Losing the Weight—And Keeping It Off

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Four locals weigh in on how they successfully shed the pounds.

It’s January—and you know what that means. It’s resolution time.

Actually, make that revolution time.

For anyone who’s decided this is the year they’re going to lose weight and get into shape—and we know you’re out there—this one’s for you. It’s a story about four locals who’ve not only lost weight but kept it off, and done so without magic pills or gimmicky fads. They’ve gone back to the basics: sensible eating and regular exercise.

No Fat Flush, South Beach or Grapefruit diets for these folks. They’ve learned that the only kind of plan that works is one they can follow for life.

Monica Jones

Then: 165
Now: 145

(Before)

When your sister-in-law is a fitness trainer who runs “booty boot camps,” you probably can expect a friendly kick in the you-know-what every so often.
That’s exactly what Monica Jones got from her sister-in-law, Sarai Jones, fearless leader of said boot camps through Fit Bodies 2 Go in Elk Grove. After Monica gave birth to her second child in the summer of 2007, she was lugging around an extra 20 or 25 pounds that needed the boot.

The goal: to drop the weight by November, when her maternity leave would end. “I wanted to go back to work with a new body,” says Jones, whose postpartum poundage peaked at 165. She was aiming for 140—just a shade under her normal 145. (She’s 5-foot-5.)

So that August, with her sister-in-law at the ready, Jones’ battle with the bulge began.

First order of business: a new way of eating. “Sarai gave me The Eat-Clean Diet book and asked me to read it before we started working out,” says Jones, who lives in Sacramento. “She wanted me to get my mind-set in place.” The book’s plan called for six small, balanced meals a day, each hovering around the 300-calorie mark. Fish, veggies and whole grains became staples; out went the cookies and the chips.

For the 29-year-old Jones, who always had “eaten pretty much everything I wanted,” changing her eating habits was the greatest challenge of all—even harder, she says, than working out.

But that, too, was difficult. Jones says she couldn’t even run around the block before her sister-in-law kick-started her into action.

“I was a little intimidated,” she admits. But when Sarai showed up at her house three days a week, it was fight or flight.

She fought.

Light workouts were soon replaced by vigorous ones. She walked. She ran. She rode bikes. She did jumping jacks. She jumped rope. She weight-trained with dumbbells. Sarai was “a great coach,” Jones says. “It helps to have that accountability factor—to know someone is going to come and work out with you.”

It also helped Jones to visualize herself waltzing back into work and having her office mates go “wow.”

Did she make it? You bet she did.

“I got rid of a lot of clothes, went out shopping for some new ones and just felt so much better about myself,” says Jones.

Since then, she’s gained back about 5 pounds. But she’s kept off 20 and is happy with the way she looks.

Jones still struggles with the eating thing. “Sweets are my enemy,” she confesses; chocolate is a particular weakness.

But she continues to work out three times a week, and you can probably guess where. Yep. She goes to booty camp.

Stephani Crespin

Then­: 170
Now: 140

(Before)

It was a long road to enlightenment. But Stephani Crespin finally learned that having a healthy body is not about dieting—it’s about having a healthful lifestyle.

It’s a lesson hard-won through years of trial and error—and diets, diets, diets: fly-by-night diets “where you eat bananas on Thursdays,” liquid diets, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers. She even embraced the Fen-Phen fad during the dastardly diet drug’s Hollywood heyday. (She was attending UCLA at the time.)

Some of them, especially Weight Watchers, worked—but only for the short haul. Inevitably, Crespin’s weight would creep back up to the 170 range. (She’s 5-foot-4.)

But today, the 36-year-old Sacramentan fluctuates between 130 and 140, and it’s no short-term thing: She’s kept the weight off for more than five years.

How’d she do it? She got smart—and maybe fate intervened a little, too: One day back in October 2003, she was hanging out on J Street and stumbled onto “Rose’s place”—Rose Zahnn, that is, owner of Healthy Habits Fitness & Yoga studio in midtown. As soon as she learned about Zahnn’s Learn To be Lean class, Crespin was sold.

“There was nothing ‘hoaxy’ about it—no special food to buy, just learning to eat healthy, learning the basics
of nutrition, about the importance of fiber and fruits and vegetables, learning to look at what you’re eating and when you’re eating it.” She joined up and learned a few more things, such as how to keep a food journal and how many calories she needed (1,800 a day) to reach her goal weight of 140.

But the main shift, Crespin says, was inside her own head.

“I finally made the connection that if it takes two years, three years, whatever—I just want to have a healthy lifestyle,” she says. “Ten years ago, that would have sounded way too slow, way too simple. But for the first time, it really appealed to me because I finally realized diets don’t work.”

It took about a year to take off the weight. And one of the things that helped the most, says Crespin, is that she didn’t call it a weight-loss plan. “I learned to eat like a person at my goal weight—the person I was going to look like in a year,” she says. “I was basically connected to the outcome.” The program also taught her to focus not on what she couldn’t eat, but on what she could. “Instead of depriving myself, which is what I was doing when I was dieting, now my new challenge was, ‘How can I get the five fruits and vegetables into my diet each day?’”

It became a way of life.

“We’re creatures of habit,” she asserts. “At this point, I automatically get the dry turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread.”

