Monday, December 7, 2009

YMCA Changes Our Lives! 34TH STORY

During our lifetime, so many people walk in and out of our lives. Some stay for short times and others for lifetimes. The people who have walked in and out of my life have affected me emotionally and physically.

Since I have begun the YMCA Boot Camp one year ago in January, many new people have walked into my life. I have written about the recruits and trainers who have changed my life forever. There are other people as well who I have gotten to know. The receptionist at the YMCA, Anna, is there to greet me every morning. Charlotte Donn from the Miami office of the YMCA makes me feel like I have known her forever. I would have missed so much if I had not gotten off of the couch and joined the YMCA Boot Camp.

The YMCA is an ever changing organization. It emulates our lives with people who walk in and out of our every day lives. There have been a few people who have left the organization over the past year. David Cruz was the membership and Wellness Director when I started. David was a great asset to the YMCA. He would take the time to visit during Boot Camp sessions and talk to the recruits. He came out of his office and was always seen out and about on the premises, not behind a desk. He encouraged me. David left the YMCA to continue his education and he is missed. I haven’t heard from David since he left the YMCA, but I am so thankful that he walked into my life.

Oshun, one of the trainers from the YMCA also left to pursue other goals. As you may recall, I was doing a Warrior of Wine Boot Camp at Schnebly’s with Oshun, but now she has moved on to pursue her main love in life, cooking. She is a fantastic chef who specializes in healthy gourmet cuisine and using what we grow locally. The Oshun Movement ( is a great company and offers so much. I have been doing personal training with Oshun, but with the holidays, coming, etc., I am finding that it is difficult to continue for the time being, but I am not quitting. Oshun has been my biggest cheerleader. She pushes me to no end, but then again, I have to be pushed. I am so thankful that she has walked into my life. I know she is missed by members of the YMCA.

Recently I was informed that Kevin Bolding, the District Vice President/Branch Executive of the YMCA is leaving this week. Kevin has been my “go to” man from the very beginning. He always made himself accessible to me and responded to my concerns. During the summer when I found that the locker rooms were intolerable for those of us who had to shower and dress at the Y before going to work, Kevin immediately moved forward and had fans installed. If I had a complaint, I could go to him and expect to receive a follow-up. If I had a complement, I knew he would get it to the correct set of ears. Kevin was one of my cheerleaders on this great journey of mine to become healthy. He is taking a position with the YMCA in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Although I wish him the best of luck, I will miss Kevin. He was a great asset to the Miami YMCA. I am so thankful to him for walking into my life.

The YMCA is a great organization that has affected me physically and emotionally. The recruits, trainers and staff have given me so much. I am sad that some people are walking out of my life, but look forward to new people who may enter.

Recruit Does the Turkey Trot! - 32ND STORY

Thanksgiving week is a time when many of us look at our waistline. There are two sides of eating during the holidays. On one side, many are scared to death to face the table on Thanksgiving Day and the coming holiday season. They are searching for every diet tip available for all the upcoming festivities. On the other side, some toss all cares aside because it is so close to the New Year that they decide to start their diet on January 1st. Why bother now?

Last year on Thanksgiving, I was in the latter category where I had decided to throw all cares to the wind and eat now because in January I knew I was going to buckle down with my diet and exercising. During the holidays our office, the clients are so sweet they send us mounds of goodies. Chocolates, cakes, breads, and cinnamon rolls are just a few of the treats. If you stand at our kitchen door during the holidays you can enter a diabetic coma just from the smell!

This year, I hope I have my mind in the correct place. I will try to be conscious of what I eat during the holidays and I plan to continue to exercise as much as possible. I am thinking of asking the receptionist in my office to put a cowbell at her desk to ring loudly whenever I even think about eating something I shouldn’t! Actually, I should invest in one of those electronic perimeter fences that a dog owner would use. I’m a crafty person so I could decorate the dog collar with gems and make it look hip. If I went near the kitchen it will send an electrical shock to zap me so that eventually I will become afraid of the kitchen. It is a desperate measure but somehow I have got to refrain from the horrendous temptation of the chocolate towers of death that wait beyond the kitchen door! I can just see me looking like Phyllis Diller with my hair jutting out from all the shocks from the temptation!

I am hoping that continuing to exercise will help me during the holidays. Pain is good for the diet. When my body is in pain, it makes me question if I really want to eat something bad enough that I will add more pounds to my body. Nasty Nestor and Rambo Rico, the Boot Camp leaders at the YMCA and my personal trainer, Oshun, make sure I have plenty of pain!

