War on Weight progress report

It’s been a good couple of months since the 16 War on Weight contestants picked up the gauntlet set down for them by the Cayman Heart Fund’s War on Weight Committee to be Cayman’s biggest loser by 11 December. There is no denying that it has been a really tough journey for most so far, yet the determination to finish the programme has never been more evident. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull reports.

Allison’s story
It’s 4.30 am, a time when many of us are still happily in the land of nod, but not 37 year old Allison Payne, a keen WOW contestant whose determination to get to her 5.30am boot camp class has meant a very early start most mornings.

“It is second nature to me now,” she states. “I think I will still be waking up at 4.30am long after the boot camp has ended. Exercising early in the morning is my way of waking up my body, ready to take on the day!” she states.

Allison had been a rigid follower of the WOW’s bootcamp at St Ignatius School, a serious exercise programme developed and implemented by Ernest Ebanks of the Body Sculptor gym and an integral part of this season’s WOW programme. Contestants are encouraged to participate in boot camps held at either St Ignatius or Camana Bay four mornings a week, with other exercise classes and the facilities of the Body Sculptor gym available to them at other times of the week. St Ignatius Boot Camp is conducted by Michael Ebanks as are the evening and afternoon (midday) boot camp classes held at the Body Sculptor Fitness Centre. So there is no excuse for not undertaking a regular exercise regime!

Unfortunately Allison has been suffering from a knee injury which slowed her initial enthusiasm for exercise, never-the-less she is keen to get back to her exercise regime. “I just don’t feel right if I’ve not exercised in the morning,” she confirms.

Allison says following the nutritional guidelines as laid down to all contestants by nutritionalist Chad Collins has also not been too onerous.

“Chad teaches us about portion control and how to eat clean,” she explains. “This means foregoing processed foods which include salt and sugar in favour of lots of fresh and nutritious vegetables.”

Chad’s dietary guidelines include ensuring that each contestant gets the correct balance of nutrients each day as well as eating three healthy meals with snacks in between so individuals don’t feel hungry.

“I have to say the first couple of weeks were really tough and I felt hungry a lot because I was also increasing my exercise programme as well,” Allison confesses. “However as I got into the programme  I found that I did not crave the larger portions I once ate; in fact my stomach would find it hard to digest the larger portions I used to eat now.”

Allison starts her day with an early morning protein shake, to give her the energy she needs to get through boot camp. Then she eats a healthy breakfast of eggs scrambled with veggies such as broccoli, mushrooms and onions along with a slice of whole-wheat bread and a glass of milk. She might follow that with some fruit and yoghurt. Mid morning snacks consist of a handful of almonds and some string cheese while lunch is a cold cut sandwich and low fat mayonnaise or cheese (but not both). Allison says she also sometimes has a bowl of homemade gazpacho soup which is full of good things such as tomatoes, green peppers and cucumber.

Afternoon snack is fruit or perhaps instant oatmeal and dinner is fish or chicken, a small portion of rice and, of course, vegetables.

“Vegetables are actually free foods, which means you can eat as much of them as you like, which is great!” she says.

It is mid way through the programme and Allison is a glowing testament to the health and vitality that the programme promotes.

“I feel great and I have loads more energy,” she confirms.

Never-the-less, Allison has still been disheartened by the weight she has lost so far. “I’ve only lost around six pounds and I thought I would lose more,” she says. “I know that I am replacing fat with muscle through exercise but it is still hard not to get down when I look at the scales and I don’t see the results that I’m looking for.”

Even so, Allison says he clothes are looser on her and her face has slimmed down noticeably. “I know my body shape is changing for the better, I just need to keep reminding myself!” she says.

Allison also says that weight measurement is not necessarily the best measurement of how her body is changing for the better.

“As well as our regular weigh-ins we also get our body fat composition and body mass indexes measured. This is a good indicator of whether we are losing fat and gaining lean muscle or not. It also is able to measure how much water we have in our bodies, which is important because I was initially dehydrated and advised to up my water intake considerably to help me keep healthy.”

