The Weight is Over – Week 21: Beyond the Plateau & Down She Goes

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Ask who drives me the most crazy and I only need to look in the mirror. This week what drives me the most crazy about myself is when I when I proclaim a commitment without thinking things through thoroughly.

doni weights and ball april 2016

Working out isn’t pretty. Matthew says that grunting while working out makes the task 5 percent easier. Photo by Brad Garrison.

Case in point, when I started this weight-loss and fitness journey with Matthew Lister at Align Private Training I got so enthused and giddy with anticipation that I promised to report the results here weekly, as well as monthly updates via pictures taken by photojournalist Brad Garrison.

My rationale for that rash vow was I imagined that the unwanted weight would disappear so quickly that I’d have lots to show and tell. I imagined that my weight-loss would be as rapid and dramatic as one of those little picture flip books as I melted away before your very eyes.

Step right up, watch the incredible shrinking Doni.

Not so fast, as it turns out. In fact, I’m averaging a loss of just 5 pounds a month. As my twin is fond of saying, “Slow and steady wins the race,” but that’s little comfort when I hear someone at Align mention some wild number like 7 pounds lost in one week. Words like that make me want to weep, because for me, every single pound I lose is a major struggle.

We’re all different. I get that. And my weight is slipping away, slowly, rather than falling off, as I’d hoped. My weight-loss feels glacial, which makes weekly reports a yawner.

So, to break things up a bit I’ll be inviting others to share their stories here, too. Last week, for example, I shared Week 20’s Thursday space with Adrienne Jacoby, who told of her weight-loss journey, complete with photos. (Thank you, Adrienne, for your honesty and courage.)

I’m back in the saddle today, as I have a new batch of Brad’s photos.

Plus, I’m delighted to report that I finally broke through that frustrating plateau where I hadn’t lost a pound for weeks. It helped that Matthew switched my diet up a bit. For one thing, no more Greek yogurt, which I miss dearly. Too much sugar. I can have cottage cheese in its place. Guess which one I prefer? You’ve got it. Of course, the yogurt, the one with more sugar. It’s the story of my life. Pick two foods, and whichever is the least healthful is the one to which I’d naturally gravitate. I’m a sugar-seeking divining fork.

So four days a week I’m eating low carb, with mainly lean proteins, veggies and some fat (like avocado), and three days a week I go “high” carb, which is extremely relative. In Matthew’s world, “high carb” means I get to treat myself to oatmeal or a slice of that high-seed, low-calorie super wheat bread. That seemed to do the trick, and I lost a few more pounds, which brings my total weight loss to 25 pounds.

You may recall I have a deadline approaching of my July birthday, which is when I want to reach my goal. By then I’d like to lose another 15 pounds at the least, but ideally another 20 pounds. To do that, I’ll have to redouble my efforts. With that in mind, in addition to my new nutrition plan and my workouts with Matthew four days a week, I’ve added morning walks with my sister to the mix, and we just started pickleball lessons at the Shasta Family YMCA.  (Oh, how I wish that game had another name.) And when I can, I walk to Align, rather than drive, though I dread the hill on South or Placer streets, an incline I barely noticed while behind the wheel.

Through lots of miraculous calf stretches on a steep little wooden incline contraption at Align, Matthew’s managed to banish my planter fasciitis (Google “sharp stabbing pain in the bottom of the foot”) that I got from overdosing on walking and Jazzercise last summer. So I can return to Jazzercise again, too. I’ve really missed it.

doni trx pull up april 2016

It looks easy, doesn’t it? It’s not, since I’m using my arms to pull up about 60 percent of my body weight. Photo by Brad Garrison.

I’m growing stronger every day. There’s a new piece of equipment at Align called the TRX (I call it the T-rex), which features straps suspended by bolts from the ceiling. The T-rex is not easy, but it’s getting me on the road to a real pull-up, which is on my fitness bucket list, along with channeling my inner Erin Friedman and running one day. Not today. But eventually.

Looking at these monthly photos is always difficult for me, because I never quite think I look as chunky in person as the photos show. I think Matthew thinks so, too, because he was pretty funny during this week’s photo shoot. He actually got a hair tie to make my shirt fit tighter to reveal more of my hips and stomach (something I’d NEVER do intentionally), because he wanted to show off my “progress”. Brad joked that maybe Matthew should come along on a fashion photo shoot some time.

Where Matthew sees progress, I still see potential.

Doni approaches the balance ball carefully because she knows this won't be easy. Photo by Matthew Lister.

Doni approaches the balance ball carefully because she knows this won’t be easy. Photo by Matthew Lister.

A friend who’s also losing weight shared an interesting observation yesterday. She pointed out that weight loss is maddeningly proportional, meaning, that although we’re losing weight, it’s like we hit the reduce button on a copy machine. Same image, just a smaller version.

