At Diane and Mark Struemph’s front door lies a welcome mat sporting their last name that also states: “The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing.”
Diane and Mark feel that love each day from their many relatives, now 25-year-old son Benjamin and each other, with the couple celebrating 30 years of marriage in August. In July, they also reached another momentous milestone in their lives – a combined weight loss of 400 pounds.
“We decided to start watching what we ate, especially because our son was graduating from college. … I knew he would be settling down soon,” she said. “I wanted to be around for him now and his family in the future. I just needed to do something.”
She had started following her niece, Megan Seales, who was finding success with her own weight loss through Beachbody, a company that provides a variety of exercise and nutrition plans that match any body type and fitness level. In July 2016, Diane began Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix program, which provides a step-by-step, 21-day plan of simple workouts and a nutrition guide with portion control containers. With the encouragement of Diane and Ben, Mark also started the same program in October 2016. Today, the couple continues to lose weight and by the end of last month has collectively lost more than 430 pounds.
The couple’s tremendous weight loss is credited to what they call “Struemph Strength,” which is fueled by their continued support of one another and from their family. That same phrase is now the title of their Facebook page, which provides access to their documented weight loss journey and advice for others under the now health coaches for Beachbody. However, Diane and Mark also credit their success to not simply trying to lose weight, but creating a new lifestyle.
“People ask me so when did you have surgery?’ I say, ‘I didn’t have any kind of surgery. I did it the healthy way,’” Diane said. “With this program, a lot of people say, ‘Isn’t it hard?’ It is not. You don’t consider it a diet. It is a lifestyle change because you are just eating correctly.”
Diane grew up in the Jefferson City area, belonging to St. Peter Catholic Church and graduating from Helias High School. She worked for St. Mary’s for 34 years, doing a variety of jobs including patient accounts, admissions and switchboards, ER registration and building the computer program they used at that time.
Mark was raised not too far away in Wardsville, attending St. Stanislaus School and graduating from Blair Oaks High School. He also has delved into an array of work, but at different companies including Healthcare Prescription Center, Scholastic and now the Missouri Department of Motor Vehicles for the last five years.
The two met through a mutual friend, having their first encounter when Diane visited Mark while he was stocking shelves at the Prescription Healthcare Center that led to a nice conversation. Then two weeks later, Diane called Mark for a date.
“He never called, so I thought I might as well call him,” Diane said with a laugh.
“We went out for supper that evening and we were going to see a movie, but we decided to just talk and did so for several hours. We had such parallel lives; we just clicked,” Mark said. “I say I was a confirmed bachelor at 27 and married by 28.”
The couple’s life has been blessed, especially with their son Ben. However, they both knew they wanted to lose weight. Liquid only, specialty foods, fad diets – Diane and Mark had tried a lot of different things. But even if weight came off, eventually it would come back and add a few more pounds.
Then Diane began following her niece Megan Seales on Facebook, watching her own weight loss journey using Beachbody, completing a variety of fitness programs and now following 2B Mindset. She started its 21 Day Fix program about six months later, which uses portion control containers and clean eating without processed foods.
“The guide tells you what your calorie intake is depending on your current weight. When we started it, we were off the chart, so they said to go to the highest and do that, which was 2,100-2,399 calories a day,” Diane explained, noting they wrote down everything they ate for at least three weeks. “You have different color and size containers that you fill each day with your fruit, vegetables, proteins, eating five to six times a day.”
Mark was at first just eating the dinners Diane prepared while she was using the program. Then near the end of September 2016, Diane decided to talk to Ben, hoping he could convince his father to become fully invested in the 21 Day Fix.
“I said (to Ben), ‘Dad really needs to start this and it would be easier on me if I didn’t have all that other food around,’” she said.
“In the first part of October, I talked to him and told him, ‘If you join it, I’ll join it,’” Ben said, starting the program with Mark, who now is still utilizing the same 21 Day Fix nutrition plan more than two years later.
One of the first things the couple did after they both were on the 21 Day Fix is clean out their cupboards. Mark’s snack cakes, which he loved to eat while taking his medicine, cookies, Diet Pepsi – any processed and unhealthy food – was taken out, with some items given to family members.
The nutrition plan allows for five to six small meals a day and drinking half their weight in ounces of water a day. With Mark’s work schedule, the portioned out meals in separate containers for snacks and lunch help him keep on track with the program’s nutrition plan.
“For breakfast, Mark now eats a banana when he first takes his medicine and then drinks a nutritional shake called Shakeology,” Diane said, noting the drink mixes offered from Beachbody come in a variety of flavors. “Mark will also drink that with a sausage patty on a tomato basil or spinach wrap. … For lunch, he will also have a salad with dressing and some sort of meat, such as the Never Any honey ham or turkey we get at Aldi. It doesn’t have all the preservatives.”
