Fitness & Weight Loss
Inspirational Weight Loss Stories from Local Atlantans

Inspirational Weight Loss Stories from Local Atlantans

Real-life Weight Loss Transformations

One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is weight loss – a goal that can be difficult to achieve due to busy schedules, personal health or lack of motivation. Despite all of the obstacles you may face, there is nothing more rewarding than stepping in front of a mirror and liking what you see. Whether it’s diet, training or changing their outlook on life, the following stories of transformation are an amazing testament to what hard work and determination can yield. Everyone’s path to getting healthy is different. It’s about finding what works for you, asking for help when you need it and never giving up.


Carissa Chao - Finding the Motivation

After enduring almost two years of fertility treatments to get pregnant, I gave birth to a perfect little boy. The treatments caused me to gain weight and before I could think about losing it, I got pregnant again with a girl. With two children only 12 months apart, life was hectic. I fell into a downward spiral with very little sleep, no exercise, too much sugar and caffeine and eating when I could, which typically meant finishing what the kids had left on their plates. Naturally, this caused me to pack on the pounds.

I finally had enough when my blood pressure spiked and I began having lower back pain as a result of carrying around too much weight. I consulted with my trainer, Steve, in April 2010. He built a training program for me that was both realistic and aggressive. My program included elements of strength training and cardio, with a greater emphasis on cardio for burning calories. It was hard, but Steve held me accountable for my progress and I was committed to following through.

With Steve’s guidance and support, I made a conscious effort to change my caloric intake and eat only small, well-balanced meals throughout the day. As I started shedding pounds, I became more motivated. When my strength and energy began to build, he created even more challenging workouts. As I continued to lose weight and get stronger, I enjoyed my workouts even more and felt energized.

As of today, I am down 79 pounds and I have never felt better. I feel healthy and am able to run and play with my kids without getting tired. I truly appreciate Steve’s ongoing encouragement and support. I could not have succeeded without him. 

steve-naturmanBe time efficient
Use your time wisely. Work out harder for less time. Do something active every day. Watch portion sizes and eat smaller balanced meals throughout the day. Find exercises you enjoy, and have fun with working out. You’re more likely to stick with it.
Fitness Trainer
Steve Naturman, Attitude Fitness


Rob Mehal - Taking On New Challenges  

I began working out with (my trainer) Ty two to three times per week. We focused on a lot of multiple muscle group exercises that engaged my core and kept my heart rate elevated. From the start, Ty drove home the importance of my work outside the gym, i.e. my eating habits.

I eliminated unnecessary carbs, processed sugars, and increased my intake of lean protein. I trained myself to eat smaller meals more frequently. Within a few weeks I began to drop weight and started seeing differences in my muscle size and tone. My wife was so impressed. Even she began to train with Ty.

It’s now been three years since that first fitness evaluation with Ty, and both my wife and I are still going strong with our changed and healthy lifestyles. We continue to do resistance training and cardio workouts at least two to three times per week and have made exercise and healthy eating a top priority in our lives. 

We both turned 40 this year, and have run a total of three USMC Mud Runs together and a few 5K road races, and are always looking for a new challenge. Feeling good about the way I look has given me continued motivation in the gym, and has positively affected me in many other areas of my life.

Ty-jonesStay on track
Do something active every day and eat “clean.” You must make fitness a lifestyle to have long term success. Remember that you don’t have to be perfect to get fit and lose weight. If you get off track, you just get right back on. Don’t let yourself sabotage the rest of the day or week or month. It’s like getting a flat tire—you fix it and move on, you don’t poke holes in the rest of your tires.   
Fitness Trainer
Ty Jones, Fit for Life Personal Training East Cobb


Vicky Legaspi - Break Bad Habits 

I never had a weight problem until I experienced the breakup of my marriage at 39. I turned to food for comfort and I thought since I had always maintained a slim physique it would not be much of an effort to lose the weight I was gaining. When I turned 40, I started going from diet to diet but none of them were sustainable.

I am now in my early 50s and before I met Sheri, my health coach, I had lost some weight but still had a long way to go. More than just losing weight I wanted to learn how to take care of my overall well-being. The first thing she helped me to understand was what was causing my cravings.

