From 284 Pounds to Hiking Kilimanjaro

From 284 Pounds to Hiking Kilimanjaro

Chelsea Kilpack, Managing Editor

It’s impossible to not feel energized by Mary Crafts’ story—at age fifty she tipped the scales at 284 pounds before deciding enough was enough. Now, retired at age sixty-five, Mary is a fit 150 pounds, and she’s prepping to hike Kilimanjaro in July.

So how did she go from being the sole provider for three kids, barely able to walk around the block, to biking, lifting, hiking like a pro, and looking like an Instagram fitness influencer? It all started when she tossed on her baggiest sweatpants and t-shirt and signed up at Gold’s Gym.

Her first trip to the gym was a short one. She found a treadmill on the last row of machines, in the very back corner, and she walked for fifteen minutes at two miles per hour. But the most important thing about that first day? She kept coming back.

It has to become the most important thing in your life

When Mary started her fitness journey, her youngest daughter was still living at home, and although she was supportive of her mom’s newfound enthusiasm for working out, she also felt a bit neglected in favor of the gym. Mary’s solution? “I’d go to the gym at 10 p.m. after she went to bed.”

Over and over during our conversation, Mary emphasized the need to prioritize your commitment to the journey, whether it’s stealing minutes for movement during the day or going to the gym after the kids are asleep. “The only thing that matters is that you’re committed. Pick whatever level it is that works for you.”

Physical activity can be fun and joyous

Listening to Mary’s story, there was a moment when I thought she might have history as an athlete, but in fact it was the opposite. She describes a childhood filled with uncertainty around physical activity, from being humiliated when she couldn’t perform a single pushup, to a swim lesson where she froze on the high dive and the teacher refused to end class until she jumped.

In spite of that history, she learned to find joy in moving her body. But it didn’t happen overnight—it took trying several exercise routines. “Pick whatever it is that works for you,” she explains. It doesn’t have to be CrossFit, Pilates, or any other trendy workout. Do the thing that speaks to you.

At fifty-six, Mary listened to that voice speaking to her and went on her first hike in Capitol Reef National Park. She was struck by the realization that, “Hiking is just walking outdoors.” Now, nine years later she’s prepping for the biggest hike of her life: in July she will summit Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.

Mary’s tips for habit change

With Kilimanjaro fast approaching, I asked Mary to share some insights into habit change that worked for her. After all, she may have biceps to rival Michelle Obama, but she’s the first to point out those muscles didn’t come without a fight.

Here are her three key pieces of advice for jump-starting your own journey toward total wellness:

  1. It takes time. If the number on the scale is your main concern, remember, “It didn’t take you three months to get to that weight, and it’s not going to take you three months to get away from that weight.” It took Mary six years to lose 134 pounds.
  2. Health is much more than weight. “Know all of your numbers,” including your resting heart rate, cholesterol, blood pressure, and body fat percentage. Mary can rattle her stats off like a sports enthusiast knows their team’s standings (her resting heart rate is forty-six!).
  3. Start with one easy goal, “There’s nothing that will do more for you than getting started with one ” For Mary, it was not eating after 5 p.m., something she more or less sticks to fifteen years later. Maybe for you it’s not taking the elevator or adding three minutes of meditation to your daily routine—just pick one thing and add another once you’ve formed the habit.

You can learn more about Mary and follow along with her adventures on her website and social media.