$3 purchase leads to a lifestyle change

by | Jul 22, 2010 | News Articles

$3 purchase leads to a lifestyle change

Marilyn Vargas never realized that a $3 garage sale purchase could transform her life.

It was the summer of 2006 when Vargas, looking for a possible “deal” at a garage sale, discovered a Weight Watchers beginner’s packet among the treasures. Then 42 years old, overweight basically all of her life and weighing a hefty 256 pounds, Marilyn plunked down the cash and was on her way.

It took her three months to learn the WW points system, process how humans should have the mind-set of eating for fuel instead of for pleasure, and make the commitment to lose weight so that she could keep up with the soccer kids she was coaching in Pueblo West. Her life has never been the same.

Combining the change in her eating pattern with workouts at a women’s center, Marilyn had shed 100 pounds by June 2007. She began walking, then walking and running, then running. She completed the Y’s Corporate Cup 5K (3.1 miles) later that year after getting coaching from her son Felix, who was 14 at the time.

Since then, now 125 pounds lighter than her pre-garage sale days, Vargas enters road races, has run the Rock Canyon Half-Marathon in Pueblo twice and two marathons – the Denver Marathon in 2009 and the Colorado Marathon this past May, finishing both in 4 hours and 58 minutes. And she’s training to run another 26.2-miler in San Antonio in November.

How did she do it?

“I was overweight all my life and grew up on potatoes, beans and meat, with my vegetable being corn,” said the Lamar native, a licensed clinical social worker who is the director of admissions at Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo and has a private kids therapy practice. “With Weight Watchers, you can eat a certain number of points per day based on your weight. It’s been a whole learning thing. I found out that you don’t have to have a love affair with food, or what I call ‘foodgasm.’ “

She noted that the key for her was WHAT she ate, now how much, saying: “I ate more, but it was different.” She now journals everything she eats.

Marilyn also gives ample credit to what she calls the “Living Angels” in her life – her six adopted children (ages 9 to 22), co-workers, friends, her now-deceased dad for whom she dedicated her Colorado Marathon, and others who have given her encouragement along the way. To her, this human support system has been as important as the WW points system. Her faith figures into the equation, too.

The transformation of losing half of her body has affected her life in many different spheres. She had to learn to dress differently, replacing the baggy clothes with normal-fitting attire. She has found that people treat her with more respect, men opening doors for her and professionals valuing her opinions more. Most important, she now carries a totally positive attitude everywhere.

Four of her kids now run, too, and the five of them ran the Spirit Fest 5K in Pueblo a year ago, all placing in their respective age division. With her interest in kids, she now works on the Southern Colorado Runners’ new youth running initiative.

“Every day is a journey, every day is a challenge and I learn something new every day,” Vargas said of her new lifestyle. “I finally understand the importance of being healthy and what I have to do to be healthy.”


Kudos to Puebloans who completed the grueling Barr Trail Mountain Race (12+ miles) last weekend, especially to those who earned awards. Heading the list was Charlie Gray, 56, who was second in his division and the second overall masters runner with a time of 1 hour, 55 minutes and 8 seconds. Pueblo’s Carol Kinzy, 63, won her age division with a time of 3:03:41.

Others taking second places were Gray’s wife Marge (53, 2:39:41); Anna Marshall (Pueblo West, 18, 2:23:32; and Mike Schmidt (Pueblo West, 19, 1:54:48.).

Cheri Bashor, 56, of Pueblo West took second in her age group in the Leadville Silver Rush 50-Miler last weekend with a time of 11 hours and 53 minutes.

State Games

Another great Rocky Mountain States Games is drawing close, with competition in 34 events scheduled between July 30 and Aug. 1 at 23 different sites, mostly in Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy. The opening ceremonies are the evening of July 30 at the World Arena, where Olympic bobsled gold medalist Steve Holcomb will light the torch. Swimming events are July 23-25 at Cheyenne Mountain High School. Track and field events are July 31 and Aug. 1 at Lewis-Palmer High. The triathlon is July 31, again at Memorial Park but with different bike and run routes. The bike is still four loops but the big hills are history, while the run leg is two laps around the lake instead of the lap and reverse lap. The 5K run-walk event is at the same park near the Velodrome the next day. You can still register at www.coloradospringssports.org.


The Pueblo Child Advocacy Center will conduct its fifth annual Bicycle ride for Kids on Aug. 22 at the airport. Choose your out-and-back distance up to 38 miles round trip. Proceeds go to a great cause, to help abused youth. Get the information at www.pueblocac.com

Race Calendar

• Saturday – Shawn’s Shuffle (Prediction Series run), 5M, 6 p.m., 1 Glenroyal Court, shawn.kayaker@yahoo.com.
• Aug. 7 – Fit ‘n Fun Run, 5K, 8 a.m., Florence, 719-371-1148.
• Aug. 22 – Bicycle Ride for Kids, up to 38M, 8 a.m., Pueblo Memorial Airport, pueblocac.com.
• Aug. 28 – Danapalooza, 5K, 9 a.m., Ecology Park in Canon City, danapolooza.com/cm3/.
• Sept. 18 – Run 4 Trails, 4M, 8 a.m., Pueblo West High School, kimarline@comcast.net.
• Sept. 25 – Autumn River Run, 5K/5M, 8 a.m., Canon City, ccrec.org.
• Sept. 26 – Hot to Trot, 5K, 8 a.m., Union Avenue, 251-3189.

Send comments and fitness information to Gary Franchi via e-mail at garyf@bresnan.net.