Crash Dieting to Wellness Professional
“I realized that I was fatter than everybody else and my mom was also fat. We didn’t know what to do so I tried everything; pills, diets, starvation.” Mary Well.
Growing up in a family that struggled with weight challenges, Mary longed to transform her body since childhood and it wasn’t until her children were grown that she had her breakthrough.
Originally from Minneapolis, Mary spent 23 years in the Swiss Alps, where she has helped over 27,000 women from all over the world to lose weight fast and keep it off for good. An expert in stress management and relieving chronic pain, Mary holds a Masters degree in Psychology specializing in Behavioral Science.
Introduction: 00:09 Welcome to Plaid Radio by Plaid for Women and the #NoMeanGirls movement. Enjoy today’s show and be inspired to change the world.
Sarah Webb: 00:18 Welcome to Plaid Radio. I’m your host, Sarah Webb, and I am with today’s guest, Mary Well Bray. Originally from Minneapolis, Mary has spent 23 years in the Swiss Alps where she has helped over 27,000 women from all over the world, lose weight, fast, and keep it off for good. She is an expert in stress management and relieving chronic pain. She holds a master’s degree in psychology, specializing in behavioral science growing up in a family that struggled with weight challenges, Mary longed to transform her body since childhood and it wasn’t until her children were grown that she had that breakthrough. Thank you for joining us, Mary.
Mary Well: 00:53 Thank you for having me. Hi.
Sarah Webb: 00:56 Welcome. Well, you talk a little bit about your weight struggle from an early age that it was not only an issue that you faced, but your entire family was plagued by this. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and how it affected you as a child?
Mary Well: 01:13 Well, it affected me as a child, especially like in sixth grade, seventh grade I realized that I was fatter than everybody else and my mom was also fat, but she didn’t know what to do to lose weight and so I just started trying a lot of diets and of course I went to apply for an airline job one time and they told me I couldn’t because I was too fat and so I had to lose weight in order to be a flight attendant, so I really did some awful things like took diet pills and because I didn’t know who to ask and I just heard there were some diets where you’re supposed to eat a thousand calories a day and that’s all I knew. Can you imagine? Well, I tried that, and I lost some weight from Monday to Friday and then the weekends came and I gained back the weight that I lost during the week and I was essentially starving on eight or 900 calories, can you imagine? And I didn’t know any better. Then when I was flying as a flight attendant, I had starved to lose the weight and diet pills and the whole thing. Then I really wanted to find out what to do, so I learned that it’s a matter of inside of yourself when you have so much and you really don’t know what to do, you have to start from scratch, which means you have to learn, learn not to do a fad diet anymore or any diet where there’s no carbs, or no fat, or no nothing and only and starve because that’s just not sustainable. And so learning is a big part of it. But even before that I had a goal. I wanted to fly on the airline. I wanted to be like a normal woman in probably like a size 10. Yes! And so, I said, “oh, I really, really want that.” So, I studied. I studied how to eat vegetables and fruits and eat a normal food menu so that I wouldn’t be starving. And then I was guided by my stress management because I was so disgusted with myself, so confused, so upset that I hadn’t lost weight, that I had the wrong mindset of wanting to learn what could really work. And so…
Sarah Webb: 04:12 Let’s go back for a second to you talked about sixth and seventh grade and you realized that you were heavier than the other girls. Did they make fun of you or were there things you couldn’t do like did you not try out for sports? Like how did that hold you back as a child?
Mary Well: 04:25 Yeah, well it held me back because we would go and play at the lake in The Cities. There’s many lakes and kids pick each other up and throw each other off the dock and no one ever picked me up because I was too fat. And later on to go to the dances and the Proms and things, I realized that I couldn’t get into the dresses that would suit me to be invited to go to the pro. Right? Yeah. I really suffered. So I felt terrible about myself. I felt like I wasn’t attractive. Of course! I felt like nobody would like me, that I wouldn’t get any dates… the whole thing affected me just like that.
Sarah Webb: 05:18 And then when you decided you wanted to be an airline attendant, how old were you? How long from high school to… what was that cycle until you made up your mind that you wanted to lose weight, be healthier?
