The Weight is Over: Part 7 – Learning the Hard Way

Last week was a joyous one. I reported that I was down 7 pounds and 8.75 inches. I’ve been on this program almost five weeks. It feels a lifetime. Maybe because it’s been such a life-changer.

I don’t know if I mentioned that although it’s called Align Private Training, most of the time I’m not the only one working out at Align. Usually there are anywhere from two to six people working out in the same big room (which is doubling in size this weekend, btw).

Being the curious nosy person I am, I love to listen eavesdrop to other people’s workout-session conversations with Matthew. It’s inspirational to hear mentions of people losing 20, 30, 40, 50 pounds or more. And to look at most of them, you’d never guess. Mainly, it just looks like a room full of fit people. I love seeing a slim woman lifting weights that I know I will lift one day. Better still is when I learn she’s lost 50 pounds. Wow.

My first few times there I felt like an outsider, embarrassed to try new things, for fear of failing, or looking stupid. I eventually learned nobody cares, that everyone is either too busy surviving their own workouts or they’re cheerleaders for each other, because everyone started at the beginning feeling exactly as I did. Sometimes I overhear things that shock me, like when Matthew took one woman off caffeine. On the other hand, I heard another woman gets a daily piece of dark chocolate, eats toast (bread, what is that?) and sometimes has a glass of wine. And one young guy is bulking up and trying to gain weight.

“Hey, guess what? I’m supposed to eat cheesecake this week!”

Finally, I realized that everyone is different, and that means different workouts, different food plans and different restrictions and indulgences. I can keep my caffeine (knock on wood) because it’s not an issue for me. But for me, watching the scale was a problem, so away it went. No more scale. No more knowing how much I’ve lost.

Somehow, when Matthew Lister confiscated my scale, it totally removed my obsession with weighing myself. Matthew’s tracking my data, so I don’t have to worry my sweaty little head about it.

But I know I’m losing weight, because a pair of my yoga pants are getting baggy. Do you know how hard it is for stretch pants to get baggy? Exactly.

And I put on a dress the other day – one of my favorites (that’d I’d not worn for a while), black, with a zipper up the front – and it did not fit me like a sausage casing. I looked decent, even (I think).

But one of the strangest observations was with a pair of my tennis shoes. They’re suddenly too wide for me, to the point where no matter how tightly I cinch them, I feel as if I’ll walk right out of them. I’d have to wear heavy mountain man socks for them to fit properly, which, of course, I won’t unless a cute mountain man comes with them.

donis goodbye clothes

And I have two tops I bought at the peak of my weight-gain crisis, both of which now fit me like tents. (I’m starting a goodbye-clothes pile.) I don’t have to start buying new clothes yet, because I have plenty of clothes that I haven’t worn in a while because I outgrew them, so I’ll go to those first. Besides, I don’t want to buy new clothes any sooner than I have to because I know I will only have to turn around and do it again as I lose even more weight.

Nice problem to have, right?

I’m that confident that I’m seeing this through to my end goal weight. I’m not even sure what my goal is, but I have a hunch I’ll know I’m getting close when people say things like, “Stop! Do NOT lose another pound ….” words that have never graced my ears. Not once.

This diet and workout program has changed everything. Even my refrigerator looks different, basically because it’s nearly empty, except for apples, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, some vegetables, turkey or chicken.

Now, I structure my life around workouts, rather than trying to squeeze the workouts in during the time left over after everything else.

At first I was going twice a week. Now I’m checking in four times a week with Matthew at Align, and when I say “checking in” I mean I go to Align and Matthew puts me through strenuous workout paces until I am sweating and panting and thinking I cannot do one more rep or round or set or circuit or whatever. But I do it. Every time.

And a crazy thing has happened … actually, a couple of things. First, I find that I now actually look forward to going to Align and working out. Sure, I may change my mind once I get there (… do 150 crunches), but before I start, it’s always a surprise. I never know exactly what I’ll be asked to do. But Matthew knows my limits more than I do, and I trust him to push me to – not over – the edge. My strength and progress have been incremental, never stagnant. Once I conquer and can handle one weight, I’m bumped up to another.

This week, for example, I was on my back on a mat, knees bent, with a 20 pound weight in each hand. Matthew said I “just” needed to raise them both straight up in the air.

Sounds easy enough. OK. I can do that. There. I did it. 

