Baldwin resident shares incredible weight-loss story with the world
Maria Jarosh relished every moment: the hair, makeup and even strutting that tiny, two-piece bright yellow bikini in front of the camera on the Long Island beach.
“This is what I've worked hard for. I'm going to live it up,” she said. “I truly now know how Cinderella felt.”
Trading her favorite lunch: a double order of french fries, cheeseburger and two cookies every day for a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread, Jarosh, 22, of Baldwin Borough, shed more than 100 pounds in less than a year. Five years later, she has kept the weight off and is sharing her secrets with the world about how she beat a battle with obesity.
The 5-foot-9 blonde, who topped off at 240 pounds at 14 years old, wearing a size 28, now weighs 135 pounds. She is a size 6.
Jarosh appears on the cover of the Aug. 19 People Magazine, donning a bikini and high heels and shares her story about losing weight with no tricks or gimmicks.
“Outside of her incredible transformation, Maria's story is one we felt would resonate with so many of our readers,” said Michelle Tan, senior editor for People, via email. “Maria struggled with obesity throughout her childhood and teen years, and we hope that her weight-loss success will inspire and motivate others who have had similar experiences.”
Jarosh already is responding to the national attention by trying to help others. She started a blog, Pretty Little Loser 22, http:// prettylittleloser22.wordpress.com, where she will share information about her journey and tips to get and stay healthy.
‘I was just chunky'
As a fourth-grader at St. Elizabeth Elementary School in Baldwin, Jarosh said, she began to realize she wasn't as fit as her classmates.
She enjoyed food: the nightly, friendly helpings of Cocoa Krispies cereal and as many as three servings of those scrumptious mashed potatoes that contained a stick of butter.
“I was always the bigger girl. I kind of just knew that,” Jarosh said. “It was portions.”
Because of her weight, Jarosh couldn't keep up with the other students at school.
“I would notice the looks as I was the only one walking to finish the mile run,” Jarosh said. “All the other girls were going up to the locker room to change, and there I was having to finish it. I think I just laughed it off and said, you know, ‘Maria can't finish the mile run. Nothing else is new,' but really it hurt.”
On trips to the mall, Jarosh often was left holding the clothes for her friends because she couldn't fit into the outfits at the stores where they were shopping.
Then came high school.
Everyone seemed to join a sports team: lacrosse or basketball, and Jarosh didn't fit in with any of her old friends.
Jarosh couldn't even fit into the desks and had to get to class early to squeeze into the seats.
“I kind of just got pushed to the side,” she said. “I really just felt completely isolated and alone. I would come home every day, grab the chips and dip, listen to Taylor Swift and pretty much cry.”
As a freshman at Seton-La Salle High School in Mt. Lebanon, Jarosh spent many evenings talking about her self-esteem issues with mother, Lisa.
“It was a very difficult time because as a mom, you want to fix everything and make it better and I couldn't,” Lisa Jarosh, 56, said, wiping a tear from her eyes.
To Jarosh, her mother was her only friend, she said.
“There were times where me and my mom had to talk about who I would talk to in the mornings and where I would go. It was hard to see that group of friends that I didn't talk to anymore,” she said.
All of this centered on her weight. She lacked self-confidence.
“I didn't know how to talk to them,” she said.
‘I can still eat pizza'
One night, Jarosh returned home to find a Weight Watchers book on the table.
Lisa Jarosh had joined in hopes of losing weight herself.
As her daughter flipped through the books, she realized this was something she could do.
“I'm like, I can still go out. I can still eat pizza,” Jarosh said. “I said, ‘Mom, maybe I should try this.'”
The two signed up for Saturday morning classes at Weight Watchers in South Park Shops.
That first step on the scale was hard, but almost a relief. She was starting a new chapter, Jarosh said.
Maria and Lisa Jarosh made losing weight fun.
They had girls' shopping trips to find healthy foods and shared recipes.
For every 10 pounds Maria Jarosh lost, the two would go shopping.
“Instead of rewarding a success with food, we would reward it with clothes or a day out at the mall,” Maria Jarosh said. “I never wanted to go back to how unhappy I was.”
Tracking and planning was important, as were the cheat days.
“Don't deprive yourself. It will backfire,” she said.
“The success was losing the weight,” said Lisa Jarosh, who lost 30 pounds. “We would go, and we would just be screaming as we stepped on the scale.”
‘Who are you?'
Her family stuck by her through it all. For Maria Jarosh, that was important.
Her best memories of losing weight were her brothers' reactions.
Coming off down the escalators in Idaho, where they attended college, her brother Brian Iannacchione, screamed out to her.
“He was like, ‘Oh my gosh, who are you?' It was just the coolest thing. I remember running up and hugging him,” she said. “They are just so supportive of me, and they were so excited for me.”
While a support system is important, Jarosh said, it can be done alone.
“A lot of people say to me, ‘Well, I don't have a good support system. What should I do? Well, you honestly have to be selfish,” Jarosh said. “You can't think about hurting someone's feelings if you say, ‘No,' to having a piece of cake. Do what's best for you, and they will be happy for you in the end, and if they're not, they're not. You're a better person. You've done something incredible.”
Losing all of that weight was great. But Jarosh still had many emotional scares that needed to be healed.
This February, she started attending counseling to talk about her journey.
“It's an emotional process,” she said. “I got myself physically healthy, but I needed to get myself emotionally healthy, as well.”
As Lisa Jarosh leafed through an issue of People Magazine in February, where others shared their weight-loss stories, she said, she thought about her daughter's journey.
She wrote a couple of paragraphs and mailed it in. To her surprise, she got a response. They wanted to hear from her daughter.
So she sat down and wrote about her journey.
“It was real. It was emotional. It was raw,” she said.
Her story was selected, and she was flown to New York for a photo shoot on a Long Island beach.
The photographers referred to her as their “Uptown Girl” of the day.
Jarosh wasn't afraid to put on the bikini and strut it for the camera.
“I want my picture taken all of the time now,” she said. “I look at the pictures, and I can see the success and accomplishment that I've achieved.”
Jarosh, who is plans to graduate from California University of Pennsylvania with a degree in social work this December, said she wants to help other teens with their weight loss journeys. She said she hopes to go into private practice to help youths with their struggles.
Last week, Jarosh learned her photo would grace the cover of People Magazine. Oh, then there was that call that “Good Morning America” was coming to her home that day to tape a segment.
“I've never seen my parents move so fast to clean the house,” Jarosh said, laughing.
Appearing on the cover of People and on “Good Morning America” was a “dream come true” for Jarosh, who said she hopes sharing her story with others will help them.
“It's God's timing. It was an ending to a chapter that needed told,” she said.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.