Real Appeal Coach Spotlight: Meet Mara

Mara Headshot Ra Hero

When she became a Real Appeal® coach three years ago, Mara Ruttger knew she’d found the place for her. A personal trainer with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, Ruttger loved the program’s focus on healthy behavior change and felt an instant connection with the members in her coaching groups. "It ends up being about so much more than just reaching weight loss goals or changing habits,” she says. “Everyone gets to know each other as people.”  

Name: Mara Ruttger

Hometown: Chaska, MN

How long I’ve been with Real Appeal: Three years. I love that the program emphasizes behavior modification rather than weight loss. You can start any diet or exercise program and not see long-lasting results because you don’t change your habits. I’m big on changing behavior with habits that are sustainable. Real Appeal checks those boxes. 

In a past life I was: The mascot at my college! I went to Minnesota State, Morehead, and our school mascot was a red and black dragon. I did all sorts of work-study jobs in college: I worked in the career center, as an RA, and in the athletic department. One summer, they needed someone to fill-in as the mascot for an event at a kids’ day camp program. Wearing the costume was miserable — it was summertime, really hot, and I sweated my butt off! But it was also really fun. The little kids at the camp thought I was the coolest thing ever. Their smiles made it all worth it.

What I love about Real Appeal: The community in our group sessions, and the passion our coaches have for helping our members. It sounds corny, but it’s so special to feel the connection among our members. More times than not, the people in our groups don’t know each other. But almost immediately, there’s this sense of camaraderie. People share things they’re struggling with —  maybe a story about a rough day they’ve had, or having lost someone in their lives — and the members in the group lift them up. The program ends up being about so much more than just reaching weight loss goals or changing habits. Everyone gets to know each other as people. I love that sense of connection, collaboration, and support. And so much of that feeling has to do with the coaches. They’re here week in and week out, creating a safe environment that encourages people to open up.

Proudest coaching moment: Whenever I see a member experience an “aha” moment. When we do our group sessions, we start our classes with check-ins about the previous week and talk about what members are celebrating and what they’re struggling with. I love helping members talk through their challenges and uncover solutions. As coaches, we don’t tell members what to do — we ask questions and dig deeper to help them come up with their own answers. I love helping members reach those breakthroughs.

My secret superpower is: My extreme optimism. I’ve always been a positive person, thanks to my parents. They instilled in me that I’m in control of the results of my life, and if I want something, I need to have the drive and determination and work ethic to go for it. Even if I don’t reach the goal I set out for myself, if I’m learning and growing, I’ve been successful. My dad always used to say, “The problem isn’t the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.” I love that. If I can find the positives in a challenging situation, that situation suddenly becomes not so bad. 

If I could eat only one healthy snack for the rest of my life, it’d be: Peanut butter and banana on whole grain bread. Toast is a huge comfort food for me. And peanut butter? It’s my favorite thing in the world! I love the creaminess, the salty-sweet combination, and the energy I get from this snack. It’s filling, keeps me feeling good, and tastes great, too.

The mantra I live by is: Life is happening for us, not to us. It’s so easy to fall into a victim mentality: “Poor me, all these bad things are happening.” But if you flip your perspective and ask yourself “What can I learn from this?” you can grow. 

My favorite way to move is: Lifting weights. I love power-lifting — dead lifts, barbell squats, barbell hip thrusts. I did bodybuilding for a while, and looking a certain way was important to me at the time. But now, I just want to be physically strong. I’m happy to have my husband help me with things, but I want to be the one who can carry the heavy boxes, open the pickle jar, and chase my kid at the park. Lifting weights makes me feel super strong, empowered, and confident.

If I wasn’t a Real Appeal coach, I’d be: A baker! My baking go-to is cupcakes, and my favorite recipe is for raspberry-filled almond cupcakes with raspberry buttercream. I love to bake. It’s relaxing to me. I love playing music and singing and dancing around the kitchen while I’m doing it. Of course, taste-testing my creations is fun, too.

The song that’s always on my workout playlist is: “The Man,” by Taylor Swift. I’ve always enjoyed Taylor Swift’s music, and after watching her documentary, I have so much respect for her. This song is really empowering to me. 

My perfect day would start with coffee on the deck and snuggles with my son, who’s almost 4; include a boat ride on the lake with friends; and end with a bonfire or a movie. We got a boat earlier this year. Being in the elements — on the water, in the fresh air and the sun — grounds me and helps me recharge. 

A healthy dish I love to cook is: Falafels. I usually look up a recipe online and tweak it. One of my personal tricks is to add cornmeal and some extra egg or water to help everything stick. I lightly fry the outside in a pan, just to get them crisp, and then bake ’em the rest of the way in the oven.

If I could go anywhere, it would be: Hawaii. My husband and I went to Maui a couple of years back for our fifth wedding anniversary. I love the mountains and the ocean, and Hawaii is one of those beautiful places where you can enjoy both at the same time. We love scuba diving. At certain times of the year, you can hear the whales singing underwater. There’s nothing like it!

Real Appeal® is an online weight loss program offered by Rally Coach™. Real Appeal members who attended four or more sessions during the program lost 10 pounds on average. Talk to your doctor before starting any weight loss program.

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