The Weight is Over – Week 62: A Place of Their Own

There's a photo of me that I especially dislike from my Redding son and daughter-in-law's wedding seven years ago. The beginning of their marriage saw the ending of mine two weeks later. It was a time period a friend coined as my "lifequake".

What a contrast. This extremely dark time for me was my son and daughter-in-law's most joyful start of their life together. They were adorable; beautiful, handsome and excited.

I was fat and profoundly unhappy.

I remember the pain of shopping for that most-dreaded mother-of-the-groom wedding dress. As an aside, you know what they say about the mother-of-the-groom's duties, right?

Show up, shut up and wear beige.

But I digress.

After finding nothing that could both fit and look good, I settled on buying this big brown faux-chiffon multi-layered horrible dress from Ross Dress for Less that I hoped would cover everything. It looked like a giant Safeway sack dolled up with a lovely corsage, which was a perfect match to how I felt.

Doni at her son and daughter-in-law's wedding, 2009.

Doni at her son and daughter-in-law's wedding, November, 2009.

One of those digital photo frames chronicles that entire day. It's displayed prominently at my son and daughter-in-law's house. Dozens of photos fade from one to the other, which is what it's done 24/7 since their marriage in 2009. When I go to their house, I avert my eyes from that digital time bomb so I cannot see the way I looked then, as well as some other people I'd rather not see, either.

This topic comes to mind because one of my Align Private Training workout buddies and I were talking this week about how happy we are now, after all these years of weight-loss struggle, to finally find success with a fitness journey. I've lost 35 pounds. She's lost 100.

Doni and Diane do a trick where they both fit inside a pair of pants Diane outgrew after losing 100 pounds.

Doni and Diane do a trick where they both fit inside a pair of pants Diane outgrew after losing 100 pounds.

She confessed to one regret.

"I just wish I'd done this before my daughter's wedding," she said. "I hate that I'm going to look that way in their wedding pictures forever."

I understood. That's exactly how I felt about myself in my son's wedding photos. Come to think of it, I felt the same way about how I looked in his brother's wedding pictures, too.

My friend and I were both feeling supremely crappy about those fat wedding photos when our super-trainer (and super-listener, it turns out) Matthew R. Lister, interrupted us.

Doni Chamberlain and Matthew R. Lister.

Doni Chamberlain and Matthew R. Lister.

He said we needed some perspective. He asked us to consider something: For the kind of help we each needed - bite-for-bite healthy nutrition guidance, discipline, inspiration, acceptance, hope, motivation, customized fitness training - where would we have found it back then in Redding?

He was right. Lord knows we'd each tried all the usual programs (Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, gyms, boot camps, fasts, pills, etc.), and had each failed.

The fact is, at the very time when my friend and I were having our photos taken for each of our kid's weddings, Align Private Training wasn't in Redding.

Unfortunately for us, it was the wrong time for our right place.

Granted, as much as Align Private Training is my salvation - the right place for me - I realize it's not for everyone.

You know those gyms surrounded by mirrors filled with heavy weights lifted by men and women whose veiny, muscle-mounded, glistening bodies could grace a body-building magazine? Align probably wouldn't be the ideal place for them, just like their place would be a bad fit for me.

You know those workout places with trainers whose clients thrive under the drill-sergeant/punitive, Biggest-Loser methods? Align probably wouldn't be the ideal place for them, just like their place would be a bad fit for me.

You know those places where clients have the freedom to come and go, sans interactions with anyone, where they choose whatever equipment and reps they want? Align probably wouldn't be the ideal fit for them, just like their place would be a bad fit for me.

Of course, there are some enviable hard-bodied, zero-body-fat folks at Align, but many of these people are better-suited for Align than a competitive body-builder environment because some of these people have issues with posture, movement or chronic pain.

And that's the thing: It's crucial that we each find whatever works for us to become our most fit and healthy, something that we can not just maintain, but a place that allows us to improve and grow to the next level of fitness, and never stop. Swimming, running, biking, weight-lifting, yoga, dancing, tennis, golf, pickle ball, Frisbee, whatever. I know now the importance in finding something that I can stick with throughout my life to keep me healthy, fit and happy. This is not temporary. It's a lifestyle.

I've learned so much about myself in this last year working with Matthew. Mainly, I've learned I can achieve more than I believed, and that I'm far stronger than I thought.

