2 weight-loss success stories

By: Canadian Living

Author: Canadian Living


2 weight-loss success stories

By: Canadian Living

At Canadian Living Magazine we emphasize the importance of healthy weight, exercise, good eating habits and positive self-esteem. Not for us the latest fad diets and frenzied exercise regimens. When we wanted to do a story on losing weight wisely, we didn't have to look far. Right in our office are two staff members who, between them, have lost 100 pounds -- slowly and sensibly. When we watched Colleen Tully, 28, an editor on our website, and Janine Falcon, 38, the beauty editor at Canadian Living, get stronger, fitter, slimmer and beam with newfound confidence, we asked them to share their stories and their weight-loss tips.

Colleen Tully has healthy new attitudes toward eating and exercise.

Tell us about your weight issues: how much you gained and lost, if you were heavy as a child, and why.
I was always tall for my age and reached my current height of five foot nine by age 13; extra fat came with the height for as long as I can remember. In high school I weighed between 170 and 175 pounds. In January 2004, after a year teaching English in Korea, I was up to 215 pounds, my highest weight ever. I now weigh 150. (According to Health Canada guidelines, a healthy weight for an adult five foot nine is between 125 and 168 pounds.)

How many false starts did you have before you were successful?
By age 11, I began refusing desserts and trying to count calories. I stole my father's Slim Fast powder (he has always struggled with weight and is now about 100 pounds overweight) and I was really excited when I lost seven pounds in a week. But then the powder ran out and my mother didn't replace it.

I was teased for being fat, so I'd deprive myself of food, then binge; the bingeing kept me heavy.
From about age 18, I was determined to eat healthily and work out enough to lose weight. I was physically active, but I ate too much. I was vegetarian, so I'd justify eating a big portion of pasta with, for instance, cream sauce. I also smoked and drank a lot of coffee to try and suppress my appetite. I'd be "good" for about three days, then binge.

Why were you successful this time?
Outside help. In the summer of 2005, I came across a three-month program that involves nutrition coaching, personal training and muscle-to-fat analysis every two weeks. The program is FitnessQuest Solutions: The Personal Coach Program in Toronto. Tom Kiatipis owns this clinic, and I saw him every two weeks.

Healthy eating. Tom told me what I required nutritionally for my height, age and activity level. Although I was eating healthy food, I was eating about 20 per cent more than I should have, and when I indulged in something, I'd overeat (binge).

Accountability. Every visit included a fat-percentage analysis (seven parts of my body were pinched) and the measurements went on a computer graph. No way did I want my analysis to show that I hadn't lost any body fat.

Strength training. I started doing this three days a week in addition to cardio three days. Since muscle mass boosts your metabolism, it's easier to lose weight when you have more muscle. I once heard someone say, "when people lose weight without exercising, they just become smaller fat people," and I've never forgotten that.

Shorter, more intense bursts of exercise. My typical workout now is five minutes of intense cardio; then strength training, starting with the larger muscles; then another 10 minutes of intense cardio. Tom taught me how to log my strength training and try to improve my previous records in order to gain muscle mass. I jog outdoors and do circuit-training at home with resistance bands or at a gym.

Why do you think this approach worked for you?
Support. I had a supportive partner, Bill, who is now my husband. It also helped that Bill and I began the program together. That meant he wasn't eating popcorn during a movie, while I drooled beside him.

Motivation. I was getting married, which was great for motivation (everyone wants to be a beautiful bride, and I didn't feel attractive).

Accountability. Tom encourages you to tell three people and also sets up support groups of people who are on the program at the same time. The thought of "failing" in front of all these people was much worse than satisfying a need for junk food or not exercising.

Developing a healthy attitude to food. I realized that food is not Prozac. I used to fill myself with something sweet and rich when I was unhappy or stressed, but I discovered that food didn't really make me feel better. Now I try to run or do yoga when I'm stressed; they stop the chatter in my brain.