Karen’s story
Karen Rudey, 40, has been delighted that her weight loss has been continuous, despite a nasty injury to her coccyx a couple of weeks prior to our interview which has meant she could barely sit or walk without pain.

”I knew I could not continue my exercise regime at the boot camp so I was very careful to watch what I ate and I have been delighted to see that I have still lost weight,” she enthuses.

Never-the-less Karen was looking forward to taking up her exercise programme again the next morning as she felt sufficiently recovered from her injury to go on.

Karen’s mind was also opened up to the importance of portion control when trying to lose weight and says this has been a key part of her current weight loss success.

“I only used to eat three meals a day but I used to eat enough to fill me up until the next meal. Now I’m eating much smaller portions and a snack in between as well and I am still losing weight,” she says. 

Karen also starts her day with egg and toast but finds that a large amount of fruit and vegetables upsets her digest system, so she sticks with 100 calorie cracker snacks and Cup-a-Soups for mid morning and afternoon snacks. “I eat a sensible lunch such as a sandwich with small salad or 1 oz. piece of chicken with rice or other type of starch (basically two starches and one protein are allowed for lunch).  I have cut out fries altogether and when I have to eat out, I now always substitute the fries with salad,” she says.

Karen has also found that cutting out sugary sodas such as Sprite, which she drank on a regular basis, has helped in her weight loss process.
At first Karen says she was at first a bit sceptical about the weight training part of the bootcamp programme: “I didn’t want to develop big muscles!” she says. “However Ernest explained that this would not happen and building muscles helped with fat burning.”

Before her injury, Karen combined four sessions of bootcamp a week with other exercises such as the Body Sculptor’s Zumba class (high octane dancing to salsa and calypso music) and walking, bike riding and rollerblading. She has also discovered water aerobics at Fitness Connection which she says is a great way to get fit and surprisingly hard work.

As well as weight loss, Karen has noticed other health benefits from her fitness regime and explains: “I used to get heartburn but that disappeared when I was training. I also used to have difficulty going to sleep as well as difficulty waking up but when I’m exercising regularly I spring out of bed in the morning!”

Karen notes the keen support of her friends and family back home in Canada as well as colleagues and friends here.

“My co-workers and my boss have been really supportive which has made a big difference to me. My mum and best friend have supported me to the extent that they say they’ll help me out with a gym membership once the programme is over, so I can continue to stay fit – they say there are now no excuses to stick with the programme!” Karen jokes.

Jodiann’s story
At just 19 years old, Jodiann Jackson is one of the youngest contestants on the WOW programme. She says she always wanted to lose weight after High School so when her Mum saw the advert for people to join the WOW programme she encouraged Jodiann to join.

Jodiann says the exercise regime has not been too hard as she has always participated in some form of exercise, especially swimming which she says she really enjoys.

“The hardest part for me has been to cut out fried foods, particularly patties, which are my weakness!” she says. “Now I just eat them once or twice a month instead of regularly.”  

Jodiann says she has also been encouraged to drink lots more water which helps her fill up so she does not have the urge to eat large plates of food, a habit in which she found herself, prior to the programme.

Contestants are required to keep a food journal and Jodiann says this has been a difficult part of the programme, remembering everything that she has eaten during the day.

“It is hard,” she concedes, “but I know it is a good practice to get into. We need to think about what we eat on a daily basis. It’s a habit we need to get into for life.”

Jodiann says she is happy that the weight is slowly coming off and her energy levels have increased in response to the increased activities she is undertaking.

“It has helped me change my mindset,” she explains. “I no longer have to categorise myself as an obese person who eats like one. Smaller portions have not only changed my body but my mind as well.”