Nasty Nestor loves doing circuit training. We have decided that he would make a great circus performer as he likes to keep us running from one exercise to the next and so forth like clowns jumping from one ring of the big top to the next. I can just hear it now, “And now….under the Big Top…introducing Nasty Nestor and his Boot Camp recruits! Watch them run. Watch them tumble. Watch them squat.” All of the older women have voted to get Nasty Nestor a girlfriend so he can understand why women have a hard time with circuit training and hallways filled with squats! We have got to get him in touch with his feminine side!

This week at Book Camp, we are under the direction of Rambo Ricco as he is giving Nasty Nestor a break. You have to understand that Ricco does not like to get up early and he is doing the 6 a.m. Boot Camp. I think the only thing that gets him up is the thought that he is going to come and punish us brutally in Boot Camp! I have a good friend who asked me who the young fellow at the Y was who is so loud. I knew immediately that she meant Ricco. She explained that she thought he was louder than God. I’m sure God would agree!

Ricco does not do circuit training but pounces on us with a variety of exercises. He would be the lion tamer. No. He would be the lion as he is aggressive and demanding of all our attention. This past Monday, I believe he was gearing us up for Thanksgiving by having us do the turkey trot on the elliptical machine. We spent 30 minutes on that machine with him coming by and changing the toughness of the walk every few minutes. He was so wrapped up in the punishment that he was even going to change the levels of a gym member who just happened to be on one of the machines in between us! During the time on the machine, he would also have us squat down and sprint really fast for a period of time. My thighs, calves and butt muscles screamed in pain and my shirt was soaked from sweat. This turkey thought she was cooked! I still feel the pain!

Oshun keeps pushing my limits and keeps me in agony. This past week I was tossing a 25 pound weight in my yard like a javelin thrower, hanging onto her ankles and pulling my legs up to her chest, running laps in the yard with heavy weights on my ankles and lying on my mat on the grass doing 50 sit-ups on an incline and yelling with each one. My husband said I woke him up with my yells. I hope the neighbors look out and see what I am doing and don’t think I’m fighting with my husband!

So now we ask again, “Why bother now with watching what we eat?” Last year, I gained 15 pounds by putting it off until January. I will not do it this year. Yes, I will eat everything but I will not eat huge portions. Also, I will go for a walk and keep up my exercise. If you blew it yesterday, today IS a new day! Start now!

Let’s get those turkeys trotting!

Friday, November 20, 2009


Two weeks ago, I wrote about today’s society needing an attitude adjustment when it comes to people who are not your basic size 0 to 10. I stated that many people today look at a heavy person and immediately judge that they are slovenly, lazy and unhealthy and treat them with disgust and that I had allowed this type of attitude to rule my life. I asked everyone to take a moment and walk in my shoes. I truly expected some backlash in e-mails for being so frank and open but this truly is the way I feel and there were no negative responses.

Now it is time to address those who are overweight or obese in society. Unfortunately, I realize there are some who do send the message that we are slovenly and lazy. I am not criticizing, as I know that an overweight person’s self-esteem suffers immensely.

The mind of an overweight person is our number one downfall. It allows others to influence us in a negative way. Many suffer to a point that they no longer care for themselves at all. I had a sister-in-law who was obese. She was a very highly educated woman who was a professor at a college and a successful business woman. She dressed in suits and participated in community organizations.

Over the years, weight caught up with my sister-in-law and it succeeded in pushing down her self-esteem. She stopped wearing make-up, dressed in sweat pants and sloppy clothes. Her hair looked at if it hadn’t been combed in a week. She hardly went out of the house and barely moved off the couch. It broke my heart when her grandson visited me at the age of 6 and told me, “Aunt Sissy. You remind me of my Grammy. (I’m sure it was my size.) She used to hug me like you but then she couldn’t get her arms around me. I hope you can always get your arms around me.” I promised Cade then and there that I will always be able to get my arms around him and hug him tight. I firmly believe that my sister-in-law’s weight was the main cause of her severe depression and dependency on pain pills for a back pain. It all began with her weight.

My dear sister-in-law passed away in her 50’s. My regret is that I lived over 1,200 miles away and was not there with the knowledge that I now have with my own obesity. Maybe I could have made a difference.

If you are an overweight person, please know that you do deserve to dress up and look presentable. Do not give me the excuse that you cannot afford the clothing. Years ago we only had specialty shops to buy bigger sizes and it cost a fortune. Today I often go to Walmart or other discount stores and find very presentable clothing at prices anyone can afford. There is no excuse. Pay attention to how you look when you leave the house. I may be in sweats or shorts at home but you will never see me in shorts in public.

