The Weight is Over – Week 29: Welcome Changes

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So much has happened since I last reported my health-and-fitness update.

First, I survived and actually enjoyed my first tiny acting gig at Riverfront Playhouse. It was fun, and it definitely inspired me to try acting again one day.

My talented daughter, as she promised, created some rockin’ earrings, which she brought just for my performance. Somehow, just wearing them made me feel more confident.

doni with stargazer lilies

Doni with her favorite flower, Stargazer Lilies, and earrings made by her daughter, just for the Riverfront performance.

If I’d been asked to do this Riverfront part a year ago, when I was at my heaviest and most depressed, I would have turned it down. I felt crappy enough about myself without putting myself on a stage for all to see.

Doni and Chris by food cart

A year ago, almost 30 pounds ago, with my catering buddy Chris Carter. I was smiling, but I was not happy.

It’s hard for me to sometimes see how much I’ve changed in the last seven months, but when I’m out and about, and encounter people I’ve not seen in a while, they comment on how much better I look. I get lots of compliments, which are welcome, but I feel a little embarrassed by them sometimes, too. It’s nice to hear that I look better, but it’s also a reminder of how far I’d fallen.

doni and canda june 24 2016

What a difference from last year’s photo. Here I am last week at the O’ Street Gallery with friend Canda Williams. I’m smiling, and this time it’s genuine.

Of course, I’m still working out with Matthew R. Lister at Align four days a week, but because it’s summer, I have missed some days due to vacations and outings. But even so, I do my best to stick to the nutrition plan, though I allow some wiggle room for a glass of wine or beer now and then, or a piece of dark chocolate. I’ve become one of those annoying people who stare at labels and ask about carb and sugar contents.

When I began this journey in December, I said I’d give weekly measurement reports and monthly photos. I discovered that for me, every pound and inch lost was a struggle, so the reports were kind of boring.

That’s why I turned my attention to others for their weight-loss and fitness stories. So far we’ve featured Diane Hill, Erin Lundgren, Erin Friedman and Adrienne Jacoby, each of whom inspired me with their stories, struggles and accomplishments.

Matthew still has me on a relatively short leash. Each week I’m on five low carb days and two “high” carb days. Don’t get too excited about the “high-carb” days. It basically means I get oatmeal – a real treat – and I can have a slice of that super dense seedy bread. But I look forward to it.

Also, I’m required to message him my food log every night, the down side of which being that I always write it just before bedtime, which means he can see exactly when I’m going to bed, which means I’ll hear about it the next day if I’m not getting enough sleep. It’s for my own good, because as Matthew often says, sleep-deprived people won’t lose weight. I know he’s right about that.

Damn, he’s right about so much, just like he’s right that if lifting/pressing a particular weight feels almost easy at rep No. 1, that same weight will suddenly feel difficult at rep No. 5. Every time.  Not 4, not 7, but 5.

Ah, numbers. With fondness I remember those early weeks when I would give you data breakdown regarding inches and pounds lost. I’ve not been weighed or measured in probably a month. The result was, sure enough, as Matthew predicted, I finally stopped obsessing about the numbers.

And wouldn’t you know it, the moment I stopped caring about the numbers, just today Matthew said that he’ll weigh and measure me tomorrow.  Am I that predictable, or what?

I did have an unexpected breakthrough this week. I uttered these words to Matthew: “I like working with weights.”

He laughed and asked whether I thought I’d ever imagine saying that. No, as a matter of fact, I didn’t.

Truly, I have grown to love the workouts, especially when there are lots of other people in the same space to either work out with, or be inspired by.

And then there’s food, which I still adore. Shockingly – to me – I’ve learned to appreciate healthier foods, and summer is perfect with so many fresh options, like a Spicy Watermelon Salad. I’m sharing the recipe as I got it, from Louise Tuthill, though you can reduce the sugar, and use sugar-free marmalade. Either way, it’s delicious, and it was a big hit at the O’ Street Gallery reception Friday. Musician James Russell liked it so much he requested the recipe, so here it is. It’s technically a salad, but I served the watermelon and oranges on skewers for an appetizer, which worked great.

I’ve also included a super simple concoction I made up that’s become my summer staple, which really does remind me of pizza.

Yes, I’ve come that far, when a bowl of cottage cheese reminds me of pizza. It’s true. I barely recognize myself these days, but I really like this version. I think I’ll keep her.


