Mary Tomac’s Fitness Journey: Finding THE MAX and Finding Herself

There are few things in life that are more daunting than taking that first step toward losing weight and improving your health. We harness inspiration for all different walks of life, and it’s never a sprint to the finish line.

The opportunity for change is always present, we just need to realize that it’s never too late to start.  For Mary Tomac, the why was apparent, but the what, where, and how were seemingly impossible to answer.

It took time, but THE MAX Challenge filled in the blanks.

Nearly two-and-a-half years ago, Tomac was balancing working full-time, raising two young kids, and finishing up grad school. Not only was she overweight, but she struggled with postpartum anxiety as well.

Aside from her children, she was caring for her sick father, thus leaving little time to worry about her own health. Tomac’s daily routine was time consuming, so it was difficult for her to keep track of the food she consumed.

“I was at my heaviest weight, in general, the least healthy I had been both mentally and physically,” Tomac said. “I knew I needed to do something, but I didn’t know what.”

She had struggled with weight loss for most of her life, but this time, she noticed a downward spiral that could only end with a hard crash at the bottom.

During her few moments of downtime, Tomac scrolled through Facebook. Advertisements flooded her feed as usual, but a reoccurring one began to stand out. It was for THE MAX Challenge.

Tomac tried the big box gyms and other programs that were supposed to do the trick, but all they did was convince her that she needed to do this on her own. She was feeling as if she was running out of options, but at a street fair with her husband, she stumbled upon a booth for THE MAX Challenge of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

There, she spoke with owners Debra and Gary Mirabella, who invited her to attend a free trial class. Tomac wrote it off at first, thinking that it was a lot for someone who hadn’t worked out in over decade, but by Sunday night, she was committed to trying to make it work.

Tomac knew that this method was different than what she tried in the past, and realized that with THE MAX, she wouldn’t have to go through this transition on her own.

With the support of her family and with the holidays right around corner, she walked through the Bay Ridge doors, ready to gain her happiness back. It didn’t take long for Tomac to realize that this was one of the best decisions she had ever made.

“I was hooked I would say by the second week,” Tomac said. “I knew that it was going to be unlike what I’ve done in the past.”

The negative self-talk poured in daily, but Tomac was drawn to the sense of community and the encouragement she received during each class.

As for the nutrition piece, she discovered that sticking to the plan went hand-in-hand with how productive her workouts were. When she wasn’t compliant, she lacked energy and the motivation to complete the workouts to the best of her ability.

After staying compliant for nearly five weeks and overcoming her fear of almond milk, Tomac finally felt like this was something she could handle. She began to understand how the exercise, nutrition, and motivation worked together to promote a new, healthier lifestyle.

“I know this sounds insane to say, at the age of 36 I should have known this, but understanding how diet and exercising worked together to make you a healthy person was groundbreaking to me,” said Tomac. “It changed my relationship with food entirely; it was no longer something I earned or had to sacrifice – food was fuel to help me live and feel amazing.”

Tomac didn’t join THE MAX for the scale or with a number in mind; she was only looking to rediscover that happier person she once was. Every day presented a new opportunity to improve, and Tomac knew that she was headed in the right direction for one of the first times in her life.

“I just kept going because I felt great. I felt more energetic, more challenged, and had more friends,” Tomac said. “It became such an anchor in my day that I still can’t imagine life without it.”

Fast forwarding to present day, Tomac has now completed close to ten 10-Week Challenges and lost over 100 lbs. Her goal for her first few challenges was to truly prioritize the time for herself and balance her emotions, but now it’s all routine.

“Now my mindset is totally different,” Tomac said. “I don’t ask for permission to take time for myself. It’s part of who I am and where I am in my life now.”

When people lose weight, especially a significant amount, it’s common to want to show it off to the world; however, Tomac was different.

It was for the reasons beyond the scale that she took the most pride in. There was an overwhelming fear that one day the weight would come back, so she was hesitant to share exact numbers.