If you are an overweight person, please know that you have the right to go to a beauty salon to have your hair styled, nails done or a pedicure. If you go into a salon and they treat you like you don’t belong there, don’t give up. Find another salon. I once went to a salon where they made me feel like only the model, skinny types could go there. I felt the stares and no one made me feel comfortable. I kept trying until I found a salon that I was happy with.

When you are happy with someone, let them know. They don’t realize how an obese person feels in these situations. I called the owner of Cuttin Loose, Julie Nicotra, and told her that, as an obese woman, I am very insecure about going to places for personal services but her staff has always made me feel like I deserved to be there, and more importantly, that they wanted me there! That is the feeling you need to have because you deserve to be treated that way!

Finally, if you feel you cannot get out and exercise because people will laugh at you, you are so wrong! I used to panic when they would make me run in the parking lot at Boot Camp. I could just imagine people going by and laughing at the fat old lady trying to run. After starting exercising, my fears melted away. I am amazed at how many people tell me they are proud of me for getting out there and doing it. I now have developed a pride in myself for doing it as well.

Who am I to tell you? I am no one special. I don’t have all the answers but I’m learning by walking through this journey. I even decided to start wearing my beloved saddle shoes. I like them. I deserve to wear them. I was walking in your shoes last December until I decided to polish my shoes.

I am asking you to get up and try polishing your shoes. Seek out the treatment you deserve. Get off the couch and try at least one exercise to start with. Put on make-up women! Shave and put on cologne men! Get your hair done. Take stock of your wardrobe and make a mental list of what is more presentable in the public.

Polish your shoes and get out and show others how to walk in them!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Recruit Dances to the YMCA! 30TH STORY

I have been participating as a Warrior of Wine at Schnebly’s Winery under the direction of Oshun, our trainer. Our session has ended and Oshun decided to spend more time as a personal chef which is her first love so I was once again faced with a challenge as to how to continue my physical journey to a healthier me.

The YMCA had stated that they would not have a Boot Camp until January as everyone is busy with the holidays. After speaking with one of the directors of the YMCA, I was informed that they would be starting an interim Boot Camp for a short period of time as the recruits showed their support of the program by signing a petition in favor of continuing the program.

Now I had a decision to make again. Do I continue to personal train with Oshun or do I sign up for Boot Camp? If you have been reading my stories, you must know the answer already. I compensate for my weight by being an overachieving workaholic who has to do everything on her own so it gives me a sense of accomplishment. Of course I chose to do both!

This past Monday, I arrived at the YMCA and was greeted by Nasty Nestor, our trainer. Nestor always screams at me, “Are you going to let me beat you D?” and I always respond with, “There’s no way I will let you beat me.” Immediately Nasty Nestor began trying me by having us stretch and then sending us to run five laps around the entire parking lot of the YMCA. When I first began at the Y, I remember trying to make just one row of the parking lot running and I could not do it. Today, I surprised myself by running one complete lap without stopping to walk. The four other laps were a combination of power walking and running. I felt like Rocky on the top of the steps in Philadelphia! I can hear the tune but can’t remember the words. I’m old!

After the run, Nasty Nestor had us doing steps, push-ups and more. I do believe he actually saw and improvement in my push-ups since the last time I had been in his Boot Camp. When I first started, I could not hold my body off the ground. Now I can hold the plank and bend elbows and lower my body to some degree.

While doing the steps, I realized that my left knee had become extremely sensitive and I took it a little easier. You may recall that I ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament dancing to the YMCA at a Catholic Women’s Convention and now have a cadaver ligament in my knee. I continued on with his demands but did take it a little easier.

On Tuesday Oshun came to my home for personal training. We spent most of the time with hard stretches as my knee still bothered me. Don’t think I didn’t work out. I sweated and worked just as hard stretching as I do with regular exercising! She also warns me about pushing myself too far as she knows how set I am on finishing things and not giving up.

The YMCA Boot Camp is filled with high levels of cardio exercises. On the other hand, Oshun counter balances that with low impact cardio exercises and stretching. I feel that they give me the best of both worlds.

I am icing the knee and on Wednesday, I only power walked the five laps as my knee was still sore. I may be determined but I am not dumb. My fear of injury is tremendous. I spent ten months in a wheelchair, brace, walker and crutches and I will do everything in my power not to injure myself. Oshun and Nestor are very caring in that aspect and both watch over me like mother hens.

I am back into the routine again. I attend Boot Camp on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the YMCA and personal training at my home on Tuesday and Thursday. On Saturday, I clean and do things at home and on Sunday I pray that I will survive another week!
Look out Nasty Nestor! The obese old lady is back and listen up.