With her help, I was eventually able to eat well and to implement a sustainable exercise routine that fit my lifestyle. I started with twice a week and it then became a daily habit.

When I would tell Sheri how I was struggling with getting rid of bad habits, like eating French fries (almost daily), she would ask me to consider what comfort I was getting from that food and to find it elsewhere. I don’t measure myself regularly, but I do know that my clothes are very loose. Thanks to all of the exercise, I have also built muscle and gained energy. I know I will reach my goal as long as I keep up with the things I have learned from Sheri. 

Sheri-OppYou are what you eat
Try the unwrapped food diet. If it didn’t grow, walk or swim, don’t eat it. Unwrapped foods, in their natural states, release a steady stream of sugar and nutrients into your body leading to feelings of fullness. Remember, the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you will crave.
Health Coach
Sheri Oppenheimer, The 100 Women Project


Shirley Coleman - Never Give Up

I’m 46 years old, 5’5” and I began my weight loss challenge about 11 years ago when I went to the doctor for my annual exam. When I learned my weight was 232 pounds, I felt like a deer in headlights. I was very ashamed and disappointed in myself. I knew I had to do something, so I joined a gym. Over time, I lost about 45 pounds, but then as we all know, it’s easy to get comfortable, and the weight slowly crept back on.

Some of the ladies in my gym tried to convince me to enter a figure competition. I wasn’t ready for that, but one of them suggested a competition might give me the motivation to work even harder, because with this new goal I also had a deadline. Several years passed and I was still spinning my wheels, losing and gaining weight. In 2011, I finally made up my mind that this is the year I would go after my goal. I was determined to compete in my first figure competition.

After months of training, my body still wasn’t leaning out and time was running out. Life was stressful with work, training and feeling like my nutrition plan wasn’t working. It was mid-August and there were only a couple of local competitions left for the year. I was still hopeful I could reach my goal and determined not to give up.

In September, I began training at House of Payne, owned and operated by Rachel and Steve Payne. This dynamite duo is so motivating and knowledgeable. They provided me with a complete program (weight training, nutrition, cardio and posing) to help me realize my dream. I competed on November 5 in the SNBF Pro/Am Bodybuilding and Figure Show. I felt like the diva of the stage and now I have a new goal. I’m preparing for my next competition in 2012 and the sky is the limit. If you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything, and the reward will be great. So no matter what your goal is, never give up.

steve-payneChoose wisely
You make hundreds of choices every day. Before you choose what you are going to eat, or if you are going to skip a workout, remember your goal. Discipline or disappointment, it’s your choice.
Fitness Trainer
Steve Payne, House of Payne Personal Training


Trisha Addicks - Finding Your Inner Athlete 

In May of 2010, I decided to go to Weight Watchers. I went with a friend, and despite my embarrassment, weighed in. I remember thinking, “It can only get better from here.” I started the plan and began to see results weekly. By month four, I had lost 50 pounds but I had done this before. I wanted to go further this time, so I decided to add exercise to my routine. I started slowly, and by Christmas of 2010, I was exercising three to four times a week. 

I was doing boot camp and walking on my off days. I started going to the Concourse Athletic Club last spring where I met Iliyas Rahman, an amazing trainer. Continuing with my boot camp and adding workouts with Iliyas has taught me that I am strong, and that I am an athlete, not just a person trying not to be fat. I have lost 160 pounds and while I am still on my journey, I know I will never go back to living life on the sidelines.

Iliyas-RahmanHard work pays off
If you have the discipline, desire, and dedication to work hard then you can achieve any of your health and fitness goals.
Fitness Trainer
Iliyas B. Rahman, Concourse Athletic Club


Cullen Sacha - Healthier Choices Made a New Man

When I entered Paul Rodgers’ IQ Fitness this summer, I had been exercising pretty regularly. After my first meeting with Paul, he promised I could see dramatic results if I changed my diet and followed his exercise plan. At six feet and 215 pounds, I knew I had a few pounds to lose. But I did not think dramatic results were possible because I was exercising already. Paul asked me to give him 90 days.

My transformation began on August 1. I cut processed sugar and grains from my diet. At Paul’s suggestion, my wife and I bought our dinners from Savi Urban Market. The meals included one high quality protein and two veggies. Much to our surprise, they were extremely tasty and very convenient because they are ready to eat in five minutes. 