Mary Well: 05:33 So I was 19 years old and it was a dream to be an airline hostess and I thought well, if I could do that, I would be the happiest person in the world. So that means that I had tried everything, like starving, deprivation to the max, and then I decided, “how much could I eat, what could I eat?” So I consulted with doctors and I studied about what could possibly… I took nutrition classes. I really looked at what metabolizes and what about elimination and what factor does stress have in all of that. And it’s the starting and then giving up and then starting and then giving up. That had to come from being with myself and setting a goal and saying, “I’m going to do this in a way where I don’t have to suffer and when I can find out how to do that and then do that, I will stay with myself until I have my goal.”
Sarah Webb: 06:53 When you were 19, how much weight did you lose to become a flight attendant?
Mary Well: 06:57 Yeah, 57 pounds.
Sarah Webb: 07:01 And then how many years were you a flight attendant?
Mary Well: 07:04 Well then a couple of years… and [at that time] you couldn’t be married and fly as a flight attendant… So, after all of that I had to quit [when I] got married but by then I knew what to do and I was actually on a flight… took a trip to Switzerland and I met there a doctor who I told my story too and I said, “I’ve lost 57 pounds and I’ve done it with stress management and eating enough food from all the food groups, from carbohydrates and everything.” Not like they do in the states where you say, “you can’t have that and you can’t have that.” Yeah?! You can have anything you want, and so he said, “well, I have a client who weighs 300 pounds. Do you think you could help her?” And I said, “Oh, I would love to try.” Well, she lost a hundred pounds in 11 months doing the things that I had done for myself. She put an article in the magazine and she and I celebrated. I have pictures of her in her bikini with a hundred pounds less after 11 months. Well, that’s possible. It’s possible to lose 10 pounds a month if you’re eating enough food and eliminating and metabolizing. It can all work. So she put an article in the magazine. I wrote my first book and there I stayed for 19 years seeing thousands of people. I wrote five more books about the guilt when you think you can’t do it and going forward mindfully with yourself. And that’s the real essence, because you start to feel good about yourself. You start to look good and you start to say, “hey, I can do this” and “I am doing this and I’m never going back to being fat!”
Sarah Webb: 09:14 So walk us through your process, let’s say I wanted to become a client of yours. What kind of assessment would you do? How do we lay out a plan? You’d say, “Sarah, write down everything that you eat and then we’ll talk about it?” Walk me through what this process would look like.
Mary Well: 09:30 I don’t even start out with the food.
Sarah Webb: 09:34 OK, so tell us more!
Mary Well: 09:37 So when people come into my class, I say to them, “if everything were possible in your mind, in your imagination, how do you want to be? How much weight do you want to lose? How do you want to stay, what do you want to look like? What do you want to feel like? Maybe you’ve had that figure before, that dream body, maybe you haven’t.” The first question is “what do you want?” And right away they want to know, “well just tell me what to eat.” And I’m like, “no, no, no, not yet.” So, I say, “I’m going to ask again, what do you really want?” And so I have them close their eyes and in their wildest imagination they have a visualization of their dream. It’s about them being with themselves beginning by asking those questions, not listening to some advertisement that says something outside of themselves is gonna make them thin. They’re the ones that are going to be doing it. All right? So, then I say to them, “are you ready to learn, to be willing, to find out if you can do this? Are you willing to eat all the food that I say and not less?” And then when they say “yes, they’re ready,” then I say, “OK, you know now what you want, now make a decision to have that body. Make the decision first.” And why do I say that? Because once they say, “I’m going to have that body,” and they base it on blind trust because that’s all anybody has at the beginning, because people have lost faith in themselves so, they have to give it a chance. A little bit of blind trust, I would tell everybody. And [I] would say, “OK, all right, now you’re going to lose 10 pounds in a month,” so nobody’s going to stop and my course is also six weeks, so by the time they go through the course and they’ve eaten handfuls of vegetables and fruits and they’ve eaten carbs and they’ve eaten from every food group and they eat what they like. If they don’t like Kale, don’t eat it.