You will NOT beat me!

Friday, November 6, 2009


Today’s society needs an attitude adjustment when it comes to people who are not your basic size 0 to 10. Many people today look at a heavy person and immediately judge that they are slovenly, lazy and unhealthy and treat them with disgust. That disgust is shown in stares and remarks thrown at the person.

Years ago, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell were pin-up girls and the envy of every man. They both wore a size 14/16. Today, they would be considered “fat.” Today we also see stick figures on the runways and in the movies. Thin is in and it seems that anyone wearing a size 12 or above are out. If you are not obese or have never been severely overweight, you just cannot imagine how an obese person suffers through everyday events.

I am an obese 55 year old woman. I have always been extremely heavy since I was a child. This article may make some people angry and I apologize in advance but I am just telling the truth. I am asking you to take a walk in my shoes.

As a child, I was laughed at and ridiculed. I was the last one picked for games on the playground and gym class in the later days was a complete source of embarrassment. I was called, “Fat Sissy.” “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me” is a complete lie! Oh I spilled rivers of tears due to the cruel taunting of classmates.

Most obese people have a great sense of humor. This sense of humor is developed as a protection mechanism. They pretend to laugh at themselves to cover up the tears. My sense of humor got me through my high school years. Yes, I did have boyfriends and I went to the prom and I believe this was because my sense of humor carried me through.

Every day of my life I have to confront fears of embarrassment due to my obesity. Will I have to sit next to someone on an airplane and have a tight squeeze? Will I fit in a theatre seat? Will I go to a restaurant and be crammed into a booth that is too tight? Will I sit on a lawn chair and break it? Will I have to squeeze between people in a crowd? I was once totally embarrassed when I went to a fair and couldn’t ride a ride because it couldn’t lock properly. These are just a few situations that I have to think of and plan for.

Being obese, I strive to look my best at all times, contrary to the beliefs of those people who think an obese person is slovenly. I spend time making sure my makeup is on, hair in place and that my blouse isn’t pulling too tightly around my body and showing bulges. I check my pants to make sure they fit properly and everything is in place. I do not wear shorts or tank tops in public. I do not wear spandex! I shower every day. Do not label me slovenly!

Laziness has become an obsolete word in my vocabulary. Yes, prior to Boot Camp, I was somewhat lazy but did not just sit around eating junk food all day. I swam, biked, etc. but not regularly. Now my trainer tells me that there are many “normal sized people” who could not keep up with my exercise routine and my lifestyle. I attend Boot Camp three days and do personal training two days a week. On the weekends I clean house, cut grass or whatever needs to be done. I rarely get a moment to sit. Do not label me lazy!

Even though I am obese, I am extremely healthy. “Why don’t you diet fatty?” I have dieted my entire life. I have gone up and down just like a smoker who quits and then starts again. I do not have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. The only medication I take is for an under active thyroid. I go to the doctor regularly for check-ups and everything is fine. Do not call me unhealthy!

In addition, contrary to many people’s beliefs, I am not deaf and I do hear you when you make smart remarks about my weight and fat people do have feelings. Every single remark hurts me like a knife piercing my heart. I won’t cry in front of you but I will in private. I won’t share why I am crying with anyone because it is too painful and embarrassing. I am crying now as I write this article because writing this truth hurts.

It has taken me a long time, a series of Boot Camps and sessions of personal training to realize that the treatment I have received by others has made me feel extremely unworthy in life. I have a loving and supportive husband, children, family and many friends, but I still allowed other people’s opinions to rule me.

On the outside, I have the persona of being confident and secure in all that I do. It is truly a fa├žade and I am beginning to realize this. I am a take charge workaholic who tries to do everything to make everyone happy to compensate for my sense of unworthiness. During this process, I always forget about ME! “ME” being happy never enters into my thought process.

I am mad. No, I am damn mad! I am angry that I have allowed this to happen to me. I guess some will say that I allowed it to happen to me. If you do, you haven’t walked a day in my shoes.

Please do me a favor. The next time you see an obese person, please don’t make them feel inferior. Walk in their shoes.

Monday, November 2, 2009


On October 17th, our son Daniel married a wonderful young lady, Amanda Chambers. Friends and family came from near and far. Airport runs, dinners, entertaining, etc. kept me hopping. Once all my company left, I left on our annual trip with my daughters to the Mt. Dora Craft Show so I was still running like crazy. I just do not feel like I’ve rested in several weeks. Needless to say, I missed three days of Boot Camp and two days of personal training. On top of that, the stress got the best of me and my diet went out the door.

