The Weight is Over – Week 31: Beyond the Birthday Goal to Phase 2

It was late November when I decided to do something drastic about getting fit and healthy. Someone’s post of a supremely unflattering Facebook photo brought me to my senses and forced me to take action.

Doni hates this photo with all her heart, but it inspired her to get fit and healthy.

Although Doni hates this photo with all her heart, it inspired her to get fit and healthy.

Not only did I hate the way I looked, but I hated the way I felt (lethargic, depressed, ashamed, self-conscious).

Plus, I was staring down the birthday barrel of turning 60 in July. I didn’t want to be fat and 60. I did want to be a fit, healthy, sexy 60. I had no clue how to get there. Even so, for me, it was now or never.

Those of you who’ve followed my last 31 weeks could recite the rest of the story by now. I was inspired by a friend on Facebook, who was working out with this guy named Matthew Lister. So I joined Align Private Training and started working out with Matthew Lister, too.

Matthew Lister of Align Private Training.

Matthew Lister of Align Private Training.

He put me on a bite-for-bite eating plan, and introduced me to a foreign world of serious work-outs, Monday through Thursday. It was the most difficult physical thing I’ve ever done – other than labor, except labor didn’t last 31 weeks.

There were times, especially in the beginning, when I doubted whether I could keep going, let alone reach my goal.

doni working out with the ball

There were grueling workouts where I truly felt as I were going to throw up, pass out or both. The joke at Align is that whoever throws up during a workout gets a free T-shirt. But so far nobody’s earned that “special” T-shirt, because Matthew has a gift for knowing his clients’ limitations, and although he may push us to the edge, he never pushes us to the breaking point.

doni lunge with window may 31 2016

Along the way, I had a couple of huge breakthrough successes, such as going from pre-diabetic to not pre-diabetic … all because I was eating right and losing weight. When I started at Align I looked like this:

OMG. Doni hates this photo more than Brussels sprouts.

OMG. Doni hates this “before” photo more than Brussels sprouts.

The key to my success was having Matthew as my trainer. Matthew believed in me more than I believed in myself. Much of my life I’ve put myself in dead last place, and Matthew insisted that I put myself and my health at the top of the priority list. Go ahead and scroll up to that “before” photo. Now look at this photo taken two months ago. The difference still amazes me.

Two months ago, and Doni's lost more weight and inches since then.

This photo was taken in May, and Doni’s lost more weight and inches since then.

My July 11 birthday goal date loomed large, and I felt nervous, because I really hadn’t thought or planned much beyond the abyss of that birthdate. I worried and wondered whether I’d just keep on the same low-carb, low-calorie food plan forever, eventually plateau, and then what?

Now what.

A week before my birthday Matthew and I had a talk. He drew a little sketch that showed how most people assume  hope dieting will work: a steep downhill straight line to victory and permanent weight loss. Never fat, never again.

Of course, that’s stinkin’ thinkin’, because dieting never works that way. If it did, overweight people would diet once, and that would be the end of that.

Then he sketched how most dieting actually goes: lose some weight, flat-line plateau; lose a little weight, flat-line plateau; lose a tiny bit of weight, flat-line plateau. Eventually, the weight loss diminishes as the plateaus increase. People get discouraged and slowly start slipping back to their old habits. But by then, they’ve so restricted their calorie intake that they  gain back all their weight – and then some – the moment they eat a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of sweet potato fries.

Matthew said we’re going to avoid all that.  During Phase 1 I’d reached my July birthday goal of losing weight and getting more fit and healthy. And although I’ve lost 30 pounds and many inches, I’m still not finished. But the thing is, no matter how much weight I lose, or how many more inches I lose, I’ll never be “finished”.

This is a lifelong commitment, and I’m excited about it. doni with red earrings cropped

He said in Phase 2 we’ll kick up my metabolism, build muscle, and, believe it or not, gradually increase my carbs and calories, while still losing weight. I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to do that. But I trust him. I’ll interview him for an upcoming column so he can explain in more detail.

The day of our pre-birthday talk, Matthew proclaimed that I was on my way, that there was no going back to my old ways and old body. I had a good cry over that; only the second time I’ve cried at Align in all these months. The first time was during my intake interview with Matthew, when I cried tears of shame, sadness and hopelessness.

This second set of tears were tears of unbridled joy, pride, elation, and a little shock, because nobody is more surprised than I am at how much I’ve changed in the last 31 weeks.

I’m changed forever. I can’t wait to see what the next 31 weeks will bring.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's 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's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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