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On the program, I have one "free" day a week. As long as I follow the program, I can eat what I want one out of seven days. If I want a piece of chocolate, I know I can have it on my free day. Loaves of bread drenched in olive oil and balsamic vinegar? No problem on a free day. How can I fail if I have something to look forward to each week, like eating a slice of cake from Ettore's?
It's all so great and manageable that I decide the day Salinas hands me my menu to roll through In N Out Burger and start the regimen with my free day. Immediately, I spiral into self-loathing. What have I done? So I thoroughly commit to the program on Day 2.
Salinas has prepared a menu for me based upon a detailed questionnaire regarding the foods I like and the combination of protein, fat and carbohydrates my body needs (Read that? Needs) in order to lose weight. I'm allotted about 1,300 calories a day divided among five meals-all precisely measured and all bland. My first meal consists of three egg whites, eight-tenths of a banana and one-third cup of plain oatmeal. Eight-tenths of a banana? What?
I eat all but one last bite of a banana? About now, I consider whether a Thai deep-fried banana smothered in vanilla ice cream counts as long as I only eat eight-tenths. Meal two: Three ounces of chicken breast, one-third cup of brown rice and one-half cup of veggies. You get the idea. Every meal contains a lean protein, a whole grain and vegetables.
In addition to my meals-and I must eat all five-I do cardio workouts twice a day for at least 35 minutes and weight train with The Transformer three times a week. I must daily drink more water than Folsom Lake holds and take a multivitamin, and a Pyruvate supplement (which studies suggest helps burn fat in women) three times a day. Perhaps most importantly, I must not measure my success by what the scale says. I am to measure it by what the measuring tape reads and my fat loss.
Amazingly, I follow the plan; it's not that difficult and I'm feeling OK about the food.
But I'm unprepared for the pain associated with my first week of training with Salinas. He introduces me to total body-weight training-sessions, keeping my heart rate up as he leads me through weightlifting and exercises that eventually work all my muscle groups in 50 minutes. I'm exhausted. I am sweating profusely and feel like I can't take any more of his "Superman" exercises, which have me lying on the floor on my stomach, attempting to fly with my arms and legs up off the carpet and holding it there until my trainer says, "Release." And yet, I'm amazed at how much I'm learning about form. Salinas has me lifting perhaps five pounds, yet it feels like I'm lifting a ton. "It's the form," he confidently advises. "You see people all the time at the gym, lifting heavy weights and doing it all wrong. They're not only wasting their time and not getting results but also possibly injuring themselves."
At the end of the first week of training, my free day falls on my last workout of the week at S&B Elite. I'm afraid to eat whatever I want because I've done so well. What if I take a bite of the forbidden apple and never put it down, never go back to eating well again? Nevertheless, I hastily grab a fish burrito from a taqueria on my way home from the trainer's studio. I pull over in the Roseville Galleria parking lot because I'm so hungry. Ironically, my arm muscles are so weak from working them that I can barely bring the burrito to my mouth. I'm too tired to eat.
Is that how it works? The trainer exhausts your muscles so much even eating is impossible? I consider going on the Little Debbie Diet-eating 1,300 calories a day of nothing but snack cakes and throwing this whole lifting thing out the window. Currently, I cannot move my arms or feel them at all. I cannot lift my food to my mouth. I go home, shaking, and take a shower.
Trips to the family gym for my cardio workouts find me wincing at the rows and rows of lithe, gazellelike members. I try different times of the day so as to avoid the masses of fit fiends, the Courtney Thorne Smiths of the running set, but they are everywhere, every day at every hour in the gym. About my third week into the Salinas boot camp regime, where I'm actually pulling my whole lower body up from a suspended position and doing hanging crunches, I find myself in the row of gazelles competitively keeping up with the pack, and taking a sick pleasure in running faster and longer than the man next to me. Could this actually be working? Am I getting fit?
In the middle of my program, my best friend from high school visits from Florida. Rhonda promises to follow the program with me. And indeed her first night in town, she eats whole-wheat pasta with two tablespoons of Prego sauce. The next day, we put on our workout gear, eat three egg whites and walk to the supermarket to buy our eight-tenths of a banana. Rhonda picks the biggest piece of fruit she can find. We decide to eat our banana and walk a mile, then run a mile. On our walk, I devour my banana. Suddenly, I drop the last bite of the eight-tenths of the banana. We both gasp in horror. I could pick up the banana piece in the gutter, but it's just too gross. I tell Rhonda that I will pick the dandelions in people's gardens and eat them. We decide to write a book on edible plants in your neighborhood.
A few days into her visit, I take Rhonda to my workout with The Transformer. He puts her through the grind with me and surprisingly, I'm not as flushed or weak or completely drenched in sweat as before. Am I getting better at this? I comment to him how the workout "wasn't so bad," while Rhonda grumpily turns to me and says, "Can we eat now?" Salinas chuckles and promises with a wicked smile to knock my workout up a notch next week. I tell him I'm leaving for a few days to Napa. Rhonda and I have booked time at a spa-mud baths, massages and complete relaxation. I vow to only use my free day one day of the trip but consider also using all my free days for the entire program consecutively and really eating well.
I use all my free days consecutively. Well, somewhat. I'm playing a frightening game of almost staying on the menu while still working out. I drink a couple of contraband glasses of wine, but rise the next morning and swim countless laps in the spa pool. I drink a mocha on the way home from the wine country, but also run three miles that day. My trainer is due to take my stats, and I am freaking out. Rhonda tells me not to worry. But I cannot help but worry. I feel accountable to my trainer. He motivates me, helps me through hard lifts; he wants me to succeed, and I want to succeed, too.
Amazingly, I've lost 8 percent of my body fat in about four weeks, as measured by calipers and a space-age piece of equipment that I stand on for several minutes. Hallelujah! I try on all my old clothes from the year prior to my mother's death. I fit into them. I've dropped inches all over. I'm completely motivated now to really go gung-ho. I grab my brother, a former football player and present paramedic, and taunt him into working out with me. He can barely finish the hundred crunches and squats that Salinas now has me doing daily at home. I breeze through them, shower and put on a tank top for the first time in years. The sun begins to blaze in Sacramento. Summer is here, and I can wear skirts without feeling like my legs resemble an elephant's.
Suddenly, things slow down. I'm worrying obsessively about my husband as the headlines pummel me with car bomb after car bomb and insurgent after insurgent. I know he traverses the deadliest highway in the world-the road to the Baghdad airport-frequently. I have not seen him since our five-day getaway in Rome this past January, and I am reminded that while we were there, his team in Baghdad was ambushed at the shooting range where they practice. Thankfully, all survived, but not without injury. I cannot sleep. I stay up checking my e-mail every hour. I cannot eat. I'm starving myself out of stress, and my body goes into "starvation mode." Although I'm eating less and working out, I'm not losing fat. Salinas begs me to eat and sleep. Salinas tells me to get a massage and a babysitter and sleep.
My sleepless nights and calorie-free days catch up with me. My body is burned out, and I pull a muscle in my stomach at my training session. Salinas insists I see his "active release" chiropractor, Scott Zawada, D.C. Everyone at the studio raves about his technique and how much he helps athletes recover from injury. My trainer also tells me to work with Dr. Zawada on my scoliosis.
FOR THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE, PICK UP A COPY OF SACRAMENTO MAGAZINE'S SEPTEMBER ISSUE.