Sarah Webb: 12:25 You’re an adult. You can say “no” to Kale or you can say “no” to Broccoli. You’re in charge of yourself. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t eat green vegetables, but don’t [eat] the ones you don’t like, don’t force yourself to do that you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Mary Well: 12:38 You’re right. And you know what, you’ll quit if you have to eat certain things and that’s it. And it’s rigid, like a cardboard bar or something like that that you’d never want to eat in a million years. You know you’re not going to do it. And this is about being with yourself, saying yes to yourself based on the food that you can eat that keeps you comfortable. Yeah, comfort foods, too!
Sarah Webb: 13:13 When you talk about mindset and being comfortable with yourself, how have you seen people change their whole lifestyle? Like do you see people have healthier relationships or maybe they save more money because when you talk about this visualization, yes, I think about myself physically, but I also think about my family around me and what that feels like and where we… It’s so much more than just the weight and understand that that’s why people come to you. But how have you seen your clients lives change in addition to that? Just wrapping themselves around a positive mindset.
Mary Well: 13:46 OK. So first of all, I’ll tell you that many of my clients will say to me, “I haven’t told anybody what I’m doing,” because they were afraid of failure. That makes sense. I go, “OK, so here we go. I’m gonna take you by the hand and we’re going to do this day by day by day.” And I have daily inspiration and daily videos and daily tips and tricks every single day online, right? And then once a week I talk to them in person for questions and answers. And so the idea is for them to stay with themselves until they see they’re having success. All right. Then according to your question, how does that affect the family? They begin to say, “I didn’t realize I didn’t have to cook special for me. I didn’t realize that I could eat as much as I can, so I can still to parties and weekends and social things and don’t have to be the odd ball that is on a diet. I don’t have to embarrass anybody. I can be in my family and I can be losing weight. Staying with myself and still driving my kids around to carpools and still cooking family meals or eating out.” There’s the difference. You’re not isolated and alone. Which was good reason to quit in the past.
Sarah Webb: 15:25 Well, have you seen people develop self-discipline in other areas? Do they save money or possibly get like a workout plan? I just think that sometimes when we’re losing weight, it just helps us have more confidence in every aspect of our lives, right? We’re able to get over ourselves and we feel better about ourselves and that’s projected on so many other things as well,
Mary Well: 15:53 Right, given that we’re not feeling good about ourselves, when we’re overweight, that’s a given. Then you begin to see that you’re losing weight and you’re satisfied. You’re full, you’re not hungry all the time, and you begin to notice that. Something happens in your brain and you begin to say, “this is working, this is working, and not only this is working, I’m doing it. I am doing this. Nobody’s doing this for me. I’m realizing myself that I can do this, and now when I can do this, I can begin to realize I don’t ever have to suffer again. I can get my goal and when I get my goal, what else do I want?” But this is down the road. Say, if you got 30 pounds to lose and you’re gonna have that in three months, let’s just give that as an example. All right, when you know that works, you’re used to every single day taking a relaxation, first thing in the morning, for yourself, a silent time, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. It’s got to be where you have these discussions with yourself. You ask yourself the question, am I still willing to stay in this program today? And you say “yes,” or you say “no.” Given that you’re willing to go forward, at a certain point, you ask yourself, “what else do I want, what else do I want?” Well, I hear things like, “well, next June is the graduation, I want to have a dress and I haven’t worn a dress for years, if ever!” I go, “OK, well. Alright, let’s set a side goal that you want a dress in June. OK, now start thinking about that and keep going every single day, your relaxation, your daily practice making a decision. Yes, I’m gonna do this today. Yes, I’m going to do this and if some days you should make a mistake and not stay in the plan, you just the next morning you accept that.” Whoops! Yesterday I didn’t stay exactly in the plan and you say, “I can accept that and today I’m back in the plan, so there’s no guilt ever because that’s dangerous to start to feel guilty like you’re not doing it or you’re not good enough or something like that, starts you back down the path of not feeling good.” And feeling good every single day about what you’re doing is number one, because success breeds motivation. If you’ve got success, and you’re going to have success, if you’ve got success, you’ll continue. So the first thing to do is give yourself success and you can do that.