During our trip to Mt. Dora, tradition rules that we visit the Palma Maria restaurant in Casselberry, Florida. This restaurant is owned and run by the Rosinola family from my hometown of Tamaqua, Pa. When I was a little girl, the Palma Maria restaurant was right in front of my home and I used to walk through the back door into the kitchen to pick up food for our family. Then they moved to Florida and I stumbled upon them on one of my trips.

If you ever are up in Orlando and want a true Italian meal, go there. You will not be disappointed. The Rosinola’s bake their Italian bread so of course, you must have bread. On top of that, they make their own desserts and it would be rude to refuse the samples they bring to the table so to be kind, I end up tasting every dessert that they made. To be truthful, the peanut butter pie began calling my name the minute I opened the door! The main courses are to die for.

This past Tuesday was my first day back to exercising. I woke up early and did 20 minutes on the treadmill until my trainer, Oshun, arrived. The workout continued for an hour of sweating, heavy breathing, yelling and yes, crying. My body went from the floor to the elliptical machine to the floor to the ball to the spinning bike to the floor to the ball and more. At some point during my delirium, weights were strapped onto my wrist to add to the resistance of the exercises. My arms are like logs and I have my own natural weights but still she added more! “Don’t they shoot horses in this condition?”

Oshun pushed and pushed. During the stretching, my inner thighs screamed with pain but Oshun would not let up and continued to stretch my extremities to their limits. I silently begged for the time to pass quickly but didn’t dare ask if the time was up. I did not think I could lift my legs or arms one more time but I knew she would make me do it again if I dared to drop them so I pushed myself beyond my previous limits.

This day, Oshun taught and I learned a very powerful lesson. I will not miss more than one Boot Camp session or training session in a row, if ever. I paid the price for my lack of discipline.
Was Oshun too rough on me? No! If she had not done what she did by really pushing me extra hard, I would be tempted to miss again when stress got the best of me or I just didn’t feel like getting up. Was she too harsh in yelling at me? No! If she had said in a normal voice, “Come on Doris, just five more.” I would have said I couldn’t and stopped.
I think that trainers have their own different styles and you have to find one who fits you. I also think that the sign of a good trainer is that you absolutely despise them during the workout but realize that everything they put you through is because they care about you. Oshun is that trainer but she goes a step further by trying to open my eyes to my own emotional needs.
Perhaps the most important lesson that she is trying to teach me is to slowly retrain my brain that associates my obesity with unworthiness. Oshun proved her worth to me this first day back and I certainly want to prove to her, but more importantly, to myself that I am worth all of her efforts.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Recruit Steps Up Training! 27th Story

If you travel west on Palm Drive at 6 a.m., the absence of street lights creates a dark and eerie landscape. You then turn south down a dirt road and drive the obstacle course that consists of pot holes big enough to swallow a small car. Arriving at a normal looking home, you park on the side and exit your vehicle.

Suddenly your ears are assaulted with a cacophony of wails that are certainly the screams of pain emanating from the garage at the rear of the property. You are drawn to the building and upon opening the door your eyes are assaulted with glistening light bouncing off of metal. As you focus closer, you see a large woman lying on the floor. Another woman, sweat dripping off her body, is brutally stretching extremities into positions that seem abnormal to the large body. Your mind will begin to wonder just what you are observing. After observing all the sights and sounds, you will eventually realize that this is my house of horrors!

This recruit has stepped up my exercise program. Three times a week I attend the Warrior of Wine Boot Camp at Schnebly’s Winery. On the two additional weekdays, Oshun, the trainer, comes to my home to train me.

The glistening light bouncing off of metal that you will observe is created by the florescent lights hovering over all of the gym equipment we own. I stated before that I have no excuse not to exercise. My rear garage is equipped with a professional treadmill, elliptical machine, rowing machine, spinning bike, regular bike, abdominal bar, exercise ball, free weights and a home gym with leg presses, curls, arm pull bars and more. I also have a pool. There is no excuse and Oshun has begun to torture me with this equipment.

Prior to Oshun arriving at 6 a.m., I begin by spending twenty minutes on the treadmill. Once she arrives, the pain begins. The screaming you hear may be from me pushing myself to my limits in repetitions of exercises or as Oshun stretches my body into positions that seem impossible. “Picture your heel touching your butt.” she says as she has me on my stomach and presses my foot up to my behind. With great effort on her and my part, it touches my butt, stretching my muscles while I yell in pain and joy. On my back she presses my outstretched leg up towards my head. During all of this, she keeps telling me to breathe which is difficult as I tend to hold my breath to endure the stretching. On the first day in the pool, Oshun was instructing me, “Jump up high in the water and cross your thighs like a ballerina! Not your legs! Your thighs! Come on my ballerina!” I laughed out loud as this obese woman will never be a ballerina but she got her point across and I worked hard at crossing my thighs.