“I was born and raised a meat and potato eater. … Now, I don’t eat very many potatoes except at a family function or special occasion,” he said.
Mark will also have an afternoon snack such as sweet potato chips, grapes, baby carrots or green snap pea crisps. Diane, who now stays at home, eats many of the same foods on her nutrition plan, and the family comes together in the evening with a healthy meal.
To fulfill Mark’s occasional craving for Chinese, they will make different stir fry dishes often using cauliflower rice and liquid aminos paired with ingredients such as broccoli slaw, diced tomatoes, smoked sausage or diced grilled chicken nuggets from Chick-fil-A.
Zucchini lasagna with ground turkey and spaghetti squash noodles or “zoodles” (made from zucchini) with melted cheese are a few more popular dinner items at the Struemph household, and they enjoy finding those healthy alternatives when going out to eat as well.
“We have discovered salads at Subway now and get a 6-inch sub in a salad form,” Diane said. “Any of their sandwiches you can make into a salad. It is a lot healthier and has less carbs, and they are very good.”
Diane and Mark also satisfy their sweet tooth with different, healthy treats once and awhile, too. One is a Shakeology mud cake, which uses Beachbody’s drink mix with a few other ingredients and is made in a coffee cup and a spoonful of peanut butter in the middle.
“You microwave it and when you slice it open the peanut butter just oozes out,” Diane said with a smile. “I also make PB energy bars, which is PB (a nut butter), honey and oatmeal with a sprinkle of chocolate chips (mixed together) and cut into squares. We say two (squares) are one serving.”
Diane and Mark have found they are cooking more and creating dishes together, getting into meal preparation by chopping and roasting lots of vegetables and grilling different meats they can use for several meals during the week.
“Everything now is instant and quick. We used to be that way, too; open up a box of this or a can of that and put that together. Now, we do more meal preparation,” Mark said. “You can learn to be good and creative in a healthy way.”
Following the 21 Day Fix plan with walking and light exercise, Mark has lost 194 pounds from his original weight of 411 when he started about two years ago. Going from an 6XL shirt and 62- to 64-inch waistband, Mark now weighs 217 and wears an XL or large size shirts and a 40-inch waist in pants.
In March, Diane had lost 172 pounds since she started her weight loss journey and now has lost an additional 70 pounds since March by doing a new Beachbody plan, 2B Mindset, designed by Ilana Muhlstein and doesn’t use portion control containers.
“It goes back to three meals a day and a snack in the afternoon,” she said, noting she was part of the program’s test group before it rolled out to the public in May. “She tells you what to eat at what time of day. Some things you need in the morning that you don’t need in the evening. … It is based upon your plate.”
The success in the results Diane and Mark have received has encouraged them to become Beachbody health coaches, as is Ben. While continuing their new healthy lifestyle, they connect with others wanting to try Beachbody or following their weight loss journey, through their Facebook page, @StruemphStrength.
“That is the nice thing with Beachbody. They have many different programs that fit different people’s lifestyles,” Mark said.
“Each person loses differently. Men lose a lot easier than women do. … You lose but you may not be guaranteed you are going to lose like Mark and I did because you may have something different going on with your body,” Diane said. “But we can coach others on making a lifestyle change. … You are just helping everybody have a better, healthier life.”
Diane and Mark have seen those positive changes in their lives now that they have lost more than 400 pounds collectively. The couple is involved with a youth group through St. Peter Catholic Church and TECH, Teens Encounter Christ that is for youth in the Diocese of Jefferson City, often attending conferences and summits especially when Ben was a teenager. In 2013, Mark said walking from the Lucas Oil Stadium and Convention Center and their hotel, which were within blocks of each other in downtown Indianapolis, was extremely difficult.
“I remember the last session ended and it was cold and windy, and we were about four blocks away from the hotel. I just couldn’t take it anymore and I finally hailed a cab. At the time, it was the best $7 I ever spent,” Mark said. “We went back out in November (2017), and I could keep up with the team almost step for step. … We did different silly dances and we all enjoyed it immensely. … It has a been a good change for us. We have more energy, do more things and want to do them.”
Ben is proud of what his parents have accomplished and is inspired by their motivation and now encouragement of others to make their own lives healthier.
“It has really been nice to see the progress they’ve made,” he said. “As much as I see them, I don’t realize the results until I look back at pictures and put them side by side and see the differences.”
Old friends and acquaintances who have not seen Diane and Mark in awhile first recognize them by their kind, friendly voices. They are the same sweet individuals they have always been; they just present a healthier outlook on life. And they want to motivate others using their “Struemph Strength” to do the same.
“You can do it; you just have to set your mind to it,” Diane added.
For more information about Beachbody programs or to follow Diane and Mark Struemph’s journey or to contact them, visit facebook.com/struemphstrength.