But I've also learned that I still lack the discipline - for now - to work out as strenuously at home as I do when I'm working out with my Align buddies, under Matthew's direction.

I've also learned that for me, I need a program that offers guidance about not just working out, but eating. I need a safe place where nobody judges how I look, or how long I can hold a plank (right now I collapse at just under 3 minutes, btw).

One of the most surprising things I've learned about myself is that I'm not as much a lone-wolf workout person as I'd thought.

Doni, Erin and Andrea, Align workout buddies.

Doni, Erin and Andrea, Align workout buddies.

I've come to depend upon and look forward to seeing my workout buddies just as much as Matthew. There's something about the solidarity that comes from enduring extremely tiring and intense workouts with others that takes people from strangers to friends rather rapidly. It leaves us all seeking guidance and approval from the very guy who issues the challenging exercise directives in the first place.

For some reason, the Stockholm syndrome comes to mind.

Whatever. It's working.

I could spend a lot of time begrudging all the years I was unfit, unhealthy, unhappy and undisciplined. Instead, I will celebrate that I've finally found a place of my very own for this health-and-fitness journey.

Right place. Right time. Just in time.

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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14 Responses

  1. Beverly Stafford says:

    Doni said, “I’ve learned I can achieve more than I believed, and that I’m far stronger than I thought.”  Which reminds me of what Christopher Robin said to Pooh, “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  You give Thursdays an optimistic start.

  2. Randall R Smith says:

    CITIUS, ALTIUS, FORTIUS!  And somewhere in there is courage to make change and discipline to stay the course.  Congratulation and thank you for sharing the journey.  My seventh grade history teacher was fond of saying that we must not be dismayed by the lost treasures of Athens and Rome, but we must glory is what was saved.

  3. So, I added another photo this morning, of me and Diane each inside a pant leg of her former pants. (I was waiting for her permission to post it.)

    You might want to look again at the story and check it out. Diane is a rock star!

    OK, I’m heading out to work out. Have a great, healthy day!

  4. Ginny says:

    Don’t look at what was around your waist, but look at that beautiful face with the wispy bangs, with the big smile.  That is what is important.  Not your waist line then.

    Only love and beautiful thoughts.

  5. A. Jacoby says:

    There’s been a bit of a hitch in my workout routine with the move to the new quarters. My personal workout routine for the last ummm . . . six months or so has included a cardio component made up of 1000 slaps of the battle ropes and 12 minutes on the ski machine. Well, the ski machine hasn’t gotten installed in the new quarters yet, so I say to Matthew, “Matthew, what do you propose in place of the 12 minutes on the skier?” May I aside here to say that it is NEVER safe to ask Matthew, “So, what do you want me to do next?” That’s when he becomes his most creative. So he said, offhandedly, “2000 ropes . . . . .”  WHAT?? ARE YOU JOKING!! No, apparently not. So Monday I did class. Tuesday it was 1500 ropes, Wednesday with group. Today, Thursday, did I give him his 2000 ropes? NOPE, I GAVE HIM 2100 . . . . take THAT you slave driver. And how did I feel when done? Rather than exhausted and whipped, I found that elation was the order o the day!! And, BTW, next week is my ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY!! WHEEE!!


    Thank you Diane . . . . thank you Doni . . .. oh, and thank you Matthew!

    • Are you serious?!! 2,100 ropes!? Oh my gosh, A.J.! I am so, so proud of you! One year. I cannot believe it. And look at you. You’ve lost weight, you can walk and climb stairs, and OMG, you can do 2,500 ropes (I’ve only done 1,000).

      And guess what? This is the year you turn 80. I am blown away.


  6. Sally says:

    Well Doni – HAPPY NEW YEAR! and here’s to a fabulous 2017 with a newly created Doni – both mentally and physically!  CONGRATULATIONS!!!

  7. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    I love reading about your fitness and health journey Doni.  You are one of my favorite wordsmiths and this is an important journey to share.  I love the picture of you at your son’s wedding.  I’ve always valued you as a bright, creative, talented and skilled person and I’ve never considered what you look like in the many years I’ve been a fan of yours.  The important thing about this journey is that you are stronger and happier than ever before.  When you reach your ideal weight have a professional photograph taken that will overshadow any photos from the past.

    • Oh, Joanne, thank you for the kind words.

      I will have a professional photo shoot done when I’ve reached my next milestone.

      Thank you for your support and encouragement as I continue this journey. It means so much to me.


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