Personal training is a sacrifice. Getting up at 4:45 a.m., five days a week is a very big commitment that I have made. Pushing my body to the extremes has been intense.

Personal training has been a true dream of mine. Oshun has made it a possibility and, even with the pain involved, I am enjoying every minute of it.

This recruit has completed one week of five days a week exercise and I am here to tell you that contrary to my own belief, I did not die. This recruit is still kicking and willing to continue on this very physical journey to a healthy lifestyle. Next week I must concentrate on rekindling my efforts to healthy eating.

Boot Camp Animals! 26th Story

As the morning dew sets on the grass at Schnebly’s Winery, grunts and groans echo throughout the area. Fast paced music swirls in the air tempting bodies to move with the rhythm. The animals that awake early have already been put through a series of grueling exercises that have pushed their bodies to the limit.

Peering out into the grassy field that holds excess parking, the only thing the eye can see is three long rows of large coral rock boulders. It is too early for any cars to be parking at the facility. It is too early for any workers to be arriving for their daily shift. The field is empty.

But wait! What is that in the distance on the boulders? Is it a herd of galloping gazelles flowing across the rows of boulders? As you look closer, you soon realize that there are a few graceful gazelles in the herd and then you notice the exhausted elephant lumbering behind.

The gazelles streak from boulder to boulder imitating the wind. The elephant stands and watches. She considers the distance between the boulders. Some are closer together. Some are higher than the others. The elephant has no faith that she can jump with her huge legs from one boulder to the other so she steps down between the boulders. She is so discouraged but does not want to fail. She climbs up again and stands at the edge of a boulder. She thinks about taking a running start and leaping over the boulders but fear creeps into her mind and scares her. She really wants to complete the task by jumping from boulder to boulder but she is mentally and emotionally held back. What if she falls? She could injure herself on the jagged edges of the coral rock boulders. She could miss the boulder and break her leg. Injury and failure are what scare her the most.

Finally the exhausted elephant decides that she has got to go for it or quit. Standing at one edge of the boulder, she swings her arms to get a rhythm. One, two, three and she takes a running jump and lands safely on the next boulder. The elephant’s trunk is raised and a loud trumpet of victory is sounded. Again she lines up and gets a rhythm going and leaps to the next boulder. Slowly picking up speed, the elephant becomes more confident with each jump. There are a few boulders in between that she just feels are too far apart so she climbs down and back up but continues to jump over all the other gaps between boulders. The elephant feels like she is on the way to becoming a graceful gazelle. Her mind wraps around the idea that she completed the task and she is proud.

She did it! The elephant did it! She actually convinced herself that it was possible and with the encouragement of her trainer, she completed the task at hand.

Yes, this recruit was the lumbering elephant who once again took on a new challenge that she just could never picture herself accomplishing. This recruit climbed to the top of bar stools and walked across them. This recruit jumped rope. This recruit did frog jumps. This recruit does push-ups. This recruit jumped rows of boulders. This recruit overcame her fear of the situation and took on the challenge of her trainer.

I am a recruit in Warriors of Wine and this lumbering elephant is on her way to becoming a galloping gazelle! What’s next?

Recruit Celebrates Her First Year of Health!- 25th Story

In a little town in Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, October 13th, 1954, Robert Hollenbach drove his wife, Marian, through the remnants of Hurricane Hazel to get to the hospital. After a grueling trip with winds howling and trees down, they made it to Coaldale Hospital where a chubby, red-headed baby girl with blue eyes was born.

The baby girl’s two older brothers welcomed the little baby home and she was called, “Sissy.” At the time of her birth, no one knew that Sissy would have a continual battle with obesity. They also didn’t know that she would become a recruit in a series of boot camps. You see, I am that chubby baby girl who will turn 55 on October 13th.

As I was thinking about my upcoming birthday, I reflected where I was last year at this time and how my life has changed. A year ago, I was living a very sedentary and unhealthy life. Oh, I walked every now and then with my boss, but I just could not seem to get my act together. I weighed in at a hefty 298 pounds, wore a tight size 26/28 and I was tired. My knees ached and I could never think of getting down on the floor or kneeling down to pull weeds.

This Tuesdays, I plan to celebrate much more than my 55 years that God has given me. I plan to celebrate the things He has allowed me to achieve and the people helping me along the way.

