Chesney Mariani’s weight loss journey started with a pair of socks.
“I was to the point where I was becoming immobile,” Mariani told TODAY. “My husband had to help me put my socks on because I couldn’t reach to do it. But I didn’t want him to be my caretaker, I wanted him to be my partner.”
So the 39-year-old started making what she calls “lifestyle changes” in an attempt to get healthier. Mariani focused on making healthy eating choices, being mindful of portion sizes and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into her diet.
“And then there was exercise,” said Mariani. “I know that losing weight is probably 80% diet and 20% exercise, but I wanted to exercise because I needed that extra 20%.”
Mariani, who has lost more than 70 pounds since late 2019, started taking walks a few times a week, but was on a search for a form of movement that she enjoyed.
Then, she discovered Supernatural, a virtual reality fitness and rhythm game for the Oculus Quest 2 played by wearing a VR headset and moving to the beat of music in a coach-guided workout routine.
“I made a goal to work out three times a week,” Mariani recalls. “But I enjoyed it so much that three times a week wasn’t a thing. I was in the headset every day.”
When she first started Supernatural workouts, which incorporate moving and striking targets to the rhythm of popular music alongside moves like squats and lunges, Mariani says she’d only complete one song before needing to rest and drink water.
“Now I can go through two or three workouts,” said Mariani. “I can do two hours of workouts and I don’t have to take a rest.”
Mariani says Supernatural worked well for her because she could do the workouts inside her home, where she didn’t feel judged by gym-goers or self conscious about seeing her body in mirrors.
She also loves the music, which covers all genres, from ’90s R&B to classic oldies.
“Being able to do the moves to music is killer,” she said.
Mariani found support in an online Facebook forum for Supernatural users, where she frequently shared updates on her weight loss journey. When Mariani shared a post saying she had a secret dream of becoming a Supernatural coach herself, the team at Supernatural took notice and arranged a special surprise for Mariani, asking her to participate in a customer survey call but actually putting her on the line with Leanne Pedante, head of fitness at Supernatural.
“She asked if they could bring me to Los Angeles to guest coach,” Mariani recalled. “At that moment my vision went blurry and I started to cry — I never ever expected anything like that to happen.”
Pedante says her team often hears from members who feel like Mariani: Never having felt welcome in the fitness community until they discovered the workout.
What set Mariani apart was her positive attitude toward her journey.
“Something that struck me early on, was the lack of judgment and criticism in Chesney’s posts,” said Pedante. “So many people make the mistake of trying to motivate themselves through self-criticism or all-or-nothing thinking, and then when they hit a bump in the road, as we all do, they crumble and give up. I don’t think folks realize that self-love, forgiveness and non-judgment are the most important tools you can arm yourself with to tackle a big goal, and the effortless way Chesney exemplified this stood out to me from the start.”
Mariani says collaborating with Pedante and her team to create her own workout in the game was an “incredible experience.” In her workout, Mariani guides members through cardio moves and rhythm-based game play to songs that inspire her, like David Guetta’s “Titanium” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
“In my workout, you can expect love, confidence and the ability to break out of your shell,” said Mariani. “Whatever people think of you is none of your business. You need to break out of your shell and live your true life.”
Mariani says her journey has not only been about weight loss, but also about gaining confidence.
“I can put my own socks on now,” she said. “I can do a lot of things I couldn’t do before.”
And, Mariani has advice for those just beginning a fitness journey.
“Take it one day at a time,” said Mariani. “It’s a journey and it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There will be bumps along the way but you’re in control and if you can pick yourself up and go on, you’re winning.”