Midlife Influencers: Charlene Bazarian, Founder of FBJFit
Midlife Influencers: Charlene Bazarian, Founder of FBJFit
by Holly Osterman
Charlene Bazarian found herself “stuck” in midlife. After graduating from law school, getting married, and having kids, she just couldn’t seem to lose the weight that had crept on over time. By the time she hit 208 pounds, she knew she had to make a change.
And she did.
Committed to a new lifestyle, Charlene lost nearly one hundred pounds and went from a size 22 to a size 2. But that was just the start. As if she wasn’t busy enough, Charlene launched a website, FBJFit.com, where she shares inspirational fitness and weight loss advice. Her incredible journey has also been featured in Good Housekeeping, Oxygen, Boston Magazine, Fitfluential, and even on local cable.
We recently had an opportunity to chat with Charlene about her mission, her lifestyle and that “aha moment” that changed everything.
Charlene, your story has inspired so many women, but the focus seems to be on how you lost weight and got fit. We’ve see the before and after photos and the change is amazing. How would you describe Charlene Bazarian before your transformation?
I have given this a lot of thought, as I frequently look at my “before” pictures and I seem almost unrecognizable to myself. Somehow I had let myself turn into a spectator. I would watch TV, watch a movie, sporting event or play, read a book or magazine, etc. It never felt like I did anything myself. I think I balanced denial over how out of hand I had let things get with a lot of feeling sorry for myself, that nothing seemed to work, or how unfair it all seemed. Sadly, self-pity was not a high calorie burning activity.
It took several years of trying all kinds of things to find what worked for me to get fit and make healthy choices So gone are my smidge of lettuce days, as well as my wasting any energy on what’s fair. It matters not what others do in terms of calories in and what they do or don’t do for exercise, I have to make and own the choices that work for me.
So many women try so many times to find the motivation you did. Did it happen gradually or was there a specific moment that changed your life?
When I was busy living my life and not paying attention, sneaky pounds were creeping on. I remember wanting to lose weight and feeling very depressed about it, I remember an ex-boyfriend telling me I’d never be thin, and how much I suddenly hated going clothes shopping.
I had tried, unsuccessfully, many different things to lose weight, but it wasn’t until what I call my spa robe “aha moment” that it sparked the “and this time I mean it” determination to get fit. I went to the spa for a day of beauty and when I went to change into my one size fits all, I was mortified when it didn’t fit me. I was very embarrassed to have to go to the woman at the desk, who in my mind appeared very waif-like, and ask if they had a larger robe. The moment she just stared at me, seemed like a life time.
I felt like I had tried everything from Atkins to Weight Watchers and nothing seemed to work and I just felt sorry for myself…until that moment, when like Scarlet O’Hara, I raised my fist up in my mind and said, “If I have to beg, borrow, cheat steal, lie or kill, I never want to feel like this again.” The unsympathetic waif spa receptionist, will never know how she changed my life, and hopefully the lives of my readers as well.
Many of us make excuses not to get in shape. We’re too busy. We’re being pulled in too many directions. Or we just don’t have the time. How did you finally make fitness a priority?
One of my favorite things to say when people tell me that they’re too busy to workout is, “You’re no busier than a fit person. We’re all busy.” My advice is to make your workouts like brushing your teeth: something you just do without question.
Don’t feel selfish that you’re making the time to work out for yourself. The people who love and care for you want you to be around for a long time, and much like the flight attendant who tells you to put your oxygen mask on first before tending to anyone else, so it’s the case with your fitness time. I tell myself that working out will give me the strength to handle all the rest that life throws at me.
I often get in at least one workout in the morning and call it my “insurance workout” so that way, no matter what happens, I’ve snuck in at least some fitness. I also try to multitask in some workout time. I used to workout which was right next door to where my boys took karate, or I’d walk the track or jog stadium steps while they were at soccer practice.
As much as I love to work out, I still put it on my daily “to do” list, just to always be mindful that “tomorrow” doesn’t turn into never.
You’re an attorney, a part-time disc jockey and a fitness blogger. Oh, and by the way, you’re a mom, too. How do you juggle so many roles and still stay in such great shape?
I like to think that my workouts help create the energy I’ll need to handle so many roles. I try to create a routine that works with my hectic lifestyle. My first workout will typically be first thing in the morning before the world has a chance to try to steal my day. I call it my “coffee before my coffee” as I always feel better after I work out.
I squeeze fitness into the rest of my day by trying to walk more. I’ll use my Fitbit to try to get in 10,000 steps a day. I have a rule that unless it’s a family movie or play off sporting event, that I have to be on a piece of cardio equipment when I watch TV so I DVR my favorite programs, and sometimes instead of meeting a friend for coffee or a cocktail, I’ll suggest maybe we go for a walk to get a chance to talk and burn some calories.
I often say that I juggle like a circus clown, but I prioritize and plan for things. I check menus online before I go to a restaurant, and I make sure that I have healthy meal choices and snacks. It’s really a matter of prioritizing as you make time for what’s important to you, and your health should be at the top of that list!
What would you tell the woman who’s tried over and over to get fit and is just ready to settle for being overweight?
I would say that personally it took me a hundred first steps before it all finally clicked. I felt like I tried everything from Atkins to Weight Watchers and everything in between. There’s a temptation to think something is wrong with you, or that nothing will work and get discouraged. If you’ve worked really hard to lose two pounds in a week, and then have that salty, starchy dinner on the weekend, and BAM four pounds show up on the scale, it’s no wonder people get discouraged and give up.
There’s a mindset of “everything in moderation” or “don’t deprive yourself” and you really need to change the way you think about and relate to food. To handle the deprivation dilemma, I want you to picture the rabid ex-smoker. You know the type, they used to smoke, and really enjoyed it, but when they finally quit, they turned into those people who wouldn’t let people smoke in their homes, told others how much their clothes smelled, and would wave their hand furiously in front their face if others were smoking within a fifty-foot radius of them. Now, do you think the ex-smoker feels deprived? I’m sure they’re proud of themselves as quitting smoking is a really hard thing to do.
When you feel that you’re depriving yourself on not having every piece of cake that passes your way at an office party, try to ask what it is you really think you’re missing out on. While it isn’t easy, I’m sure it was hell for the smoker trying to quit too, give yourself a chance to get on the other side of the mountain so to speak. Unlike the smoker who knows better than to have “just one,” I promise there will still be cake in your future.
You’ve got a website, a blog and a Facebook page with almost 6,000 followers. What’s next for FBJFit?
It is truly a humbling experience when I get a message from someone that my story or something I’ve written resonated with them and helped spark their own fitness and healthy eating journey. What started out as a few high school girl friends messaging me on Facebook asking me how I had lost weight, and I would them advice on what worked for me, has turned into my labor of love.
I would love to be able to write more on a full time basis. Recently, I gave a talk at a club luncheon and also hosted a workshop type event with fashion stylist Susan Kanoff, The Midlife Fashionista, and we each gave a talk and tips on losing weight and looking great. I enjoyed this tremendously, as it was great to be able to see people nodding along with something I said, or being right there to answer their questions in person.