A year ago, if someone would have told me that in a year, I would be a recruit in a physically challenging and grueling Boot Camp, I would have thought they were nuts! If they would have told me that I would be exercising five to six days a week or that I would be running, jumping, squatting, doing push-ups and more, I would have checked to see what planet they came from! If they had told me I would be writing a weekly series about my exercise routine and on top of it all, admit in the paper how much I weighed and then appearing on the Today Show and admitting I was 54 and obese, I would have laughed hysterically. Life has certainly changed in one year and what a ride it has been!

Since my birthday last year, I have lost 23 pounds and more that 50 inches all over my body. Although it doesn’t seem like much, it was actually lost since I started Boot Camp in January so it has been over a period of 10 months. I have gone from a tight size 26/28 to a size 22 and am now fitting into some size 20’s. Now for many people, a size 20 is still a very large size! Yes, it is and 275 pounds is a lot of weight, but then I think of where I was and wonder where I would be if I had not taken that first step to get up off the couch? I now have a defined neck and chin instead of the “unineck” I once possessed. My body shape has changed dramatically.

Since my birthday last year, I am able to move. I can now get down on the floor with my grandson, Alex, without having to think about how I am going to get up. I can run around the yard and play ball and chase him on his toy tractor without gasping for air. I can do push-ups, jump rope, sit-ups and frog jumps. My balance has improved tremendously. I feel so different from last year. My physical ability has definitely increased.

Since my birthday last year, I am truly humbled by the number of people who care about me. I started out at Boot Camp at the YMCA where I met Rico, Oshun, Mikey, Nestor, Kevin, Charlotte and others, who I learned, truly care about me. Even though I am currently participating in the Warriors of Wine Boot Camp as I could not work the YMCA Boot Camp into my schedule, the personnel from the Homestead YMCA still stay in touch to see how I am doing. They all care about me which is so hard for me to understand. I have yet to figure out why they care about me!

Since my birthday last year, I have met so many recruits who have been so supportive of my participation in Boot Camp. Most of these recruits are the age of my own children, but they made me feel so special. There is the editor of this paper who privately encourages me and says I inspired him to start training again. There are also the people who read this paper, e-mail or stop me on the street to say how proud they are of me. They are proud of me? They are inspired by me? Why?

As I approach my 55th birthday, I realize now that I have already received the best present I could ever receive. I have been given the gift of being blessed by a support team of trainers, recruits, friends and family. They are the ones who display confidence and pride in me while I feel very unworthy.

I am a recruit in Boot Camp and I am thanking all for the beautiful gifts you have given. The gifts of love, support and friendship for which I will ever be grateful.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


This past week, the Today Show aired a segment that was shown nationally. It was taped several months ago and the only good thing about my appearance is the fact that I can physically, for the first time, see a distinctive change in my appearance. My unineck (chin and neck hanging together) is now gone.

Enjoy the video.


Upon my arrival one early morning at Boot Camp, I noticed that Oshun, our trainer, had a circuit of exercises set up. In one area was a jump rope, another had elastic band, another had five wooden bar stools set up zigzag, one more with weighted balls and the final part had two strange looking metal contraptions that I have never seen before. I wondered what cruel and unusual punishment those contraptions held for us. Little did I know that today I would face my biggest challenge yet at Boot Camp.

We started out by doing regular warm up stretches and exercises and moved into weights and finally onto the mats for more exercises. We were then told to put up our mats and I knew the punishment was about to begin.

Oshun explained that we were going to do some circuit training. She began to explain each position and what we would be doing with the equipment. There were the elastic bands that we would put around the tiki hut poles and do several types of exercises. Jumping rope was another position and we were to jump thirty times. Moving on to the weighted balls, Oshun demonstrated that we were to squat with the balls and then reach up and stretch up in the air and then back down. We then moved over to the bar stools where I assumed that we would be running zigzag between the stools for a cruel and unusual amount of time. Let me tell you that would have been a walk in the park compared to what Oshun had planned.

Oshun demonstrated, climbed up the rungs of the stool and stood on top. Immediately my emotions pulled me down and the fat lady in me took over. I began to tear up as I watched Oshun standing on top of the bar stool. She began moving gracefully in the air from bar stool to bar stool. At the end, she stepped down onto a picnic table and back on the ground. I was devastated. My mind was in a tornado of thought. There is no way this obese old lady can climb up on top of a bar stool and stand up. I can’t do it! It is physically impossible and I will be so embarrassed. Why would Oshun put me in this position? Why is she hurting me? I was scared and on top of everything, she actually wants me to walk on top of the skinny bar stools with all my weight! I tried to hide my tears but there was no way to stop them. At that moment, I began asking myself if I even belong in this Boot Camp. I was finally going to fail miserably. I’m too fat and too embarrassed to even attempt to do this.

