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The Weight is Over: Journey to Lose 100 Pounds Began With 1 Step Through Align’s Front Door

Align owner and trainer, Matthew R. Lister, hams it up with Diane B. Hill, who's lost 100 pounds in a year and a half.

Align owner and trainer, Matthew R. Lister, hams it up with Diane B. Hill, who’s lost 100 pounds in a year and a half.

Today we sit in on a conversation between the woman who inspired me to get healthy, and the man who helped me do it. Join me in welcoming back Matthew R. Lister of Align Private Training in Redding, and Diane B. Hill. They discuss the journey that led to Diane’s 100-pound weight loss, and look to the future, too. They start by talking about their first impressions of other the first time they met at Align.

Diane: I was really really hesitant, but I did it anyway and walked in the door. I went there after prodding by my boss asking me every other day, “Have you gone yet, have you gone yet, have you gone yet?”

Finally I went through the door and I see this younger guy with a big smile on his face, welcoming me. I was very hesitant. Nothing’s ever worked.

Diane Hill had some serious health issues to contend with.

Diane Hill had some serious health issues to contend with.

Matthew: What did I see when you walked in the door?

Diane: We’ve had this discussion. Be honest.

Matthew: OK, I saw a project. You know, there are a lot of different aspects to a transformation like yours. In order to get someone like you from where you were to where you are now, it’s postural and mechanical and lifestyle analysis to figure out where the challenges and hurdles were in your life.

diane fishing

And then the mindset. What psychological mindsets are there going to be? What challenges lie along the way? All of those were equally challenging. You have a demanding job and lifestyle.

You had two really bad knees, and lot of variables. And I didn’t know how they would respond, so there were a lot of unknowns. If someone comes in with chronic back pain and it’s like OK, the unknowns are pretty qualified. But in your scenario, I didn’t know if you could exercise, what was functioning.

Diane in purple

I also didn’t know what mindsets were holding you back. I think it’s the same for everyone. When someone comes in for the first time, I don’t know if I can help, but I’m going to do everything in my power to help this person.

Diane: Well just the fact of what you were seeing, first of all, I come across as a very Type A personality, and I could show a lot of confidence, and nobody’s going to boss me around type of thing, and I thought, “There’s no way in hell this guy is going to be able to help me.”

That was the attitude I went in with. I was telling you my story, and I was looking at your face the whole time and I’m trying to read you and trying to figure out what you’re thinking.

I knew I was a project. And I didn’t know if you could help me, and really, I didn’t know, deep down inside, if I wanted to be helped, because I’d had so many different types of situations where people have wanted to help me, but couldn’t. There was something about you – your demeanor, how you looked at me.

You said to trust you, and that was hard because it’s hard for me to trust people because I’ve been burned so many times. There was something about you. It got me feeling really vulnerable, really fast. I’d never experienced that before.

Matthew: So, you said you came in and you were very Type A and a very confident person. That’s not who I saw. I saw fear and I saw pain. That’s what I saw.

Diane: Knock it off. You’re going to make me cry. I was scared, but I didn’t want you to know it. There was no frickin’ way.

Diane Hill before, and on the way to losing 100 pounds.

Diane B. Hill before, and on the way to losing 100 pounds.

Matthew: (Laughs.) You can’t hide it. Why do you think you felt comfortable being vulnerable?

Diane: Because I was at the end of my rope. Why do you think it was?

Matthew: I think it’s because you came in contact with someone who you could see genuinely cared.

Diane: I agree. I do remember that day, walking into Align. And I remember sitting down and talking with you, and I was really really really uncomfortable, and I didn’t want you to know that. But you obviously saw that. I was truly tired of being in pain. But I really didn’t think it was going to work. I was very skeptical.

Align owner and trainer, Matthew R. Lister, hams it up with Diane B. Hill, who's lost 100 pounds in a year and a half.

Align owner and trainer, Matthew R. Lister, hams it up with Diane B. Hill, who’s lost 100 pounds in a year and a half.

Diane: How did I lose 100 pounds? I surrendered to myself, and I surrendered to you. I’ve tried every weight-loss program there is out there. Every one. And with you, it was because you cared, and I wasn’t going to let you down. Actually, in the beginning, it started out being more, for me, about not letting Matthew down, more than than me. You were investing so much time and energy in me and compassion, that I wasn’t going to let you down. I never felt that way about the chick at Weight Watchers who is standing in front with all the 50 women, not that I’m downgrading Weight Watchers, because it works for some people, heck, it worked for me at one time, but it never stayed off.

Everything I did before was instant gratification, which is my forte: immediate gratification, and the weight has never stayed off. This time, there’s no way in hell I would ever, ever gain that weight back. There’s just no way. It won’t ever happen. Why? Because I’ve worked really hard to get to this point, and I would never let you down.

Matthew: That’s actually by design. The first six to eight weeks of the program are incredibly delicate. Those weeks really determine whether someone is going to make it or not. And so, in those first six to eight weeks, especially the first four, you’re coming in, and you’re doing the work, but you’re not seeing these miraculous changes, you know what I mean?

Diane: Right. Exactly.

Matthew: So the changes, at first they’re slow and steady, and so you almost need an artificial prop-up to get you to keep going, until you start seeing the benefits for yourself, and you feel better and you start to get motivated by the results, and then you start doing it for yourself. But for those first four to six weeks, I actually position it, intentionally, so that you want to do it for me because I’m so invested in the process.