Sarah Webb: 19:17 Well, you’ve lived in the Swiss Alps for about 23 years, why did you move there and what is it like being an American there? And then when you come back to the United States, you’re like, “oh, these people,” it’s so different than Switzerland, “oh, they don’t walk anywhere” or have [other] culture shocks. What is that like?
Mary Well: 19:43 Well the American diets as far as I’ve noticed my whole life, they’re all about suffering while losing weight. I’m sorry, that’s just the way I feel about it and unwillingness to learn to go inside of one’s self and really find out instead of listening to some crash diet where somebody says you can lose weight in 21 days or whatever. And so, what I think is, the biggest learning is to mindfully you say to yourself, “am I ready?” And that I make so clear in my classes when you’re ready, that means you’re open to learn. And that’s so important. And the Swiss sure they walk in the mountains, they ski, just like we do here. If we ski, we ski in Colorado. If we walk we, we walk. I think people are essentially the same in terms of what they like to do in life. So, at this stage of the game, I’m certainly not going to go out and do aerobics five times a week. But, in America they’re a little bit fanatic about that, too. So, I don’t have to have abs that are like I had when I was 20, 30, 40 years old. I [just] have to feel good and look good and that’s important. And then that’s what I give out into the world and to my family.
Sarah Webb: 21:21 So when you moved to Switzerland, how long were you there and what part of Switzerland where you in?
Mary Well: 21:30 I lived in Zurich and as a result of the woman I told you who lost a hundred pounds. Then I wrote a book and the book was called Forever Slim. So that woman who lost a hundred pounds wrote me up in a magazine like I was this absolutely phenomenal person that came from USA and was telling all the Swiss how to lose weight and all kinds of people signed up. And that’s why I stayed. And then the book became a bestseller. Oh, it’s wonderful. And the program always worked, I even offered a guarantee. I said, “you lose weight, or you don’t have to pay, or I’ll give you your money back.” You pay and if you haven’t lost weight you can have the money back, and I meant it! And the Swiss, they’re like “OK if you say so, we believe you.”
Sarah Webb: 22:25 Well tell us a little bit about your book called the Swiss Chocolate Diet. You’ve been there, and you’ve written several books, but tell us what makes this book special.
Mary Well: 22:34 All right. So the Swiss, they love their chocolate. And when they first came to me, they were skeptical. Here’s this woman from America and she thinks she knows how to lose weight. And they were skeptical, plus I didn’t speak German at first, I had to learn it. But anyway, they would say, “well do we have to give up our chocolate?” And one day I said, “I think you need to eat chocolate, every day, so that you won’t be deprived.” And they said, “well, how much chocolate can we eat?” And I said, “well, we’ll make a deal. You eat the handfuls that I’m talking about vegetables and fruits and carbs and protein and all the good stuff. You eat what I say about that and you eat enough, not less, and then you have your chocolate every single day.” And Christa, the one who lost a hundred pounds, she had her bowl of chocolate pudding every night before she went to bed. It was like a reward. That’s all. It’s a symbol that you don’t have to starve and that you can have some pleasure. That’s really important.
Sarah Webb: 23:55 Well, how can our listeners connect with you and learn more about your challenges and webinars? I know you have lots of resources to help people.
Mary Well: 24:02 Yes. Well I have the book, The Swiss Chocolate Diet, and then marywell.com is my website. It’s really easy. M, a R, y w e l l.com. All one word. And you can find out everything about me and I can answer questions. Anything you want to know because I still have the passion about it. I think you could tell!
Sarah Webb: 24:33 Yes, and for our listeners, I’ll put that link to Mary’s website in our show notes so you can find out more about her. Mary, thank you so much for joining us. It was so amazing to hear your story and learn, it’s not all about food. It’s also about the mindset and how comfortable you are with yourself. Thank you for sharing your passions with us.
Mary Well: 24:54 Thank you for listening and for realizing that that was exactly what I was saying. Thanks a lot.
Sarah Webb: 25:01 That’s a wrap for Plaid Radio.