How do you account for keeping this weight off two years later?
Essentially, I continue to do what Tom told me to do: eat five small meals during the day (with a balance of seven grams of protein, nine grams of carbohydrates and three grams of fat); strength-train and do cardio three times a week, with rest days in between; and drink lots of water.

With the wedding over I had to find new motivation, so I joined a 10-kilometre training clinic at the Running Room.

What gets you to stick to your new diet-and-exercise regimen?
Exercise makes me feel better. Without it I get grumpy, and that's no good for anyone. I also love to beat my old records, and I love the positive feedback I get in my fitter body.

What health benefits have you noticed?
Improved cardiovascular conditioning. I was always active, and when I was obese, I'd do a slow jog for one kilometre and walk about three more; I'd do it all in just over an hour. Today I can run eight kilometres in 45 minutes.

Good posture and lightness. My core strength is better so I'm walking more upright. Before I felt as if I stomped into a room, but now I feel like I float in -- I'm much lighter on my feet.

Greater strength. I'm much stronger, thanks to strength training.

No more shin splints or sore knees. When I was heavy, my knees always bothered me.

Improved moves. When I do yoga I can stretch more and sustain poses for longer.

Less wear on my heart. After an intense workout my breathing returns to normal very quickly, versus me heaving and puffing for 10 minutes afterward.

Have you had any setbacks, and if so please explain.
I developed a hip injury in the past few months (from improper stretching). When I can't exercise regularly, I lose the motivation to exercise at all. That's why I joined the Running Room -- being around other fit people and doing something challenging gets me back on track.

Do you have any food weaknesses?
I love junk food, and on Tom's program we get a two-hour "cheat window" (once a week you can eat anything you want -- for two hours). For the first few months, Bill and I gorged on cheat night: we'd eat chips, a large pizza, chicken wings, an entire pan of brownies and a tub of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Now on cheat night we may split a chocolate cake, or something else disgustingly sweet and fattening, but we eat a seminormal dinner.

After a few months, you can take a week off to eat whatever you want and not exercise. I took the week of my wedding off, and though I indulged in cocktails and fruit drinks, I was eating the smaller portions that I'd become used to.

What do others say to you about your weight loss?
My family realizes I've made a healthy lifestyle change and they're very proud of my accomplishments.

I'm no longer shunned or ignored by strangers. Before, when I'd walk on a bus, people would shift to take up more room on the seat so I wouldn't sit there. When I'd meet new people they'd say hello, then turn their attention from me to the person I was with. Since losing weight, I'm aware of increased attention from everyone -- women and men.

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Janine Falcon, our beauty editor, loves feeling fit and fashionable.

Tell us about your weight issues: how much you gained and lost, if you were heavy as a child, and why.
I was a plump kid. Why? I ate vegetables, fruit and healthy cereals, while sweet desserts were mostly Sunday treats. Rice and pasta were staples -- however, so were sauces and gravy, which I poured all over the rice and pasta (OK, the vegetables, too). I also ate adult-size portions before I should have. As well, I was a bookworm and thought I was dreadful at sports, so I put no effort into physical activity. As an adult I made unhealthy food choices when my schedule got busy and maintained my inactive lifestyle.

I am five foot eight and weighed 216 at my highest. I now weigh 160, which means I'm down 56 pounds. I lost 40 of those in the last two years, which may not sound like much in that amount of time, but I'm smaller and more muscular than I've ever been at this weight. (A healthy weight for an adult five foot eight is considered to be between 122 and 164 pounds.)

How many false starts did you have before you were successful?
Several, including three gym memberships (I'd go for a few months, then stop). At Weight Watchers some time ago, I lost 30 pounds and kept it off for about three years until I had a not-so-cheery winter and gained 20 back.

Why were you successful this time?
I was sick of feeling bad about myself. Being in the fashion/beauty side of the magazine world made it worse -- I always felt huge and frumpy (stylish clothing is hard to get over size 12/14). Hitting the obesity mark was a kick in the pants.