Even when she won a challenge, Mary didn’t want the big check or the recognition.

“Something about it was anxiety-inducing to me, because I made such amazing friendships at THE MAX from people from all different walks of life,” Tomac said. “Everyone works hard, so it feels weird to be singled out. I think we all kill it.”

Tomac has become a more active parent who travels more and participates in activities that she never thought would be possible.

She looks back at old pictures from Disney World, remembering the exhaustion she felt from the heat and how she kept needing to sit down along the way. Since starting with THE MAX, Tomac has been able to hike Torrey Pines in San Diego and go on four-hour hiking tours with her husband.

“Once I figured out how to do pushups, how to do crunches, and how to become this physical person, I loved it,” Tomac said. “I really did fall in love with lifting weights and lifting heavy weights. I loved the strength these workouts gave me.”

Tomac’s list of new accomplishments grew rapidly.

With other members from THE MAX Challenge of Bay Ridge, she participated in her first Rugged Maniac. She was blown away by how she was able to take this skillset elsewhere, and it left her eager to find out what else she was capable of.

Since then, Tomac has joined a rock-climbing gym and has participated in obstacle course challenges like the Spartan Race. Her husband, a runner, was even able to convince her to train for the New York City Half Marathon in March.

Tomac went from a person who feared failure to doing activities that she used to shy away from. The negative self-talk began to diminish as her accomplishments increased.

“THE MAX, for me, was the first place where I talked back to that voice in my head. Yes, I’m afraid of failing, but I’m going to do it anyway,” Tomac said. “I’m going to do this afraid; I’m going to start afraid, I’m going to stay afraid, and I’m going to stick it out.”

THE MAX Challenge added structure to Tomac’s life. Sure, she had moments of doubt, but she knew that it would only be worth it if she gave her best effort. She was never pressured to go beyond her capabilities, but now, she feels like she is capable of anything.

THE MAX Challenge met Tomac at a point of distress and did not force her into the unknown. Now, she gives back to the Bay Ridge center as a nutrition coach.

Midway through her first challenge, she realized how important the nutrition aspect was, so she dove into the philosophy behind it. She researched the different foods that were better if removed from her diet, along with those that served as fuel. The kitchen is now a place for adventure.

“If this was going to be the rest of my life, I still needed to have that level of love and excitement about food and still be able to eat food that made me feel good,” Tomac said. “I do think it’s a piece that people don’t put together, and I would like to share that.”

Tomac meets one-on-one with Bay Ridge members and helps create a wholesome meal plan for them. As a self-described “Trader Joe’s junkie,” she goes as far as taking members on shopping trips to teach them how to turn this from a diet to a lifestyle.

We all love food, and Tomac works to show others that it isn’t a problem. She has gone from someone who was intimidated by THE MAX nutrition plan to someone who helps others digest it.

Tomac’s transformation has been nothing short of astonishing. Losing over 100 lbs is one thing, but becoming a better mother, a better wife, and a better all-around motivator is what she is most proud of it.

When asked to give advice to the version of herself that was so hesitant to join THE MAX Challenge, Tomac said, “Allow yourself to become this better person. It’s possible really. All these negative thoughts are not true, they’re just things that you tell yourself. You can do whatever it is you really want to do with enough patience and enough time and enough support.”

As she continues with THE MAX, Tomac wants this lifestyle to be the only one she ever knows. She wants to keep challenging herself physically to build upon this newfound strength and active lifestyle.

Tomac truly believes that anyone, no matter their age, can get started with THE MAX and even exceed her accomplishments. Now, at 38, she is not only the lightest she has ever been, but the happiest.

“My husband says it best actually – he says, ‘I don’t think you’ve become a new person, you just remembered who you were,” Tomac said. “I’m so much closer to the woman I was in my earlier 20’s when we first met.”

Mary knows who she is and loves who she is again, thanks to THE MAX Challenge.


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