Spicy Watermelon Salad

1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon sugar (or to taste)
1/2 cup minced cilantro leaves
1 finely chopped jalapeño (or two if you like it hot)
1 finely chopped Anaheim chili
1-2 cloves chopped garlic
1 large chopped sweet onion
2-3 oranges, peeled and sectioned
4 cups cubed watermelon

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl and then gently add the orange sections and watermelon cubes. Chill until ready to serve.


Doni’s Pretend Pizza

1 cup cottage cheese
Summer tomatoes, sliced, then quartered 
Basil, rough chopped
Quality olive oil
Salt and pepper

Put a scoop of cottage cheese on a plate or in a bowl. Top with tomatoes and basil. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Close your eyes for the first bite. It tastes just like pizza. Sort of. A little bit. Either way, it’s good.

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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41 Responses

  1. That’s a remarkable transformation – your smile says it all.

    And your watermelon salad looks wonderful – putting it on my list to try. We’ve been enjoying whole grain and roasted vegetable salads – and lots of juicy, ripe tomatoes.  The farmers markets make healthy eating a lot more fun.

    I stopped weighing myself some time ago — because chasing that elusive “goal” got in the way of the bigger truth: Feeling confident, strong and healthy is what matters to me. That’s a goal I can reach every day.

    • See how wise you are? You instinctively stopped weighing yourself, while I had to be forced to give up the numbers. But you’re right that it’s all about feeling confident, strong and healthy. We’re doing it, Erin!

  2. Avatar EasternCounty says:

    Since he’s going to weigh and measure you tomorrow, Matthew must recall that July is your birthday and the date of the goal you set in December.  Whatever the results are, you’ve achieved SO much in these past months.  So what if the tape measure and scale aren’t exactly what you had hoped they would be.  The loss of inches and pounds means you either have the pleasure of purchasing a new wardrobe or that you’re spending time with Barbara Stone having some of your favorite clothes altered.  Losing is winning.  Welcome back; I missed your column these past two weeks.

    • Believe me, my birthday deadline looms large for me and Matthew. (Thanks for missing the columns, but I really love having other people’s voices in the mix, too.)

      Thanks for your support, Eastern.

  3. A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

    I’d still like to know how that 95 year-old wise man came to inhabit the body of 27 year-old Matthew Lister. The old German saying of ” . . . to soon old, to late wise.” certainly does NOT apply here. I am constantly amazed at how he is able to focus on each client’s needs and taylor a person’s program to precisely what their needs seem to be at any given time.  As the king said, “‘Tis a puzzlement!”   . . . but one for which I’m grateful.

    BTW, don’t know if you caught the taken aback look of amazement when you stood at my door. I meant to say something but we got sidetracked with conversation . . . .hmmmmm . . . how unusual. To quote Billy Crystal (kinda), “You look AHHHHH-VELOUS darling!” But the very best part is the glow of good health that you exude.

    • Good question about Matthew’s wisdom that extends far beyond his years. I think of him as a gifted old soul. How lucky we are to work with him.

      And thanks for the compliment. I’ll take it! And back at you, A.J.! You’re looking great!

  4. Avatar Ginny says:

    You always were beautiful, but the newest photo you are using shows how beautiful you really are.

    Blessings my friend.

  5. Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

    You look happy and strong, and like that beautiful spirit inside can finally shine out – and soar 🙂

  6. Thank you Doni for bravely sharing your journey with all of us!  I find it very inspiring in staying with my own food and fitness goals.  And thanks a bunch for posting the Spicy Watermelon Salad recipe.  I would never have combined those foods all together, but the blend of flavors is wonderful and perfect for the hot days we’ve been having recently.

    • You’re such a fit and healthy guy, that I’m happy that my journey can inspire you.

      And you are welcome for the salad. Thank YOU for providing the absolutely beautiful music at Friday’s reception. It was a magical, wonderful night, and your music was the perfect sound tract.

  7. Avatar Cindy says:

    Wow, great job! I lost 30 and so did my husband. I don’t care about numbers, but he does. He’ll ask me my digits every week.

  8. Avatar Kim Mobley says:

    Looking lovely lady!!!! I just started a program called Cize through I’d love to lose 50lbs, but 100lbs would get me to my military weight. You’re an inspiration, so please keep it up!! Thank you!!!!

    • Good for you, Kim. I hear you on the desire to get back to your fighting weight, but if I were to channel Matthew Lister, he’d say to get your focus on getting healthy, and try not to think about the numbers. (How’d I do, Matthew?)

