By Alexandra McCray
Photography by Brian Reeves
Atlanta Weight Loss Success Stories
The Busy Mom
As a business owner in the wellness industry, Abby Wright spent day in and day out helping others monitor their health, with little focus on her own. Determined to stay active with her children and to fight a strong family history of weight problems, Abby motivated herself with the book The Power Foods Lifestyle written by a personal training friend, Kristy Jo Hunt.
She joined the Body Buddies online program, learning how to eat right and keep weight off. Abby zeroed in on her goals and said no to some of her favorite things like eating chocolate and the occasional girls’ night out.
Over the course of a year, the weight disappeared. “How different I am today than I was then, not just physically, but mentally—70 pounds down and 100 times happier with who I am inside and out. I will never go back,” Abby pledges.
She advises tackling one thing at time. Whether cutting something out of your life or adding something in, Abby believes that taking things one step at time can make even daunting goals attainable.
The New Dad
After his son’s first birthday, Anthony “Tony” Cox realized it was time for him to get serious about his health—for himself and for his son. His first step was to actually step into the gym he had driven past hundreds of times on his way to work.
After learning to adjust his hectic schedule to include that gym time, he fell in love with CrossFit and with his workout routine. “Getting through the first couple months—dragging myself to the gym, that was hard, but then I really didn’t want to miss it,” says Tony.
He loves the competitive aspect of the workouts, which motivated him to push himself harder. The sense of community at CrossFit not only helped him begin to see exercise as enjoyable, but also keep his nutrition in check.
Tony didn’t follow a specific diet but did reduce his carbohydrate intake and increase his protein consumption. He created a MyFitnessPal account, using it as a tool to track his eating habits while sharing his progress with friends. His dedication to his program and the support of CrossFit Perimeter coaches Cris Romano and Dave Flynn resulted in Tony’s loss of 75 pounds in a year.
Tony proclaims, “I feel infinitely stronger and healthier versus how I felt at this point last year. I feel as motivated as ever and totally committed to continuing to get better. Truthfully, I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I hope I can help to motivate people around me as much as possible.”
The College Student
Fitness and exercise had always been part of Vanessa Rabb’s life, but once she started college she found herself less active, eating her fair share of instant noodles and losing her fit physique. “The freshman 15 was more like the freshman 30,” Vanessa reveals.
Family expressed concern over her increasing weight, but she dismissed them. “One day I weighed and measured myself. I was like, ‘Wow, yeah, I need to do something about this,'” she discloses.
When a routine doctor’s appointment showed a noticeable increase in her blood pressure, Vanessa realized the problem was no longer just about her appearance. She began squeezing exercise in on her lunch break, going to the on-site gym at her job.
After reading Toxic Relief by Dr. Don Colbert, she examined her food choices more carefully and cut out soda, bread, sugar and alcohol. She packed all of her meals each day and permitted herself one cheat day every week.
Seven months later, Vanessa stepped on the scale to see she had lost 70 pounds. “Steady diet and exercise—things that you don’t think really work but do—you build habits to keep it off.”
Vanessa says she can’t help but share her weight loss story and report how much better she feels. She advises, “You get impatient with yourself when you’re not getting the results you want, but it’s usually because you aren’t putting in the right amount of effort. Once you do that, and once you figure out what your problem is, you can really overcome it and start losing the weight.”
The Empty Nester
With her daughter off to college and menopause fast approaching, Gloria Polard felt frustrated by the state of her health. When her doctor placed her on two hypertensive drugs, she thought, “This [is] it, and nothing’s gonna change.”
In May of 2015, Gloria attempted one last-ditch effort. With the help of Take Shape For Life® and a free health coach, Gloria learned the crucial role that nutrition plays in lasting weight loss. She adopted a low glycemic diet, eating small meals every few hours. “[I kept] my blood sugar level up so that I got into fat-burning mode,” Gloria says.
She made those necessary lifestyle changes without feeling deprived. Events that could have easily been pitfalls, such as dining out with friends, were no longer focused solely on the meal. “Going out to a restaurant with friends—you’re really there to be with the people around the table, [not] the food,” Gloria now recognizes.
The final piece of the puzzle was exercise. At Orangetheory Fitness, Gloria tried a variety of workouts incorporating weight lifting, cardio and interval training, keeping the routine exciting and interesting.
Gloria hit her goal weight in six months, losing 40 pounds and eliminating prescription medications. In celebration of her own transformation, Gloria decided to pay it forward by becoming a free health coach herself.
The Genetics Fighter
After the death of her father, Jennifer Holloway looked back at old pictures and admired how he always jumped into a photo while she tended to shy away from that lens. The last time her father had seen her, she was obese, and her mother also struggled with obesity. Jennifer realized that while she could not change her past, she could certainly take control of her future. She no longer wanted to hide from cameras, and she refused to accept obesity as a constant part of her life.
Jennifer attempted the Atkins diet and quickly dropped 30 pounds; but shortly after, she hit a plateau and sought advice. She was introduced to a weight loss plan that encompassed both education and support; she began steadily losing weight each week, and keeping it off.