Do that 10 times. Take a break. Do 10 again. Take a break. Do 10 again. That’s three times.

The first 10 were doable, but difficult. The second set of 10 was a push, with lots of huffing and puffing. The third time I barely made it, and was making noises as if I were giving birth … or something. But I did it.

Damn! I’m getting strong!

This is a very big deal, because although I’ve always prided myself in having a high pain threshold, I have NEVER pushed myself physically, other than Jazzercise classes for fun and fitness, but I never doubted whether I could do those. (And, actually, a word about Jazzercise. I love it, and have lost weight and inches with it at different times of my life. In fact, I’d still be doing Jazzercise if it weren’t for messing up my right heel this summer in an over-the-top blitz of pounding 5-mile daily river-trail walks combined with daily Jazzercise. I miss it, and look forward to getting back there when my heel heals.)

I digress.

All my life I’ve had a string of statements I’ve expressed to myself and others about my physical limitations: I’m a heat weanie. I don’t run. I don’t lift weights. I don’t “work out”. I don’t sweat. 

That last one has really come back to bite me, because suddenly, I do sweat, so much that I’ve found my self standing for long periods of time in the deodorant aisle looking for just the right product (that would meet with my daughter’s non-aluminum approval). Gross, maybe … but also true.

Something else I’ve noticed: Sleep. For years, I’ve been chronically sleep-deprived. The reason was a combination of my work, and the fact I’ve never adjusted to falling asleep alone, post-divorce. I subsisted on so little sleep that when I finally did crash I was almost unconscious.

This is a timely topic because Christy Largent discussed sleep in a column this week, and it now makes sense to me. No wonder I’ve gained weight over the years. I typically slept for just a few hours each night, for months on end. Sometimes, if I were working on a big writing or cooking project, I would stay up all night, sometimes for consecutive nights.

I used to brag about how little sleep I could “get by” on. Now, I’m horrified to think of the damage I was doing to myself.

Since I started my diet and workouts. I am so pooped from working out that I’m getting to bed earlier (before 11) and allowing myself to sleep for eight, nine, even 10 hours sometimes. (I’m self-employed so I have that flexibility.) I am getting more sleep, feel far more rested, and I’m regaining my full dream life again, something I’d been missing for a long time.

If this were a therapy session, they’d call this next part a door-knob confession, the thing I saved for last that I should have said first. Confession: I had a fall-off-the-wagon episode this week. It involved cookies I was making with my grandson. It’s so weird, because here I stayed on my diet through the holidays without cheating, and it’s after the holidays, one fine rainy day in January, that I give in to temptation.

See these cookies? I’ve shared the recipe with you before. They’re a family classic: Rich Roll Cookies (or Mrs. Rathbun’s Cookies).

cookies sugar

To me, they’re nearly irresistible. They’re light and buttery with a hint of vanilla. So delicate. Surely just one – or five – wouldn’t hurt.

But something awful happened after I ate those five cookies. It was the first sugar I’d eaten in a month. Within about 20 minutes my body rebelled and evacuated the cookies. Not pleasant, and certainly not worth the splurge. I won’t do that again.

Why do I seem to always learn the hard way?

Other than that, it’s been a great week, and I feel energetic and enthusiastic. My friend Randy, the retired doctor, says it takes 12 pounds of weight loss before people start noticing and commenting. I’m already hearing comments from people. My twin, God bless her, says I’m melting. I love that!

Later on today I will be weighed and measured by Matthew, in full view of the super-talented photographer Brad Garrison, who will chronicle my body-changing journey for these next months for A News There will be photos. And many will not be pretty. In fact, I know that I will probably hate the way I look in those first few months. But I’ll post them anyway, because I know the after photos will be amazing.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. It’s so nice to know I have company.

So, how was your week. Any challenges or successes? Any diet and workout tips you’d like to share? Let’s hear them.

Click here to read Doni’s previous “Weight is Over” columns.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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34 Responses

  1. Avatar EasternCounty says:

    So sorry you tossed your cookies — literally.  But 20-pound weights?  For ten reps?  Three times?  Impressive!!

  2. Randall Smith Randall Smith says:

    Behind you but making progress and so glad the Holidays are gone.

    • I’m with you, Randy about being glad the holidays are over. Far fewer temptations, for sure. We have a while to go until our next month of temptations. (Probably our birthdays … you know … cake.)

