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Bring on the Take It Off weight-loss challenge!

March 20, 2014 - Andy Flynn
This week: 421 lbs.

Last week: 421 lbs.

Start (Dec. 17): 470 lbs.

Total lost: 49 lbs.

I’d like to thank Jason McComber and Janis Atkinson for teaching me a new word last week.


If you could see the look of dread on my face whenever these two fitness trainers say “squat,” you’d know my appreciation for this word is complete sarcasm. I’d love to harken back to the good old days, when Ma Flynn used to say, “What? Squat. The cat fell in the coffee pot.” I don’t mind hearing the word when my mother says it, but the trainers’ squat has nothing to do with cats or coffee or the word “what,” which instigated her kooky comment.

The night I began the Take It Off weight-loss challenge at the Fitness Revolution gym, March 11, I began to hate that word. When I lifted weights in high school, I used to do squats, with weights, and I was good at it. But that was 27 years ago, and now I’m 170 pounds heavier. Could my knees even take a squat without getting injured? Better yet, could I do a squat — without weights — and not fall down? The answer: sort of.

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The squats I began doing the first time during this 12-week fitness course were cautious at best. I was embarrassed and angry at myself for not being able to do a full squat, but I keep trying. By the second class, I got a little closer to the ground, and by the third class, it was better yet.

One problem with the many cardio exercises we’re doing is I have to throw around a lot more weight than others in the group. Plus, I have a belly that practically goes down to my knees, so there is a physical barrier when doing things like leg lifts or pushups. When I lift my legs, they are literally lifting the weight of my belly. After I lose enough weight, the belly will be gone, but for now it gets in the way. It even swings from side to side when I’m doing sidesteps. As the under-belly sweat begins to flow, it swings even more. That’s not a very comfortable feeling and most likely more information than you wanted to hear.

I continually beat myself up for not being able to do the cardio exercises completely when others are doing it, especially when it comes to the balance exercises. I have no balance! I’m top-heavy. But as I look around the room, I see others struggling, and it makes me feel better because I know I’m not the only one having problems moving body parts that haven’t moved in years. We’re all in this together, and the group gives me strength. Eventually, I’ll be able to do a squat, even with weights, and that will be a glorious day. We all want to make our trainers proud, don’t we?

I couldn’t imagine going through “The Biggest Loser” television program to lose weight. I’ve always found that show inspiring, yet the facade gets on my nerves. I don’t like seeing people lose 5 pounds in a week and then sent home because they didn’t lose enough. What kind of message does that send our kids? And I’m not sure a take-the-weight-off-as-fast-as-you-can approach is healthy. It might be great for ratings, but is it really good for sustainable weight loss?

Plus, “The Biggest Loser” is not a real-world approach to weight loss. Contestants go to a ranch for about 13 weeks of intensive training and weight loss. They unplug from their lives and have to make major adjustments when they return home. They’re working out most of the day, burning between 5,000 and 8,000 calories a day. Who does that in the real world? They’re not going to work, spending time with their kids or dealing with everyday issues like taxes, chores and a daily commute. The transformations are amazing and completely inspiring, but I’ve learned that kind of weight loss is not for me.

The Take It Off challenge at Fitness Revolution is a healthier approach to weight loss that is designed for the real world. It revolves around exercise, nutrition, accountability and a support group. The members stay connected at class and on Facebook, sharing their personal challenges and triumphs. And when someone doesn’t lose a pound, they aren’t kicked out of the group. The support system is there to lift their spirits and keep them going, physically and emotionally. It’s therapeutic, even spiritual at times. It’s quickly becoming a family.

Another major component of the Take It Off challenge is trying new things and adopting healthier habits. In the exercise portion of the class, we get to challenge ourselves. With the “point system,” we get to challenge others in the group. Every week, we have a worksheet with a set of daily chores. If we do those chores, we earn points. If we lose weight, we earn more points. This is the competitive portion of the class, when we say, “Bring it on!

Point system

-Contact a teammate. (1 point)

-List five positives about your day. (3 points)

-Drink 64 ounces of water. (3 points) You get 10 points for drinking more than 64 ounces of water.

-Stop eating before 9 p.m. (3 points)

-Eat three servings of fruit, 1/2 cup each. (3 points)

-Eat three vegetable servings. (5 points)

-Eat a protein source at every meal. (5 points)

-Don’t eat sweets or sugary treats. (5 points) This is only for six days in a week; treat yourself once a week.

-Keep a food journal. (7 points) Many of the group members use the MyFitnessPal app on our smartphones or on the Web.

-Try a new recipe. Take a photo of it. And share it on Facebook. (1 point) There is a maximum of 3 points per week.

-Complete 45 minutes of exercise. (10 points) There is a maximum of five days a week.

-Complete the mini weekly challenge. (15 points) The first week, for example, we had to write down three goals for our 12-week class. Mine are to lose at least 50 pounds, successfully train for the Lake Placid Half Marathon on June 8 and hike Cascade Mountain.

What I like the most about this point system is that it forces us to start new habits. Eventually, they become part of our regular routine. It’s a healthy approach to making lifestyle changes that will be sustainable.

One of our teammates said something this week that really hit home. She said she’s starting to look at food differently now. Instead of eating food to satisfy an emotion, she’s eating food because of what it does to her body. She’s looking at nutrition and the physiological benefits of eating healthy.

This is exactly what I’m feeling, and it’s what I was hoping to achieve this year on the Lake Placid Diet. I didn’t want a fad or a quick fix. I wanted to change my outlook on life and my approach to food, which I knew would lead to healthier choices and habits. And I’m really starting to get into a groove. I look at a burger, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and French fries and know they will taste phenomenal, but I don’t crave them anymore. I know they’ll still be there when I’m ready to eat the treats in moderation. But for now, I’m focused on the healthier side of life, and it feels good.

Take It Off veteran Jennifer Friel told me that walking through the Fitness Revolution door the first night was the hardest part. She also said the program can be addicting. And she was right on both accounts. I’m up for the challenge and having fun at the same time. I won’t smile while I’m working out, as Jason and Janice keep telling us to do, but I will promise them one thing. I’ll do a proper squat by week 12.

Next week: Stand-up desks

Contact Andy Flynn at


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Blog Photos

Jason McComber and Janis Atkinson are the two trainers for Fitness Revolution’s Take It Off weight-loss challenge. (Photo — Andy Flynn)