: Having seen how you learned to burn the fat and what you have accomplished so far, I'm sure that you will succeed in making a career in wellness training. Moe, thanks for this interview. Your enthusiasm and energy have inspired me and will inspire many others too.

Moe's Journey

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Read more about Tom Venuto's approach to losing fat and regaing muscle, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle.

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