Tasha’s story
Although she has been on diets before, Tasha Eden, 34, says she has never done so much exercise in all her life and the results have been amazing. “Although I actually put weight on when I first started the programme (two pounds) I have subsequently lost 14 pounds, which is amazing,” she says.

Tasha says this is the first weight loss programme that she has tried which also combines an exercise programme and she attributes this to her success so far.

“At first my muscles were horrified at what I was putting them through, and even now they ache somewhat after a workout- but it’s a good ache!” she states.

Tasha has really embraced working out: as well as her four times a week boot camp classes (Monday to Thursday) she also works out with weights at Body Sculptor with fitness instructor Jerrilyn on a Friday. Saturdays involve a Zumba class with Kevin also a fitness instructor at Body Sculptor and she has also enjoyed a good hour’s walk on Sunday.

“You have to push yourself,” she says. “I feel I have been given a great opportunity and I cannot blow it.”

Tasha has two young children and says she rarely does anything for herself. “However, when I saw the advert in the newspaper I just knew I wanted this. I was absolutely determined to be accepted onto the programme.”

Health issues were also of concern to Tasha, including a lack of energy to play with her children and medical indicators such as cholesterol levels and liver enzymes that “were not great”. Thankfully, even though only half way through the programme, Tasha says these are improving already. “And best of all I have loads more energy to play with my kids,” she confirms.    

A weakness for Kentucky Fried Chicken, which she regularly consumed two or three times a week has been replaced with a new found love for salads and Lean Cuisine meals.

As well as a Mum to her kids, Tasha also holds down a high stress job as a legal assistant in a busy law firm. This means that she has relied upon her mother to help out with the children while she takes time to exercise and her work colleagues’ support when the doughnuts are passed around the office.

“A solid support network of friend, colleagues and family is essential,” Tasha says. “I could not have achieved the results that I have so far without them.”
Laura’s story
Laura Johnston, 48, first heard about the Cayman Heart Fund’s WOW initiative on the radio.

“They announced they were signing up candidates at Fosters that day, so I went down and registered.   I knew in my heart I needed help with weight control and could not accomplish my weight loss goals alone.”

Laura says that once she was selected she was “thrilled and scared at the same time”, as she realised this was a commitment to herself and her sponsors, too. It was the impetus she needed. “Basically I need to be accountable to someone other than myself. Now I am,” she confirms.

 Initially quite scared to commit to exercise a minimum of four days a week, Laura says now she is hooked. “I love it. If it rains I miss my boot camp and go to the gym instead, but I really love the structure of boot camp,” she says.

Following the nutritional guidelines from Chad has been very easy and she says it has been excellent advice and is clearly spelled out for the contestants. 
“In the beginning I was hungry all the time, but now I am used to it,” she states.

Getting up at 5am for boot camp has been hard going and Laura says shopping also takes much longer as she finds herself reading all labels making sure she chooses the best options.

As a result of her hard work Laura says she is more energetic. “I can do so much more with my son without feeling exhausted,” she says.  “It is easier to wake up every day and I sleep well. Although I have lost only 8 lbs., I also lost almost two per cent body fat and around 20 inches.  I can definitely feel the difference in my clothes.”

Laura says she intends to continue the lifestyle after the programme has finished this month.

“For me this is a lifestyle change that I plan to continue forever,” she confirms.

 Laura concludes: “I am very thankful to Ernest, Michael and the trainers at Body Sculptor. They are incredible and highly motivating in a positive way!  I hope that they all know how instrumental they are in the success of this journey.  I also want to thank Chad for the nutritional details, as well as the Cayman Health Fund and other sponsors as well.  I am looking forward to lasting results and a healthy future.”

It’s been a good couple of months since the 16 War on Weight contestants picked up the gauntlet set down for them by the Cayman Heart Fund’s War on Weight Committee to be Cayman’s biggest loser by 11 December. There is no denying that it has been a really tough journey for most so far, yet the determination to finish the programme has never been more evident. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull reports.