      You may be a little behind me, but then, you don’t need as much intensive body work as I do right now. But I’m glad we’re on the same path.

  3. Avatar Ginny says:

    Sugar is a drug.  Just ask our bodies.  But, we love the drug, unless the system is smartens up and cause a revolt!

    Keep up the good work.  Rooting for you, dear.

    • You are right about sugar being a drug. Absolutely. What else can you say about something that we crave, and we eat it, even though we know it’s not good for us? For this reason I will never judge those with addiction issues. Sugar is just a different kind of addiction.

  4. Avatar Kerri says:

    I think that over the holidays, we mentally prepare ourselves for the onslaught of sugary/fat-filled goodness that is waiting to tempt us. After the new year, we’re relieved because we successfully avoided all (most) (some?) of that temptation, and those tasty treats catch us when our guard is down. Nothing like your body saying “oh HELL no” to really drive that lesson home… way more effective than having to rely on willpower alone!  🙂 I started running again this week with the help of my 11-year-old coach (“you don’t need that running app, Mama – we’re just going, and I don’t want you to focus on distance or speed, just make it to the end”). After our first run, he plopped a veggie tray on my lap and said that after a run, veggies taste like cookies. Big brother joined our workout team yesterday, and I’m feeling better already. I thank you for the inspiration to get off my lazy butt.

    • I know a lot of Kerri’s, but there’s only ONE Kerri who writes like you do, and I love this.

      And I love your “running app” 11-year-old kid who says veggies taste like cookies after a run. Thanks for sharing. You inspire ME! (And you do not have a lazy butt. You’re the busiest person I know.)

      p.s. I think you are right about the post-holiday off-guard period.


  5. Avatar Honey says:

    Last year a doctor told me that if I ate 1/2 of what I was served, I could eat anything. This year I am 56 pounds lighter. I went from a tight size 16 to a loose size 10.

    you are right, it is strange how my shoes, rings, even bracelets, watch got too big.


    • Someone in my family has subscribed to that eat-half routine and has lost a significant amount of weight. For me, I needed to really weed out the carbs and get my metabolism repaired. But I’m so glad this worked for you. Congratulations!

  6. Avatar Darcie says:

    “But I know I’m losing weight, because a pair of my yoga pants are getting baggy. Do you know how hard it is for stretch pants to get baggy? Exactly.” That is terrific! I love that sentence!
    I too have focused on getting healthy and eating good foods and not being obsessed with the scale is life changing. . They are just numbers and we are so much more than that. Don’t worry about your ‘behavioral shift” it is also part of life. The difference now is I just go right back to eating healthy and REALLY forgive myself. Keep up the good work you are an inspiration to so many of us!

    • You are so right. We ARE more than our numbers. Someday, if you’re open to it, I’d love for you to share your story, Darcie, here on A News Cafe. I just saw your latest photo, and you look fantastic.

      And you are right about forgiveness. And thank you for inspiring me, Darce.

  7. Avatar ViviAnne says:

    Totally impressed, Doni!

  8. John John says:

    my favorite part about following your journey is the air of inevitability you have about achieving your goals. It’s also why I’m so confident that you’ll reach them as well. You’re awesome!

  9. Avatar KatieB says:

    As a breastfeeding mama and the daughter of a mother with breast cancer, I searched high and low to find an aluminum-free deodorant (that didn’t smell like a man). I finally stopped the hunt when I found Green Tidings Natural Deodorant on Amazon. It’s expensive but it WORKS wonderfully!

    • First, Katie, I’m so sorry about your mom’s cancer. I send my best wishes for her full recovery.

      Second, thanks for sharing about the aluminum-free deodorant, with the link.

      I settled on Tom’s “Long Lasting Refreshing Lemongrass” – but you’re right that it does smell like a man’s deodorant. 🙁

      All the best to you, and good for you for breastfeeding that baby!

  10. Avatar Barbara Stone says:

    About sleep…my husband John had always worked two and three jobs until pretty recently. He was always sleep deprived, suffered from hypertension and then type 2 diabetes. When he was finally able to give up his other jobs and get a full night’s sleep, he was amazed at all the dreams he had…apparently, if you don’t reach that rem stage, you don’t dream! He continues to be amazed by all his dreams and has even started a dream journal.

