Mark Pemberton: From Hopeless To Hopeful

Like for many of us, Mark’s weight started creeping up like a curse, resistant to being reversed. Time and time again, he tried to drop the extra 120 pounds of weight that accumulated over the years. Just like a heavy blanket, the extra weight kept him buried from seeing the light and potential in himself.  

“It used to be like groundhog day”. 

He tried a workout regime, waking up at 5am, then understandably lost motivation to miss out on precious sleep. 

He dabbled in diets including low-carb, Keto, and Atkins. But his love for carbs, and lack of energy when he avoided them, kept the belly fat boomeranging. 

He felt like he was on a never-ending cycle, starting 15 years ago, failing at every tiresome attempt. Each try took a deeper dig into his self confidence until…

An Alarming Medical Motivator

At the young age of 38, Mark’s blood pressure and weight were reaching alarming levels. He visited his doctor and was informed his blood pressure reached 190/110 mmHg. According to the American Heart Association, this level is considered a hypertensive crisis! The stage of blood pressure that requires medical attention. 

  • Normal: <120/80 mm Hg

  • Elevated: 120-129 / <80 mm Hg

  • High blood pressure (hypertension stage 1): 130-139 / or 80-89 mm Hg 

  • High blood pressure (hypertension stage 2): >140 / or >90 mm Hg

  • Hypertensive crisis (consult your doctor immediately): >180 / or >120 mm Hg 

This was a major wake-up call. Mark wanted to be around for his wife and four kids. He knew if he didn’t do something, he would have to resort to surgery. 

The Turning Point - Major Surgery

In May of 2019, Mark and his doctor decided it was time for a bariatric surgery. This surgery helps people lose weight by making changes to the digestive system. Although it sounds like an ideal fix to simply get a surgery to force you to eat less, this major operation comes with dangers and complications. 

Some people who get bariatric surgery experience bleeding inflection, stomach leaking, diarrhea, blood clots. Some people who have bariatric surgery may not lose as much as they hoped, and some people even gain the weight back. Plus the cost can slash through your bank account at $15,000 – $25,000.  

Mark found himself in a room full of people just like him; desperate to get their health back and find themselves again. As he attended a group to learn more about the ins and outs of the surgery, it dawned on him… he would never be able to drink a cold beer or eat a plate full of pasta to his heart’s desire. 

Coming from an Italian family, “everything was about food. Food was love, food was sadness.” 

To Mark, food was life and carbs were in his blood. He had to give it one more try to regain his health on his own.

Getting Started: Personalized Persistence

It was a new day and Mark was fully committed. In the past, he had tried to do his extremely early morning exercise and carb-restricted diets. But this time he realized that he HAD to compromise if it was going to stick. He started to explore exercise that worked with his schedule and natural rhythm rather than against it. 

Mark wasn’t ready to step into a gym yet but he made a promise to himself to do something every day. 

In May 2019, he started off with a kickboxing video at home. He did 20 minutes per day — no excuses, no questions asked. If he didn’t work out at lunch, he would do it in the evening. No matter what. 

His continuous commitment started to show results. He lost about 12 pounds but then hit a plateau. This is when he was ready to face the intimidation of a gym and get lifting. 

In October 2019 he joined a gym. He could do the elliptical and knew some very basic weight training from online searches. Lifting next to what seemed like strength experts and  powerlifters, he felt like he was being watched and judged with his minimal weight knowledge. 

 He turned to the ol’ internet and searched for fitness apps with good reviews. He felt like  Fitbod found him. After downloading it for free, he loved the aspect of logging his workouts anywhere and with any equipment. 

He used Fitbod every day to help him understand how to properly use weights and how to avoid overtraining any specific muscle group. He felt motivated to keep going because of being instructed what to do. A low-effort, high-result kind of vibe. 

He was in his groove! But then an unexpected natural disaster hit: The Edenville Dam and Sanford Dam failed, leading to a major flash-flood. 

Mark’s gym was WIPED. 

If Natural Disaster Can’t Stop Him, Nothing Can!

In the past, Mark would have used this, or any excuse, to push him out of his progress to call it quits. Couch potato life and carb city were always calling to him. But the ease and adaptability of Fitbod kept him going! 

With a simple update from gym equipment to at-home dumbbells, a floor, and a chair, he created his own workout space. He was set up for success. 

Not even that, he also started training for organized runs. 


When Mark first started his exercise routine, he was trying to run early in the morning. After experiencing the agony of waking up — and slumped over fatigue after 30 seconds of running with an extra 120 pounds, he never imagined finding the motivation to run a race. 

As he was getting more in shape, he went from helpless to hopeful. He wanted to start running. He never thought he’d be able to run a 5K and did it! Then he thought he’d never do a 10K — nailed it. 

Then, the Saturday before this interview, Mark excitedly shared that he conquered a ½ marathon. 

Will a full marathon be next? Mark believes so because his goals are what have been keeping him on track. 

Nutrition: An Adaptable Intermittent Fasting Diet

In the past, Mark tried Atkins, Keto, and other low-carb diets but found that running was a great way to have his carbs and eat them too. He started to count calories but allowed himself a bit of flexibility on the weekends to enjoy some pizza dinners with his family. 

 After taking a long, hard look at his habits and which ones were killing his progress, he discovered that nighttime eating in front of the TV was the main culprit of his calorie overload. Realizing that if he stopped eating after dinner, he’d be much better off, he ended up naturally falling into an intermittent fasting diet intermittent fasting diet.


According to Health Expert, Harvard Health, intermittent fasting testing done on humans has suggested that it’s safe and effective. This counts for the healthy population and should not be done if a medical condition is present, or history of eating disorder. Always make sure to contact a physician before starting a new diet plan. 

The suggested benefits of intermittent fasting include helping with weight loss, lessening inflammation, and enhancing brain function. Some people don’t work well with this approach so always make sure to check in with how you feel. Plus it can vary according to your fitness program and goals:

Lifting Weights While Fasting: Should You Do It?

What To Eat After Fasted Cardio (5 Things To Know)

Consistency is Key: The Power of Habit

Mark discovered that consistency was the key to his success. He started off by committing to an easy and attainable workout goal. The catch was that he had to do something every day. 

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, confirms that Mark is on the right track with this way of thinking. 

James Clear recommends starting with an incredibly small habit. So easy, that you can’t say no. In Mark’s case, he dedicated to 20 minutes per day of activity, no matter what. James Clear explains that when most people struggle to build new habits, they say something like “I just need more motivation,” when what they really need to do is start by committing to just two minutes per day. 

Research shows that willpower is like a muscle. It gets fatigued as you use it throughout the day. So the best way to solve this problem is to do a new habit that’s easy enough that you don’t even need motivation to do it. 

Mark’s Advice for Starting Out: Progress Not Perfection

After a long journey of finding what works for him, Mark graciously offered his advice for anyone starting out: 

  • Set small, attainable goals on your way to the big goals.
    • Example: Lose 5 lbs, run for 1 minute, walk for one-half mile.
  • Progress not perfection.

According to Mayoclinic, trying to be perfect can get in the way of healthy changes you’re trying to make. Focusing on progress, instead of perfection can help make it easier and much more enjoyable to reach goals. It encourages a mindset of learning instead of failure, gives more reasons to celebrate, and is sustainable. 

Ready to get started?