I trained at IQ Fitness in a small group setting, but every session felt like personal training. I did not want a trainer to shout at me; I wanted a teacher to instruct me on better nutrition and fitness. I asked a lot of questions and found Paul to be the most knowledgeable fitness professional I have ever met. 

Every day I faced challenges – avoiding chocolate chip cookies a colleague placed inches from my face, or eating an apple instead of an egg roll when Chinese food was served at a meeting. Just as Paul promised, the pounds started melting away. I could not believe how fast I was losing weight. After 10 weeks, I lost 34 pounds of fat and put on 11 pounds of muscle! I gained strength, speed and stamina. I made it through Halloween, Thanksgiving and most of football season without gaining any of the weight back. I am a new man with a new lifestyle.

paul-rodgersBreak your sugar habit
Everyone is different, and what may motivate one person may not motivate another. One tip is “don’t dig your grave with your own knife and fork.” This quote is particularly true for many people who eat for comfort or because of boredom. Food is for nutrients, so eat nutrient dense foods. When your nutritional needs are naturally met you crave less of the bad foods that can lead to weight gain and because you are properly fed, you will have more energy to move and exercise. Stay away from liquid calories since these can bombard your body with truckloads of extra calories, spike your insulin levels and hold your metabolism hostage from switching to the fat burning mode.One of the most successful things that you can do to reduce the craving of “bad carbs” like breads and pasta, is to use probiotic foods.   
Fitness Trainer,
Paul Rodgers, IQ Fitness and Wellness Buckhead


Billy Streck - Choose a Better Life

Billy Streck, owner of Cypress Street Pint and Plate, had to lose a lot to gain a lot. Weighing just about 270 pounds, he realized he needed to make a change. Over the last year, he lost nearly 100 pounds, changing not just his own life, but his family’s as well.

Billy was a slave to his medications - two for blood pressure and two for cholesterol. “I would go to sleep sometimes at night and feel like I wasn’t going to wake up,” Streck explains. “I wanted to be there for my family, my daughter. I wanted to be able to walk her down the aisle one day.” He took a step back from his life and began to take control. He started attending Weight Watchers meetings to maintain motivation and learned about portion control and what it means to eat natural and organically.

It was important to Streck that he didn’t get caught up in the obsession of numbers that can happen with a weight loss regimen. “Weight Watchers was a tool for me to learn about how to eat cleaner, maintain and find a balance.”

Streck is proud of his participation in the most recent Peachtree Road Race. After not running in 15 years, he felt a rush of pride and accomplishment. Now weighing in at about 190 pounds, Streck said one of his biggest challenges is maintaining a balance in diet and weight, but every step is worth it. Today he swears by running at least three times a week, and he walks more and takes the car less. “When the weight starts coming off, you start seeing the world clearly,” Streck says. “It’s been a great journey.” 

Make smart food choices
Focus on foods with fuel. Your body works harder to process protein and fiber than they do with the fat and carbs. Plus, protein and fiber help you feel full and therefore more satisfied.  At Weight Watchers we call these fueling foods Power Foods, and they include lean protein, fruits, veggies, whole grains and non-fat dairy.
Weight Watchers Leader
Hope Spetnagel, Atlanta Weight Watchers


Junel Doxie - Overcoming the Obstacles

I’d been overweight or “big-boned” from middle school into adulthood, and getting bigger every year. In 2009, I was in my early 30s with no change. I felt lost in a body that restricted me from regular life, and I was worried about my health. 

Something had to happen. In June, I met Nathan through a free class offered at Trinity Fitness. I liked the non-pushy attitude when he talked about what he had to offer. I signed up for the Take 21 program, a course that provided me with guidelines on how to work out effectively and eat correctly. I lost seven pounds in 21 days and it became my blueprint. After eight months, I had lost 60 pounds and went from a size 18 to a size 12. I woke up every day with more energy and motivation.