Working out, too, has become routine. “I’ve always got my gym bag in my trunk,” says Crespin, who combines classes at Healthy Habits (sculpting, spin, yoga) with workouts at the gym, including free weights.

Learning to put herself first—“even if leaving work at a certain time to go to the gym meant getting fired,” as she puts it—also was a critical part of her success, Crespin says.

“It is a challenge to put yourself first and your health first. But that’s really the only way.”

Mike Vance

Then: 214
Now: 175

(Before)

Mike Vance remembers reading The South Beach Diet. But his good intentions about eating better also went south.
“I was always thinking about going on a diet,” remembers Vance. “But then I’d go out to dinner with my wife and . . .”

He laughs.

Yet, ultimately, the 214 pounds he was carrying around on his 5-foot-9 frame were no laughing matter. When his doctor told him he was diabetic and would need to start blood-pressure medication in addition to the cholesterol-lowering drug he already was taking, Vance had another idea. “I said to my doctor, ‘Well, what if I lost all this weight?’”

And that’s exactly what he’s done. At 63, the Gold River resident has peeled off the pounds that have perturbed him for years, plunging past the 200 mark down to 175—a number his dietitian says is just right for his height and bone structure. (Vance says his build is like an Irish peasant’s, “built for picking potatoes in the field.”)

The dietitian was his doctor’s idea and a definite improvement over South Beach, Atkins and all the other diets du jour, says Vance.

“Judy [Fields, in Fair Oaks] gave me information I could understand, which made it easy,” he says. Although Vance says his eating habits were already pretty good, Fields taught him the art of nutritional balance and portion control. “What’s better now is the amount I eat,” he says. “I won’t have a second or third helping of meat.” Cutting back on carbs also has been key: He substitutes fresh fruit or sliced tomato for hash browns at breakfast and tries to say no to bread. French fries are forbidden, but by choice: For Vance, “salty things are easier for me to cut out than sweet.”

Regular gym workouts and plenty of walking are part of the plan for this retired high school administrator (who now works at a part-time job). But it’s the addition of the personal trainer that’s made the most difference, says Vance, because it makes him accountable. “If I have an appointment with him or someone else, I’ll keep it,” he says. “I break promises to myself all the time. But not to someone else.”

Dropping nearly 40 pounds also has helped his other numbers drop—namely, cholesterol and blood pressure. (Vance does take medications for these conditions, but they are low-dose.) His glucose levels also are showing an improvement, and he’s not taking any meds for that.
Now that he’s maintained his weight loss for some seven months, Vance has one more goal: to lose another 10. His motivation? Pants size.

“I want to be wearing a 32,” says Vance. “And right now I’m wearing 33/34.”
Now that he has a new way of eating (“not just a diet”), Vance believes he can do it. But sometimes he needs a reminder of how he used to be. That’s when he heads to Hometown Buffet to observe what he calls the “major-league eaters.”

“If you go to the big buffets, you have lots of visual cues around you of what not to eat,” says Vance. “I don’t want to be like that. I want to enjoy my life to the fullest.”

DeeDee Arruti

Then: 160
Now: 125

(Before)

There are two things DeeDee Arruti credits most for her 35-pound weight loss: the Roseville Health & Wellness Center and the book she calls her bible, The CalorieKing Calorie, Fat and Carbohydrate Counter.

The day she started counting calories has such significance for her that she can recite it from memory: Aug. 18, 2008.

For the 51-year-old Roseville resident, counting calories works where other eating plans have not, putting an end to years of yo-yo dieting. While she had some success with Weight Watchers, she ultimately found it “too regimented. I couldn’t do it for the rest of my life.”

Keeping a lid on calories is something she can picture doing for the duration, however, because it allows her to eat whatever she wants—within reason. “There are no no-nos,” says Arruti. “It’s about portion control.”

When she started the diet in August, the 5-foot-3 retiree already was down to 145 (from a high of 160), and her daily calorie ceiling was placed at 1,200 to 1,400. But most of the time, she averages around 1,100. She makes sure to get plenty of protein, drinks lots of water and tries to eat more fruits and vegetables.

That eating plan—plus exercise (more on that in a minute)—helped her take off 20 pounds. But she’d still like to
lose 5 more.  “I want to get to 120—that’s my driver’s license weight,” she says. (She’ll probably be there by the time you read this.)

Arruti was coached in this new way of eating, along with other weight-loss tools such as journaling and regular weigh-ins, at the Roseville Health & Wellness Center. She originally joined the gym in 2005 after a broken foot sidelined her for months, bringing with it a sedentary lifestyle and unwanted pounds. (That’s when her weight zoomed to 160.) Although Arruti says she “literally couldn’t do three minutes on the bike” when she first joined, she’s now a veritable workout queen, with a schedule that would make your head spin. (Spin, incidentally, is her Thursday class.) She works with a personal trainer, takes a body conditioning class and walks five miles five days a week.

She does, however, take a break on Sundays.

But it’s all worth it, Arruti says—and the payoff goes beyond looking good. “I’m more energetic,” she says. “I sleep better.”

Still, it’s nice when people take notice.

“People are calling me ‘little,’” says Arruti. “I haven’t heard that in a really long time.”