Sue Zalokar is someone who I have had the good fortune to know now for several years and who I consider a great friend. She is a Portland area musician and one of the most talented women I know! Over the past couple of years, she has had an amazing physical transformation. I recently had a chance to sit down with her and discuss her transformation and hear about how it is changing her life. For more information on Sue and her music, check out her Facebook and ReverbNation pages.
JohnnyFit (JF): You recently moved to Portland to broaden your musical audience. You have moved to the top of ReverbNation’s ranking of area folk musicians and have lost over 50 pounds throughout all of this. Tell me a little about these events, your motivations, and what you’ve started to do differently or added into your lifestyle that allowed you to lose over 50 lbs.
Sue Zalokar (SZ): I have been saying “I need to lose 30 pounds and quit smoking” for half of my adult life. A couple of years ago, a good friend looked me in the eye and she said, “Do you think you will ever do that?” It was such a simple question, but it really brought me to task. Would I ever do it?
JF: Did you dive right into the process or start slowly?
SZ: I had begun to practice yoga regularly in the winter of 2008 after attending a Bikram yoga class. I was moved when I saw a photo of an advanced yoga pose in which a woman was supporting the weight of her entire body, which was flared out behind her on one arm or hand. I thought to myself, she’s a bad ass. I want to be able to do that.
At the time, I was living in a very isolated and beautiful spot in the Hoh River Valley (the Hoh Valley is a Rainforest) in Washington State. There weren’t many options for me in terms of training at a gym, so I began to create a little home exercise regimen. It included aerobics and yoga DVDs and lots of walking, either in the nature that surrounded me, or on really rainy days, I would walk on the elliptical machine that I had purchased.
I also began to introduce meat into my diet at about this time. I had previously been a vegetarian for 12 years and a vegan for a year before that. I found that I had become a pretty lazy vegetarian though, eating too much of a good thing…and sometimes eating straight junk.
JF: It’s interesting to note that there’s a big difference between “healthy” and vegetarian. A lot of junk food can easily fit into the vegetarian category.
SZ: When I began to introduce meat into my diet again, I began to notice how small amounts of meat were affecting my body in powerful ways. I was full fast and my body thanked me for the mega doses of protein by beginning to tighten up even more. These are my impressions anyway. It really was a combination of examining my diet and working out, really working out, that produced the most results. Now, I eat small, reasonable meals throughout the day. I try to eat as little processed food as possible, high protein, and lots of fresh fruits and veggies.
JF: Your digestive system takes longer to break down protein. I’ve been on a high protein nutrition plan for years and highly recommend it. Of course, self-control plays a large part in a person’s eating habits as well.
Was there some kind of method or process you went through transitioning into this new way of eating?
SZ: I was planning a trip to Italy with my family and I had set a weight loss goal of 50 pounds. I was just beginning to see some results, when I took a fall loading the truck to go to a gig in February of 2010. I broke my foot. For a few weeks, there was no weight bearing, and then there were months of crutches and recovery. There was virtually no working out. I was crushed. I didn’t lose sight of my goals though. I simplified my diet to the bare minimum and turned to writing and music as I was pinned to the couch for much of that time.
JF: How long did it take until you could start fitting workouts back into your routine?
SZ: I began my workout routine as soon as I was able. I lost the first 30 pounds between June and September of 2010, when I left for the family Italy trip. I hadn’t met the original goal of 50 pounds…but I still felt really good, considering the hang up of the broken-bone recovery.
I was ecstatic when I returned from two weeks in Italy (the birth place of eating and drinking a lot) that not only had I maintained my weight loss, but also I had lost one pound on the trip!
JF: Just being an active person while being conscious of the foods you eat can do wonders for anyone suffering from lethargy and an American diet. How has your physical activity increased since then?
SZ: When I made the move to Portland in March of this year, I immediately began to seek out fitness opportunities. I have been to many yoga classes at various studios around town, and I joined a gym just a few blocks from my apartment. I work out now about five days a week, sometimes more.
I also have taken to roller skating and salsa dance classes.
My days are pretty repetitive right now: wake, write, play music, workout, play, write, play music, sleep, and repeat. I like it that way.
JF: You’re doing what you love Sue! I personally believe that reaching an optimal level of fitness is a key to unlocking your full potential in life and discovering your “true self”. Do you have any comments or insights as to how your weight loss has affected your attitude, point of view, and even your music?
SZ: At first, I was all about the weight loss as a key to gaining some confidence about myself. Performing is a different beast than playing music. Playing music is just pure joy whether you’re playing the Ave Maria or Metallica’s Sandman. Performing, though; it is part theater. And honestly, I felt a pressure, perhaps placed on me by myself, but I think also placed on me from outside forces like the media and social definitions. The public wants their rock stars hot…even if they are folk singers. So, I started to get this idea in my head about becoming fit.
“The public wants their rock stars hot…even if they are folk singers.”
Over the course of the last year, as my body has strengthened, I have realized that there are other benefits to my workout regime that had never even crossed my mind, most specifically, the building of muscle strength in my arms and hands.
Taking off ‘the weight’ has affected my general attitude in that I do feel more confident about myself. I am also driven now to exercise. When I don’t, my body feels out of sync.
JF: Getting into shape always seems to begin with a desire to look better. Of course, when you make it part of your lifestyle, it’s also every bit about the way you feel inside as well!
I’ve seen a lot of people have fluctuations with their weight over time. Going forward, what are your plans for maintaining a healthy lifestyle? Also, losing 50 pounds is a tremendous accomplishment. What’s next for Sue Zalokar in both fitness and profession?
SZ: Yeah, the ‘keeping it off’ part is a bit daunting. It may sound cliche, but it’s true: weight loss, weight maintenance, and general good health and fitness isn’t about a diet, it is a lifestyle. I have made a commitment to my health and it is a lifelong relationship at this point.
In terms of fitness, I have a goal to do some pretty major strength training, and a year from now I would like to explore kick boxing. Not a kickboxing aerobics class. My goal is to be training and sparring in the ring within a year. I also have started salsa dance classes. I’d like to take that to a performance and/or competition level. I also am turning away from the idea of weight loss a bit, though I still have a few pounds to drop, and focusing on building muscle. I have begun a strength training regimen that includes yoga, Pilates, weight lifting, kettlebells, and a class called ‘Will Power and Grace’. It is a fusion of ballet and weightlifting.
JF: I love the sound of all that variety! Variety is essential in maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle. You have to continually push outside of your boundaries, explore, learn, and grow!
SZ: This month, it will be one year since I seriously began pursuing the health and fitness of my body, and thereby my mind and spirit. I have lost a total of 57 pounds this year.
JF: That’s amazing Sue! You really should be proud of yourself. When I heard you tell your story, I knew that I couldn’t wait to put this on JohnnyFit. I know that there are people all over the place that want to make changes in their lives. These are people who want to unleash a better version of themselves and pursue their passions! I have a feeling that people will relate to your story and find motivation from it.
I don’t think that it’s any coincidence that your music career is really starting to take off at the same time that you are reaching new levels of physical fitness! What’s going on with your music in the short term?
SZ: Musically, I am preparing to launch my musician’s website www.suezalokar.com within the month. I am working to learn the intricacies of the vibrant art and music scene in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, using Portland, Oregon as my home base. I am working on the development of my first album. My hope is that it will be ready for release in spring 2012.
JF: I will be one of the first to buy Sue’s album when it’s finished! Stay tuned for the launch of her website at www.suezalokar.com. Find her on Facebook and check out her amazing page on ReverbNation where you can find music clips, videos, and information on upcoming shows! Thank you so much Sue!