Doni after a workout, sweaty and happy (to be done). Photo by Shelly Shively.

Doni after a workout, sweaty and happy (to be done). Photo by Shelly Shively.

We’re smaller, but we’re keeping whatever distribution and problem areas we had before. It’s crazy-making.

doni ham string stretches with Matthew april 2016

The ham-string stretch is the dessert after a workout. It feels so good. Photo by Brad Garrison.

It cracks me up that although I’m heading into my fifth month working with Matthew, he manages to keep surprising me and his other clients with new ways to achieve inflict balance and fitness. So it was this week when he had me holding weights in each hand, while tapping a ball with alternating feet. It’s a great core-builder, and I obviously have more core work ahead of me so I can do this without losing my balance.

doni losing balance wieights and ball april 2016

Even so, I find myself so into the fitness part of this journey that even though I quasi-dread it, I also look forward to it, much like a dog that needs a walk. In fact, on weekends, when Align is closed, I feel antsy, and look forward to resuming my workouts on Monday again.

Doni weight loss comparison Apr 2016


Here are my stats since I started working out with Matthew Lister at Align Private Training in December: 25 pounds down overall; 3 inches off shoulders; 1.5 inch off each arm; 3.5 inches off bra line; 5 inches off belly button; 1.5 inches off each leg.

No matter how long this takes, I’m in it to win it, as the kids say. But I have to say, I’m supremely proud to see my hard work pay off. I’m down two pants sizes, and just the other day I bumped into some people I’d not seen in ages, and they literally didn’t recognize me. I’d like to think it’s because of my new weight-loss, not the hair color.

Next week someone else will share her inspirational health journey in this Thursday spotlight, and you’ll recognize her immediately.

In the meantime, I welcome your observations about fitness and weight-loss? I need all the help and advice I can get.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. 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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31 Responses

  1. Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

    5lbs a month is more than a pound a week and with 52 weeks in a year, well, even though I’m not great at math, that’s an easy equation.  I think you’re doing great!  Stronger and stronger… and SMILING while working out.  Isn’t that something? 😀 xx

  2. Avatar Renae says:

    You look marvelous! I love following this journey with you!

  3. Avatar Darcie says:

    I am so glad you are in it for the long haul and not just the birthday goal.
    There are people in my class that lost between 20 -150(!) pounds for a goal such as a wedding, reunion, etc. They either met the goal and went back to their old eating habits or didn’t make it and went back to their old eating habits and now they are in the “lifestyle” class after the gaining AGAIN.
    I am trying to learn from them that this WILL be a complete change for the rest of my life what goes into my body.

    This week was hard, but when I stop and look at what I was eating before and what I am want to eat now it is very different. Progress, not perfection, right?
    We got this!

    • Progress, not perfection. I should slap that slogan on my refrigerator.

      You’re right to not just look at this goal (which is July, for me) as the end, but a continuation that will extend into my lifelong lifestyle.  Thanks for the reminder, Darce.

  4. Avatar Alice Hoveman says:

    Remember we didn’t gain the weight in six months. I know. I have several years of weight gain to deal with. Your sister is absolutely correct. Slow and steady wins the race. Congrats on the success of your efforts!

    • You are correct about the time factor. I often tell young mothers after they’ve had a baby to remember it took them nine months to put on the weight, so give themselves at least that much slack and self-compassion to lose it.

      I’m always more understanding with others. 😉

  5. Avatar EasternCounty says:

    I notice not only your slimmer body but especially your posture.  Lookin’ great!

  6. Avatar Barbara Stone says:

    Wow, you have a waist! You look fabulous…keep up the good work!

  7. Avatar sue k says:

    What I see is lovely posture.  Your determination and ‘sticking to it’ is most admirable.

    You ARE a winner!!!!!


  8. A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

    Like my daughter’s weight watcher guru likes to say,  ” . . . to those pounds you’ve lost, add the pounds you would have gained if you had kept with the old life-style!”  That kinda helps me keep it in perspective because I can slap on a couple of pounds a week with one hand tied behind me . . . . as long as it wasn’t my eating hand! LOL!!

    Thanks  . . . for everything!

    • Oh, yeah. I shudder to think of how much more weight I’d have gained by now if I hadn’t started this in December. I was on a dangerous trajectory, and not just with my weight, but my health, too. Just getting out of that pre-diabetic zone makes it this all the sweeter.

  9. You SHOULD be very proud of your progress — it’s a tough, tough road and you ARE getting through it.  And with a smile, too.  You look wonderful. I’ve stayed off the scale for several weeks – that’s how I deal with weightloss plateaus 🙂

    I am concentrating on my running routine and enjoying the benefit of all the endorphins that go with working hard, feeling fit and strong. It’s a deliciously powerful place to be. High fives all around!


