Four years ago, Maria Landers started her weight loss journey. Because of her size, she was having mental and physical issues. She gained a lot of weight in college and couldn't fit into her nursing scrubs. She started having difficulty tying her shoes and wasn't able to ride horses anymore.

“I also got a back injury from being too heavy for my own body,” Landers, 26, said.

“My weight started interfering with the things I loved the most … So I had to change to get my life back.”

Her weight reached 264 pounds after she had recovered from a broken knee. In college, Maria relied on sugar, soda, and candy to keep up with her hectic schedule. Being only 5 feet and 2 inches tall, her weight posed many challenges. At the time, Maria was living in Gothenburg, Sweden.

She decided to visit a doctor to get advice about how to change her lifestyle. He immediately signed her up for weight-loss surgery. Maria was hesitant and decided not to take that approach. She made an appointment with a personal trainer instead. Her trainer set her up with a workout schedule and meal plan that completely turned her life around.

“My injuries were so big that in order for me to stay healthy for the rest of my life I had to be strong. So that’s what I did. I was tired of hurting and being injured,” she said. Maria immediately stopped drinking sodas and other sugary beverages. She cut candy out of her diet and started basing her diet on healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. Not only that, Maria also starting hitting the gym six days a week. She said that she's very proud of her accomplishments but it was definitely not easy.

“I did struggle with getting rid of old habits,” said Maria. “I was determined to be the person I always wished I was.”

While on her weight loss journey, Maria took to the internet to find fitness motivation to stay on track. She enjoyed reading other people's success stories. This is when she found Ben Landers.

“I quickly stumbled upon a YouTube channel, where a guy had done what I had done. He had lost so much weight, changed his life, looked so incredibly handsome that I had to message him,” Maria said. “When I saw him talk on the video, it was almost like I was looking at myself.”

One day later, Maria received a response back from Ben. Maria sent Ben her before-and-after weight loss pictures. She told Ben how she had dropped from 264 to 160 pounds. They quickly became friends and started talking every day. Because Maria lived in Sweden and Ben lived in the United States, there was a time difference. Maria would stay up late every night to talk to Ben.

“I know it sounds crazy, but I knew he was my soulmate,” said Maria. “In my heart I said, ‘I’m going to marry that man.’ It’s hard to explain.”

After their relationship developed, Ben asked Maria to visit him in the United States. After that, they continued their relationship long-distance. Maria got to know Ben very well. He opened up to her about how he was overweight most of his life. He was often bullied because of his weight. Ben decided to change his lifestyle in 2013 because his weight exceeded 300 pounds. Ben signed up for a gym membership and dramatically changed his diet. In the first nine months, Ben lost 167 pounds!

The couple was able to relate to each other on a deep level because of the similar experiences that they had gone through. “I don’t think it is possible to live a fitness lifestyle without your significant other being into it, too. At times it gets so hard that you really do need the support around you,” Maria said.

Smart for Life may not be able to set you up with your soul mate, but we can definitely help you transform your body, eating habits, and overall health!

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