In July 2010, I was invited to join the Trinity Taekwondo team. Just two years prior, I never thought I’d be able to partake in one of the kickboxing classes, much less compete on the team. But I had the desire to prove to myself that I could. After training and competing for a year, I won my first national championship at the 2011 AAU Nationals. I fulfilled my dream of skydiving this year on my birthday. I’m now training for the Tough Mudder, an 11 mile, 25 obstacle adventure race held in February 2012. 

This past summer I made it down to a size six, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m living a life I never thought was possible for me, and I have Nathan to thank for it. He doesn’t just help you to be healthier physically, he believes in making you stronger mentally, which has translated into every part of my life.

nathan-nowakHave fun with your workout
Ensure your workouts are comprised of compound movements, meaning you are working multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Eat every three to three and a half hours, as this helps keep your metabolism at a steady, consistent level. If fat loss is the goal, avoid sugar. Most importantly, find a workout regimen that you enjoy with individuals who are supportive of your goals. This is often the difference between succeeding or failing with a fitness routine. If it’s not fun, then you’re not likely to keep the commitment, so have fun!
Fitness Trainer
Nathan Nowak, Trinity Fitness


Walter and Jennifer Orechwa - Find Strength Together   

I’ve been active my whole life, and was well-informed regarding nutrition and exercise, but at 40 years old it seemed that no matter how much exercise I added to the equation, I could never get back to a healthy weight. Meanwhile, my husband had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and was taking several medications. We were paying a fortune for the medications every month, and while I liked to think I was healthier than he was, at 40 pounds overweight, I was lying to myself.

So last July I started the cycle again - diet, exercise, discipline, hard work, 20 pounds gone, followed by that same brick wall. I got off the scale that hadn’t budged in two weeks, ready to scream. But this time, I didn’t give up. I decided enough was enough. I didn’t know everything (obviously!) and I needed some help. On our way to work that morning, I told my husband that I needed to stop doing these same things, expecting different results. I did a morning’s worth of research and we drove to Jenny Craig that same day and we signed up together.

Today, he’s 60 pounds lighter and I’ve lost 45. We started small on the exercise, using Valerie Bertinelli’s DVDs in the basement, but as we got stronger, healthier and thinner, we gained confidence. Now we’ve become runners, something I never thought we would do! I’m hoping to complete a half marathon this fall. We really enjoy running and I hope we can do it for decades to come. My husband has never looked better, and our weight loss has been a hugely positive force in our marriage. I know I wouldn’t have made it to where we are now without his love and support.

Our Jenny Craig consultant, Linda, has been the backbone of our success. She would help me keep the goals in mind, never letting me give up. That relationship with her has also been a large part of reaching the goals we set for ourselves.

Watch your food portion size
Two of my favorite tips I like to share with clients include making meals more volumetric. That means always starting out with a large tossed salad, fruit bowl or assorted vegetables with fat-free dressing. Also, using smaller plates is great for portion control. Psychologically, it will seem like you’re enjoying a lot more food.
Linda Thorndike, Jenny Craig


Ivy Booker - Reaching Your Goals  

At age 48, I became very overweight.  I used food as comfort due to stress and didn’t think I would ever get the weight off.  I always ate the wrong way, not really knowing what the right way was. In 2009, I was admitted into the hospital twice due to high blood pressure. The last time I was admitted it scared me so I decided to do something about it.

This is when I decided to take Tracey up on her offer to train me. I had never exercised in my life and this was going to be a new experience for me. At first fear took over.  I was scared to death and tried to back out several times. Tracey was very encouraging and promised we would take it one workout at a time.  It was the best decision I ever made. One year later I was off all my blood pressure medicine and was 40 pounds lighter. I have lost a total of 65 pounds to date and I am still going.

My final goal is to be a size eight, 170 pounds and to be able comfortably wear a swim suit.  I have had many challenges along the way such as chronic knee pain and eating setbacks but Tracey provided solutions that I could practically apply to my life and it worked.  I hope my story helps others who are fearful of working out and facing chronic health issues.  If you just start the rest will fall in place.

Tracey-PaulfreHave a positive attitude
Like anything else staying fit is a two part commitment, first the mental then the physical.  Whatever you do, keep moving.  Do something every day. We are going to mess up and that’s ok, it is what you do after that matters. Nothing tastes as good as working hard and looking good.
Fitness Trainer
Tracey Paulfrey, Concourse Athletic Club