    • It IS a tough road! I’ve done emotional pain, but never this physical stuff. Not really. Before, I always quit when things started feeling uncomfortable. Now, I’m adapting to the concept that some discomfort (like a plank, or heavy cardio), is actually good for me.

      And you’re right about the endorphins. That’s wonderful another bonus. (You may recall that one of the things that led me to this journey was depression. It was exercise or Prozac. It’s working!

      And Erin, as much as you’re running now (my gosh … you did 13 miles!) I doubt you have to worry about any weight gain. You probably burn calories while you sleep now, just from your running. I aspire to be like you one day. High fives to you, too!

      • One would THINK that hours of running would mean I should be able to eat whatever I want — but it’s not even close.  The mathematical reality is much more disappointing – fortunately there are many benefits to running that go beyond the scale.

  10. Avatar Denise O says:

    5 pounds a month!! That is absolutely fabulous. I’ve lost 5 pounds since Christmas. That’s it. But my changes are not as vast as yours.

    And you made me laugh with the shrinking comment. I’m either a small or large apple. But apple all the same.

    I’m so proud of you and your journey is validating for me. (We’re close to the same age.) We do have to work *that* hard for very little. Is what it is.

    Just have fun and let that love light shine through.

    • Well, even 5 lbs since Christmas is STILL 5 pounds (could be the other way … 5 pounds gained). Good for you!

      You made me laugh pretty hard about the small or large apple comment. That’s exactly what my friend was talking about, but you put it perfectly!

      I’m glad you’re following my journey, and I’m happy it’s validating for you, too. 🙂 It’s so nice to have the company.



  11. Avatar Grammy says:

    I am finding that doing away with all added sugar (out is barbeque sauce, catsup, most cereals etc.) is causing me to loose my stomach also.

    Unsalted nuts are my go to snack.

    Make it a life choice.  For the rest of your life.

    You look fantastic!  The smile is back.  Wonderful!!   You are going to look small and petite just like twenty years ago.  NICE!!

    At least at a slow pace you will avoid kidney and gall stones (forget which one dieters suffer from when loosing to much weight to fast.)

    Which I had the shoulders to pull off something I discovered this week.  “Pickle Ball” at Enterprise Park 8-11 three days a week).  Looks like fun or at least the people looked like they were having fun.  A short version of tennis with smaller rackets on a half court.  All ages were playing the day I saw it.

    • Thanks, Grammy, for the tips. Nuts are good snacks for me, too.

      I’m learning pickleball at the YMCA, but Tuesday we’re going to Enterprise Park to visit its courts. I’ve only had two lessons, but so far, I like it. 🙂

  12. Avatar Lisa Wiley says:

    Doni….you look absolutely GREAT!  You always do!  It’s been fun watching your journey & it’s helping me get back into the saddle again after our visit last weekend after the car show….I know we were all short on time, but I wanted to chat more about your health journey.  It was great to visit with you, even if so short, to see the CUTE house on your tour, tips on windows for that BR, etc….you are such an inspiration & we admire you.  Thanks for the cookies….the kids ate them all….after all, they need can use them up better than my slower metabolism.  I still owe you pics of my Doni inspired rolling kitchen cabinet…..I’ll try to message you those this weekend.  Have an awesome weekend & we’ll chat soon, take care!  xoxo

    • Oh, Lisa, you inspired me, first. Thanks for the kind words.

      It was great to see you, Robert and those beautiful kids; grown so big, so fast.

      Glad the kids liked the cookies. 🙂 Oh, to have a child’s metabolism!

      Hugs to you all. xod

  13. Avatar Ginny says:

    Sometimes we set impossible goals.  But, the thing to remember is that you are losing!  It doesn’t matter if you reach your goal by your birthday, but that you do reach your goal!  Think positive for you will make the ideal goal weight maybe later than planned, but that you do reach that goal, which is the most important thing.  Life change takes time.

    Go dear, you will get there.  Proud of you.  But, remember, you are special no matter what your weight is.  Special is what is important.  I’m pulling for you……….

    • Oh, Ginny, thanks for the words of wisdom. You are right: I am losing weight, and I shouldn’t be so fixated on the July date. You’re also right that life change takes time. xod

  14. Avatar Sally says:

    Of course your progress is terrific, but more than that, your sense of humor in spite of the hard work is extraordinary!! – together with that always happy smile!!

  15. Randall Smith Randall Smith says:

    Thanks Doni,

    Lots of cheating here and no real schedule.  But I have lost and kept off 10 lbs. since Christmas.  Remember what I said about the skinny lumberjacks of Shingletown? They consumed 10,000 calories a day.  Marathon runners only need 3500 for the race.  Horribly inefficient upper extremities are the way to fly.  Come use a chainsaw with me for a day in the wilds of Redding.  You’ll get the picture.

    Keep faith,