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Success Stories

Sandra Gudat-Benke

Ditching perfectionist standards helped Sandra shape up to run marathons and lose 70 pounds!

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Sandra Gudat-Benke
Home: Denver, CO
Age: 43
Height: 5’6”
Beginning weight: 225 lbs
Goal weight: 155 lbs
Current weight: 154 lbs
Background: President/CEO of a 25-person custom-marketing agency; married with three children, age 11 and twins, age 5

When she hit 225 pounds, Sandra Gudat-Benke stopped getting on the scale. Working with fitness pro Carla Sanchez has helped Sandra reach her weight-loss goal and stay on track for the past 11 years.

Shaky Start

Growing up in San Antonio, TX, Sandra came to appreciate good Mexican food. But by high school, she’d also learned to live on apples for days in order to meet the weight requirement of her school’s dance team.

Succumbing to the “all or nothing” diet philosophy resulted in steady weight gain through her 20s. When not dieting, Sandra was skipping breakfast, snacking through the workday and eating nachos for dinner with her husband. “I was starving all the time,” she says. At age 31, Sandra joined Weight Watchers with coworkers and began working with pro fitness athlete and fellow Denver resident Carla Sanchez. “I knew I needed to set myself up to succeed. My body fat was around 54 percent,” says Sandra. “Here I was, 225 pounds or more – too scared to step on the scale – and Carla made me feel like an athlete.”

Difficult Moments

Sandra had lost 35 pounds when she found out she was pregnant. She gave birth to her daughter, Marissa, at 26 weeks gestation, and was warned her baby might not make it, or be blind or have cerebral palsy if she did. “Marissa was one pound, 10 ounces at birth,” says Sandra. “She worked so hard to survive…had such an amazing will to live.” Months later, once a healthy Marissa came home from the hospital, Sandra rejoined Weight Watchers and got back to regular workouts. “Marissa inspired me. And Carla helped me be accountable. She was always in my corner, cheering me along,” says Sandra.

Sandra’s inner businesswoman appreciated having a plan. “The weekly accountability and group atmosphere of Weight Watchers meetings helped. I became more aware of what I was eating and learned what a portion size should be.”

Staying Motivated

Initially, her sister’s wedding provided strong motivation for Sandra to stay “on plan” with her diet and exercise. She bought her bridesmaid’s dress early, in a size 12 – way too small, Sandra says – and looked at it regularly, trying it on each month. On the wedding day, Sandra wore the dress and stunned family members with her transformation. Not counting the 45-pound “pregnancy gain” from when she had her twins Amanda and Alec five years ago, Sandra has kept the weight off for over a decade.

“Changing my perception of myself – valuing the athlete in myself – is one of the biggest things that came out of working with Carla,” says Sandra. “When she suggested I start running, I thought she was crazy.” In time, though, Sandra went from running 10K races to half-marathons and marathons. Approaching 40, Sandra ran the Dallas White Rock Marathon, followed by the New York City Marathon.

“I have to have a challenge,” she says. Knee problems now force Sandra to walk, but she hasn’t slowed down. In 2007, she did the two-day Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (her mom was diagnosed a year ago) and trekked 39.3 miles. Following a well-structured plan and exercising regularly keep Sandra on a path she’s not likely to veer from.

Sandra’s Workout

Sunday: AM:Walk 60 minutes at 5-10% incline
Monday: AM: 60 minutes cross training (elliptical, stair climber, rowing, bike), PM: 60 minutes weight training (arms, back, abs and legs)
Tuesday: AM: 40-50 minutes brisk walking at 5% incline
Wednesday: AM: 40-50 minutes speed-walking intervals, PM: 60 minutes weight training (arms, chest, abs and legs)
Thursday: AM: 60 minutes cross- training (elliptical, stair climber, bike, rowing)
Friday: Rest
Saturday: AM: Walk 90-120 minutes at 5% incline, PM: 60 minutes Pilates

Sandra wears a weighted vest on all of her walks.

A Typical Day’s Meals

Breakfast: Egg-white “pancake” (1 cup egg whites, 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal), 1⁄2 banana or 1/2 cup pineapple on top, pan-fried until golden; coffee with skim milk
Snack: Choice of 1/2 banana, red or yellow bell pepper, carrots or grape tomatoes

Lunch: Spaghetti squash with marinara sauce and Boca Meatless Italian Sausage (soy), broccoli rabe, garden vegetable soup with barley and kidney beans; OR field greens salad with shrimp or chicken breast, tomato and carrots; OR chicken breast-vegetable stir-fry, cucumbers

Snack: Choice of edamame, orange, pear or mango

Dinner: 3 oz sirloin, small sweet potato, grilled asparagus, small salad; OR Pacific halibut or sole with brown rice and carrots; OR whole-wheat pasta with marinara sauce and lean meatballs; OR chicken Dijon with couscous and bell pepper

Snack: Choice of light popcorn or 1/4 cup walnuts or pecans

See also: Marcie Calvert’s weight loss story.