Sticking with it came down to a series of things:
Outside help. I hired a personal trainer for two days per week (and did a third day solo) for three months, which got me in the habit of going to the gym.

Incentives. My gym, The Womens Fitness Clubs of Canada in Toronto, has an incentive card -- work out 10 times per month and the card goes into a draw for a prize -- plus, after 12 cards you get a free month.

An efficient exercise routine. I use the book 5-Factor Fitness (Perigee, 2005) by Harley Pasternak, which took my workouts from an exhausting and inconvenient one hour, three days a week, to an energizing 25 minutes, five days a week. My routine is five minutes of cardio warm-up, 10 minutes of two weight exercises (two different exercises per day), five minutes of an abs workout (a different exercise each day) and five minutes of cardio cool down (more if you want to trim fat quickly).

Healthy eating. I don't feel deprived. I've reduced my portions and intake of unhealthy carbs (such as white bread and rice) and upped my intake of vegetables. I eat smaller amounts five times a day. Sugar content is the first thing I look at when I'm food shopping. Most reduced-fat foods contain extra sugar, which doesn't work for me.

Support. I joined the office "Chub Club," a group for those of us at work who want to lose weight; we support one another around good eating habits, have weekly weigh-ins -- and get fined for eating junk food. The money collected goes to the person who most closely reaches her goal (a brilliant incentive for me to stay on track).

Why do you think this approach worked for you?
Results. I saw physical improvement within a couple of weeks and continue to see changes. I still miss occasional workouts, but this program has become part of my lifestyle. The program is on a five-week cycle: each week the number of reps and the weight of the weights changes, so my body never plateaus and I feel my muscles working every time. I actually look forward to each workout.

I get an Eat-Whatever-You-Want day once a week. I indulged heavily at first, but now on that day I generally tend to eat as healthily as I do the rest of the week.

How do you account for keeping this weight off?
I feel great and like my body more. Some folks can love themselves no matter what's on the outside. I couldn't, so I had to change.

What gets you to stick to this new diet-and-exercise regimen?
I haven't yet reached my goal -- I'd like to drop to a size 8 perhaps (I was an 18/20 plus at my highest, now I'm about a 10/12 regular), but as I keep going, it's becoming more about achievements. When I started this, I didn't have a deadline. I just wanted to make changes, which I continue to make at my own pace. I never thought I'd run -- now I can! I'm developing muscle definition in my arms, and I finally have a waist. Progress inspires progress. As well, the 25-minute routine fits into my schedule much more easily than an hour-long workout.

What health benefits have you noticed?
Improved cardiovascular conditioning. Before if I ran for a bus, it would take me about seven minutes to recover properly. Now I'm not even winded -- and I enjoy the sprint.

Healthier mental state. I like myself. I also used to spend a lot of time thinking about my next meal or snack. I still love food but see it more as fuel, so I think of it less often.

Improved knees. For years I had sore knees, but because my weight is lower and my muscle strength higher, they don't bother me as much.

Improved flexibility.

• Stronger abs, which means less strain on my back.

Have you had any setbacks, and if so please explain.
These days I don't have setbacks. I now feel that missing a few workouts or occasionally eating junk food isn't the end of the world. I feel so much better about myself that I trust I'll get back on track before I do major damage -- and I do.

Do you have any weaknesses?
I go overboard at big family spreads, which once included hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, dumplings, rice, pie, cake, cookies and ice cream in one meal -- and I tried them all. Eating like that now, though, puts me in a food coma.

What do others say to you about your weight loss?
Friends and family say I look great -- that's always lovely to hear. My mom, who worries about me as mothers do, is pleased because she understands what the weight loss has done for my psyche, as well as my health.

I appreciate the reactions I get from people who haven't seen me in years; some don't recognize me. Positive reactions are gratifying, especially because I don't always see the changes fully myself.

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2 weight-loss success stories