One hundred pounds later, she is now doing things she never thought possible — 5Ks, 10Ks, obstacle courses and hiking. Jennifer no longer avoids certain activities that had embarrassed her, and now she’s first to pop in a photo.
“I feel like I’m actually living instead of existing. I have amazing energy now!” Jennifer exclaims. “Best of all — I finally know I can maintain this for life. What a powerful feeling. I want others to feel this way and find their true self!”
Spurred by a painful divorce, Jason Dumestre decided to lose his excess weight for good. This time, he’d set goals, not for anyone else, but for the most important person of all—himself.
Some days it seemed challenging to convince himself to not skip a workout. However, once he noticed how great he felt as each pound dropped off, motivation was no longer an issue. In two years, Jason went from 297 pounds to 208 pounds with support from Body SymmetryMD. He pledges, “I’m not going back to where I was.”
Jason says his weight loss has positively impacted nearly every aspect of his life, from improving his general health to increasing his motivation at work. He’s now active and out enjoying life, instead of at home on the couch.
Jason advises, “Do it for yourself—don’t do it for anyone else but yourself. Once you start seeing improvements, you won’t want to stop.”
The Sports Lover
Colette Fournier spent most of her life on the heavier side, unflattering on her small frame. After hearing about a 60-day transformation challenge at her gym, Blueprint Fitness, she decided to work towards a healthy weight for her height.
As part of that challenge, Colette emphasized portion control and cut out alcohol, but otherwise adopted a flexible approach to her meals concentrating on a menu of lean meats and vegetables. “I found that by not banning all grains, dairy, etc., I was more successful in consistently making healthy food choices and not feeling deprived,” says Colette.
Colette was already active in social sports leagues, but made an even greater effort to incorporate more regular fitness into her daily routine. In addition to daily brisk walks, she went to Blueprint Fitness for strength training classes three to four times a week.
That heavy strength training ultimately changed her body composition, and she discovered a new passion. Colette says, “I love lifting really heavy weights. It’s rewarding to know I can do a 200-pound deadlift, and I could not do that before.”
Colette has learned that failing to plan is planning to fail. Every week, she sets herself up for success by simply preparing all her meals on Sunday. When it comes to making a lifestyle change, her motto for herself and to others is always “consistency is key, but everything in moderation.”
The First-Time Fitness Competitor
After trying countless diets from “low carb” to “no carb,” only to be frustrated that the scale wasn’t budging, Teonna Leonard realized something else needed to change.
Teonna joined her husband and his friend/training partner at a gym and soon became inspired by that friend’s “fit chick” wife.
This new mentor encouraged her to make small changes and focus on her nutrition, as well as exercise. “One day she just told me straight up, ‘You need to make a commitment for yourself,'” recalls Teonna.
Soon, she began training for her very first fitness competition, joining Team House of Payne Personal Training to help prepare. Part of the program included taking weekly pictures, which allowed her to see the subtle changes shaping her body over time.
“On March 21, I was too embarrassed to wear shorts in public, and on October 31, I wore a bikini on stage at the Lee Haney Games. I was nervous but I did it.” Teonna asserts. “You CAN change your body and change your lifestyle to be healthier and stronger.”
The Yo-Yo Dieter
At the age of 24, Vivia Chengshi was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), saddling her with health risks such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. She became determined to beat PCOS and to finally feel comfortable in her own skin.
Vivia tried various diets and exercise routines on her own but had no luck. “The method that actually yielded positive and long-lasting results was knowledge. There is such a lack of awareness and knowledge about nutrition and exercise in our society,” she notes.
With the help of ROC House trainers, she learned proper diet and exercise techniques, along with how to apply them to her daily life. “Changing your mindset isn’t easy,” explains Vivia; she struggled with readjusting her relationship with food to start fueling her body effectively instead of just slashing calories.
Vivia, who has battled with her weight since she age 11, says now, at age of 25, she finally feels free. “I feel like me now. I feel that the physical outside appearance now finally, finally, matches the inside,” she professes. “It’s made me a happier human being, a stronger person and a more well-rounded and positive individual.”
The Empowered Instructor
Christina Russell fell into a deep depression after the heartbreaking miscarriage of her second child. That depression combined with anxiety triggered a habit of emotional eating, which led to weight gain. One day, Christina’s young son placed his tiny hand on her arm, looked straight into her eyes and pleaded, “Smile mommy.” She realized she had to regain her balance. Her husband showed her a video of disabled veteran Arthur Boorman, healing his body, mind and spirit through Diamond Dallas Page’s yoga-based workout program. She felt inspired and hopeful, truly believing, “If he can do it, so can I.” Christina lost 60 pounds, dropping from a size 18 to a size 6. Over a year later, she’s kept that weight off, feels stronger than ever and now teaches classes at the DDP YOGA Performance Center.
Where To Go in Atlanta for Fitness
Concourse Athletic Club
DDP YOGA Performance Center
House of Payne Personal Training
Kangoo Club Atlanta
ROC House Women’s Fitness Spa
Thunderbolt Power Yoga
Windy Hill Athletic Club