From doctor’s office to marathon route

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By Lana Bradstream, Times Republican

Gonzalez-Alvarez overcomes challenges, realizes weight goals

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”  — John D. Rockefeller

A weight loss journey can be summed up in such a quote – people who want the results are willing to give up the tasty temptations. Many fall during their journeys, but some pick themselves back up and continue on their way, determined to reach the goal at the end.

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One such person is Maria Gonzalez-Alvarez, 34, the match support specialist at Heart of Iowa Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“This wasn’t the first time I started my weight loss,” Gonzalez-Alvarez said. “I had tried so many different ways, for years and years.”

Gonzalez-Alvarez has long been a fixture in Marshalltown after moving here from Michoacan, Mexico, 29 years ago. She is regularly seen at community events, and providing support to nonprofits.

However, Gonzalez-Alvarez looks a lot different now at 180 pounds than she did two years ago. Because two years ago, she went to an appointment with her doctor, who told Gonzalez-Alvarez he was worried about her health.

“I know I was overweight, but that day, I was 354 pounds,” she said. “I left crying because I knew something had to change. I was scared for myself, but also thinking about what would happen in the future, my kids and my family. I knew things had to change.”

Gonzalez-Alvarez sat with her husband, Roberto, and formulated a plan – what they could change, and what they would need help with.

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“I wanted this to be different so the first step I took was learning about my mental health and the way I attached food with my emotions,” she said. “I wasn’t eating because I was hungry but it depended on how I was feeling. I had to learn how to eat again. How to build a positive relationship with food.”

That relationship proved to be the biggest challenge of her odyssey.

“An addiction can be removed, but when you need food to survive you have to relearn so much and how your body works,” Gonzalez-Alvarez said.

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There were some surprises along the way.

“After I had a plan and started to build some consistency, the gym became something I enjoy,” she said. “I look forward to a good workout or going out for a run.”

The newfound love of running led to yet another leg. As a sort of guide on her journey, Gonzalez-Alvarez created a vision board to set small and large goals.

“One being able to run a marathon with my husband,” she said.

It was something she desired to share with Roberto, who had already ran a couple marathons. Gonzalez-Alvarez wanted to share that feeling. The husband and wife completed that goal on June 3 when they finished the annual EMC DAM to DSM. Even though the run was shortened to 13.1 miles, it is considered a half marathon.

“There were a couple of times, especially at mile 10, that I was struggling but kept telling myself, ‘You can do this. Just keep going and one step at a time,’” she said. “When I saw the finish line I started to get emotional especially as I saw my family and kids – Alexa and Carlos – waving their hands. Crossing that line wasn’t just a finish, but a victory. I had done that – ME – those seconds belonged to me. I loved it so much that we are training for the next one.

“It took me three hours to finish, so a very slow run but it sets the starting point to get faster,” she said.

Maria Gonzalez-Alvarez has gone through a transformation. Two years ago, she weighed 354 pounds. Through diet, exercise and a determination not to give up, she is now at 180 pounds.

After successfully completing so many legs of her weight loss journey, Gonzalez-Alvarez said she feels amazing – physically and mentally.

“My body changing has helped my growth as a person and I’m able to enjoy and play with my kids,” she said.

Some of the weight loss has come with downsides. Gonzalez-Alvarez said people ask her if she eats anymore and tell her she is “withering away.” She said they do not realize how hard she has worked to form the body she is in, and the effort she continues to put forth.

Even though the voyage has been a long one, filled with pitfalls and triumphs, Gonzalez-Alvarez is happy with her accomplishments, and she had some words of encouragement for others who wish to start their own quest.

“Go for it. If it doesn’t happen the first time, start again,” she said. “Find a reason why and set goals. Be patient with yourself, remember you didn’t get here overnight and it will take time. Most importantly appreciate the marvelous things your body is capable of.”

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