  11. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    “Usually there are anywhere from two to six people working out in the same big room (which is doubling in size this weekend, btw).”  (emphasis mine)

    I think Align Private Training maybe owes you some free sessions.  Or if it’s already a barter deal, a free T-shirt or something.

    • I know I sound like a crazy zealot, but I can’t help it. Things are going so well and I’m so excited.

      I went into this process vowing to share the honest journey here on A News If it had gone sideways, or if I’d  hated this particular program, or if it hadn’t worked for me, or if I’d smelled a rat, I would have said so, and would have moved on to another way to achieve this goal. I said from the start that I know there are many ways to arrive at the same destination of weight-loss and fitness, whether it’s Weight Watchers or whatever. This just happens to be the program I chose to help me (after seeing a friend’s success), and so far, it’s working for me.

      I’d take that free T-shirt, but they’d just have to order another one in a smaller size next month. 😉

      p.s. Align’s expansion was in the works before I showed up, so I can’t take credit for that growth. 🙂

  12. Avatar fjm says:

    I feel so strange asking this…..but…..can you/will you give us some sort of ballpark figure as to what the costs are at Align? I have looked on their website and don’t see anything so maybe it varies by person, but I have been wondering since the beginning of your journey how affordable it may be.

    • fjm, the prices vary, depending upon how many times a week a person goes to Align for their hour workout. I don’t want to literally misquote the prices, so the best way to find out is to call Align.

      A consultation is free, btw. The number to reach Matthew Lister is 530-781-4455.

  13. Avatar Chris K says:

    On the outside, I look great. I’m a 6 foot 57 y/o male who weighs 174lbs., so I’m doing great, right… Wrong!

    I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol,  so good eating and proper exercise is essential  to my health.

    But since I live alone lately, it’s kinda difficult cooking healthy for one person.

    • I hear you. I live alone, so I know how difficult it can be to cook for one. But I’m a fan of making enough food (like of chicken or turkey) to last a few days. And I’ve learned to cut lots of celery into sticks so I have it for snacks with peanut butter. And I wash a bunch of lettuce and keep it in a bag with a paper towel to keep it crisp for salads or to use as wraps for turkey or chicken. The more healthy food I have on hand already prepared, the less likely I am to wander in search of unhealthy foods.

      Good luck, Chris K.

    • Avatar Barbara N. says:

      I don’t know much about cholesterol levels, sometimes it is just the way your body is, nothing changes it. For high blood pressure…went through this with my husband. Definitely lower the salt intake. Look to do 500 mgs. a day…good luck! Try eating a full clove of fresh garlic a day..not a baby one, and let it rest about ten minutes before you eat it. Add potassium to high sodium meals so they balance each other.  Get some fresh air and exercise…yes cardio everyday. He did jumping jacks, and it brought his blood pressure way down. I do my best for him, but he still thwarts my every effort. Read the labels on the food you eat. You will be shocked at the sodium levels. Good luck and actually cooking for one is easy…you only have to please yourself!


  14. Avatar Terry Turner says:

    Your journey has triggered some wonderful changes in my lifestyle.  Thank you!  I have started going to the gym for an exercise class twice a week.  You have also encouraged me to make wiser food and drink choices.  My exciting news is that I’ve lost four pounds in the last two weeks!   Thank you for your inspiration and encouragement. I can’t wait to start fitting into my smaller sizes that are waiting in my closet.

  15. Avatar Terry Turner says:

    I am especially grateful for your frank honesty, since it encouraged me to do the same about my own weight gain. After seeing the photos you shared in the first story, I stopped and really looked at myself in the mirror.  Oh, my gosh!  It was as if someone had stuck an air hose in me and had blown me up. I can’t wait to get back to the body I want to have.  Thank you.

    • Yeah, I hear you. For me, photos are what really drove the point home for me. I was getting to the place where I didn’t like any of the photos of me. I thought I looked fat in them all. At some point I had to face the fact that the photos weren’t lying.

      You will get back to the body you want. 🙂

  16. Avatar Barb B says:

    Doni:  congratulations on your success.  Although I have a long way to go, just keep in mind that the process is a journey.  So you ate some cookies (although they didn’t sit well!), you got right back into your routine.  We aren’t perfect.  We all stumble, it’s picking yourself up and continuing to make your behavioral changes that will get you to the finish line.  Continued success.  You have inspired me!

  17. Thanks for the encouragement, Barb! Hang in there with your journey, too.