And then I turn it, and make it more of a process of independence, and as time goes, I create more distance and make you less dependent upon me.

Diane: Which you have. I mean, the first time I met you, I went home and all of a sudden I get a text that says, “How are you doing buddy? Good job today,” or whatever, after I worked out … “workout” — I can’t even really call it that. I remember in the beginning I sat on a bench and I rotated my foot, my ankle, back and forth 20 times, each leg. And I could barely do that. And then you’d have me do the bands, you’d hold the band, the easiest one, and I’d go back and forth with my arms 10 times, and I was exhausted. I could barely do that. And you go, “Do that three times,” and I was like, “You’re nuts!”

What do I do now? I dead-lifted 100 pounds. I do single arm rows, 50 pounds. I did a 60-pounder, too. And I do the big fat ropes, 1,000 of those, 100 times 10. I do 3,000 meters on a rower.

It’s crazy.

Matthew: You know, you say it wasn’t much of a workout, but at that time, you had to go through the process of rehab and restoring functionality back to your joints, because traditional exercise would have hurt you, and then you would have said, “Screw it, this doesn’t work.” So you had to go through a process of fixing your posture and improving your functionality and then building stability to your joints and then going into the type of stuff you’re doing now. But if you hadn’t gone through that process, you would have ended up getting hurt, and then the entire transformation would have been blown. Injuries are catastrophic to transformations.

Diane: Nobody ever cared about me the way you did. I don’t feel as if you’re doing this because it’s your job, I feel you’re doing this because you truly care about people. When I go in that gym and I see how much fun everyone’s having, and how they interact with each other… I root for everyone else there as much as I root for myself, maybe even more so. And everyone just feeds off each other.

It’s an understatement to say that losing 100 pounds has changed my life. A couple of times a week – at least – something happens that leads me to remember how it used to be. It’s like an epiphany all the time. I go to a place, or people tell me I look really good. I mean, I really appreciate the compliments, but I don’t feel them. I don’t know what it is. When people say, “Oh my God, you look so good,” I mean I physically feel it, but mentally I’m still not there.

Diane Hill, down 100 pounds.

Diane Hill, down 100 pounds.

Something happened the other day, I went to a musical at U-Prep. Those chairs are so frickin’ small, tiny. I remember before I would have to wedge my ass in those little chairs. Well, the other day I just walked right in and sat down and I was like whoosh into the seat – and I had room on both sides of the chair! Parking lots. I mean, I can walk. Unbelievable. I sleep at night. I play with my grandkids. I just got a new puppy. My God, I’m chasing the puppy, and getting on the floor with the grandkids, playing hide-and-go-seek.

Matthew: For the future? At this point, my selfish goal, if you will, is to build independence, and a tool kit so you can do this without me, so you don’t need me as much. Still, just like at the very beginning, I’m an empty vessel in terms of what do you want to achieve. You might say, “Hey, I want to go for 150,” and if you said that, that’s fine. I’m in.

So for me, aside from what you want to achieve, my goal for you is to build independence and the ability to problem-solve. But you know, there are always more levels to reach and improve. More endurance, and better functionality through the hips, and there’s always another level to get to.

I think everybody at the gym continues to push the bar, Andrea with her 8-minute planks, you with your heavy dead-lifts. Everyone continues to push that bar up. That’s the end game that never ends.

Diane and Matthew

Diane: I agree. And for the first time in my life I actually enjoy exercise. As far as goals, I have set another goal for me to lose another 25 pounds. But I still don’t even know how much I weigh. I don’t know how much I weighed when I started … people don’t believe me when I say that, but I really have no clue. I haven’t weighed myself for probably a year and a half. So I don’t know how much I want to lose. I’m not there yet because I’m still not completely comfortable, and that’s what I’m using to gauge how much I have to lose.

Matthew, you’re like my blankie, and I know that I need to be more independent. I don’t want to be, truthfully, I don’t, but I know you’re right.

Matthew: So, when I say independent, I don’t mean so you can leave Align and go do your own thing. But you know, there are so many benefits to being at Align long-term, culture and camaraderie and this constant state of self-improvement, and that’s just the culture. But do you remember that in order to keep you motivated, to keep you walking in the door, I used to have to text you once or twice a day?

Diane: Oh yeah, you did. (Laughs)

Matthew: … Just to keep you walking in the door. When was the last time I had to do that? Now you’re capable of motivating yourself to exercise, and if you don’t exercise, you crave it and you want to do it. You don’t need me to pull you through that process.

Eating well: When you don’t eat well, you feel bad. You don’t need me to send you text messages, because you want to do it for you. That’s the independence, not so you could go do it on your own – because you don’t have to do it on your own – but so that you can be strong and so this transformation can be a lasting one.

Barry and Diane Hill after she's lost 100 pounds.

Barry and Diane Hill after she’s lost 100 pounds.

Diane: Well, it’s a lifetime journey we’re on. Somebody asked me, “Well, when are you going to be done with all this?”

There is no end. I’ll never be done with this. You have the beginning, and you have the process in the middle, but there really is no end. It’s a constant lifestyle change that I will have for the rest of my life.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com 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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