  9. Avatar Darcie says:

    What a year of grand accomplishments!   You have a few days to bask in the glory of your 59th year.  Your 60th will amazing.   I am writing down  4 things that I think will happen.  The paper is now sealed in an envelop with a copy of this column.  It will be included with your 61st birthday card which will also be  our 35th friendship anniversary 🙂


  10. Avatar tom says:

    Doni, you have always looked great.  I am pleased to have you as a neighbor and friend.  Congrats on your new you.

  11. Avatar gerrine says:

    I’m just joining this conversation late. Who is Matthew Lister? Local? Friend? My weight has gone up 10 pounds and I refuse to buy another size of clothes. Exercise and healthy good.

    • Welcome, Gerrine, to this journey. Who is Matthew? Where do I start? I’m pretty much a fan of this guy, who owns Align Private Training here in Redding on Pine Street.

      He’s a trainer, cheerleader, counselor, drill sergeant, friend, and voice of reason and wisdom. I truly could NOT have done this without him. I’m just not that disciplined (yet).

      He helps people with total health and fitness transformations, no matter how seemingly hopeless or extreme, whether it’s pain issues, posture, the desire to lose weight or gain weight (wish I had that problem) or build muscle and endurance.  If someone is willing to do the work, then Matthew will commit 100 percent to that person’s health, wellness and fitness journey.

      One of my friends, who also goes to Align, and I were joking yesterday as we worked out about what zealots we’ve become about Align and Matthew. It’s just that we feel so good and have had such success that we want it for everyone. I know, my family and friends are probably sick of hearing about Matthew, Matthew, Matthew all the time. Matthew says this, Matthew says that. (Sorry!)  LOL. I can’t help it!

      But I’ve said all along that there are different programs and solutions for different people, and whatever it takes to get you there is great, whether it’s Weight Watchers or gastric bypass or whatever.

      Here’s a link to his site:

      Good luck!

  12. Avatar Linda Bayless says:


    You look wonderful! I know all the hardships you have gone through and have held strong. I admire your strength and positive attitude. You are a really good role model for women. You are beautiful inside and out.

    Linda (Gutierrez) Bayless

    • Linda, your words have special meaning, because you and I worked together during some of the darker days. Thank you so much. (And YOU! You are beautiful. You seriously never age!)

      • Avatar Linda Bayless says:

        Thank you Doni! Yes, you are right  those were darker days but, look at both of us now! Love you Doni

  13. Andrea Charroin Andrea Charroin says:

    What I find when I walk through the doors at Align is a space that truly transforms all who enter.  Not only do we see our bodies transform to healthy stronger versions, but our minds and hearts transform to stronger healthier,  and dare I say happier as well.

    Great job working towards being a healthy,happier,and amazing YOU!!!

    • Beautifully put, dear Andrea. I look forward to my adjusted schedule so we can work out together. Here’s to each of our happier, healthier, more amazing selves! xod

  14. Avatar Barbara Stone says:

    Funny, I’ve always admired how you look and dress. You still look awesome! Congratulations!

  15. AJ AJ says:

    I’ve said it before. ..”We are of the ALIGN  CULT and Matthew is our guru. ” I’m kinda kidding on the square here….but not totally.

  16. Avatar Terrie says:

    Doni you look great!  Do you find that your cravings for sweets and other high calorie food is less?

    • Thanks, Terrie.

      About the cravings …I was a lifelong sugar addict. Even when I dieted before, I’d eat less of everything, but kept sugar. I took about 2 months at Align with Matthew before I got the sugar (and carb … those two go hand and hand) monkey off my back. I truly felt like I was going through withdrawals.

      Now, I rarely have anything in the bread family. I cannot imagine eating a hamburger, for example, because it seems a ton of bread. Once in a great while I’ll crave chocolate, and I’ll have ONE square of the 82 percent chocolate, and that satisfies me.

      The few times since December I’ve eaten something like a cookie, or a piece of candy, I’m struck by how sweet it is. Too much.

      I never would have believe I could have kicked sugar.







  17. Avatar Hal Johnson says:

    I’m happily married, so writing “HOT DAMN!” would simply not be appropriate.

    You’ve embarked on an awesome journey, Doni.

  18. Avatar Sally says:

    This recent picture is spectacular!!!  Congratulations on your success!!