Oshun had moved on to explain the contraptions on the floor but my mind was still back at the bar stools. I saw Oshun showing three different ways to do push ups on the metal bars but I couldn’t hear a word she was saying. I kept wiping my face on my shirt but I was so upset that when she stood up and looked at me with questioning eyes, I told her, “I can’t do it.” She responded, “What did you say?” and I again said, “I can’t do the bar stools.” By that time, I was sobbing. I wanted to crawl away but Oshun called all the others around and explained that many of us have fears and things we have to confront and that this was one of mine. She explained that all of the recruits are there to support each other and although it sounded good, I did not want to even attempt the move. I could just hear them saying, “Did you see Doris trying to get up on the stool? She couldn’t even climb up because of her weight!” All of the outside noises just seemed to disappear and all I could hear were my own negative thoughts.

Oshun said I would and could do this. I had to do this. She started me at the bar stools and told me she was there to help me. Yeah. Like her skinny little body can catch me in a free fall? Another recruit, Mark, came over to help and then several others. After a lot of hesitance and tears still flowing, I climbed up on one rung of the stool. Now up to the next. I put my one knee on the top and held onto the side and put the other knee up. Now how am I going to stand my 280 pound body up? Somehow I got one foot flat on the stool. Holding Mark and Oshun’s hands, I tried to stand up. I couldn’t. Oshun told me I could do it and try again. I told her to give me a moment to get my breath. I somehow pulled myself together and with every muscle I had in my body, I stood up. I’m up! I’m really up on top of a stool! Don’t let my hands go. Oshun told me to rest a minute and look only into her eyes. I did and then slowly stepped from stool to stool until I was at the end. Now how am I going to get down? Oshun said to step on the picnic table top and then the bench. I could just see the table tilting over but I had to get down so I moved. I actually reached the grown safely. I did it! My God, I really did it. More tears but I didn’t have a moment to think about it as Oshun made me run the rest of the circuit. I ended up back at the stools and she told me to do it again. Oh please no! Wasn’t once enough? Oshun does not take no for an answer. Once again, with only two people to assist, I was able to do it and actually did it one more time with only Oshun. Three times I climbed up and across the stools! I was in a state of disbelief and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry more.

The funny thing is that I can remember the day months ago when Oshun told me I would have to jump rope and I cried that I couldn’t do it. I think I completed five jumps. This day, jumping rope was so easy that I didn’t even have to think about it and I was not gasping for air but was very comfortable jumping and did more than the required thirty!
As I drove to work that day, I actually felt a twinge of pride in what I had accomplished. I guess one of the things I need to do is to somehow have more confidence in myself. For some unknown reason, Oshun seems to think I can do anything. I don’t like when she challenges me but I am so thankful that she has the confidence that I lack.

I am a recruit in Boot Camp and Oshun is pushing me to new heights! Pun intended!


It is Monday, September 14, 2009. I woke up at 4:45 a.m., the usual time for Boot Camp however, this time when I dressed; it was not in my usual Warrior of Wine T-shirt, sneakers and pants. Today I was dressing in a semi-casual outfit and had to put on my make-up so I wouldn’t scare anyone. You see, today I would be traveling to the ivory towers of downtown Miami. Today I would appear as a prospective juror for criminal court.

I am a person who does not go out of Homestead unless they pay me. Once I get above Cutler Ridge, I get a nose bleed from going so far north. A good friend advised that I should take the Metro Express bus number 34 that takes you to the Dadeland South Metrorail Station and you get a transfer from the bus driver. Others told me to go to Dadeland North for easy parking and get on the Metrorail there. I really think that the bus to Metrorail would be really convenient but I chickened out and decided to go to Dadeland North.

I packed my bag the night before with all the essentials I felt I would need for a boring day. I included my laptop, book, umbrella and some healthy snacks so that I would not be in trouble with my trainer. I thought about packing lunch but my bag was getting heavier by the minute. I may have been missing Boot Camp this morning but I was still going to be lifting weights. I was on the road at 5:45.

Arriving at Dadeland North, I looked for the open parking lot that I remember from years ago. After going around the block two times, I realized that the parking lot had been replaced by a parking garage so I joined the line of cars entering the garage and find a space. I actually thought I was lucky as I found a big enough place where I could back up my truck into the space. I pulled in like placing a hand in a glove and was proud of myself. There was a lady exiting the car next to me who informed me that I better pull in the opposite way or I would get a ticket. I did not see a sign to that effect so how was I or anyone else who does not use Metrorail regularly going to know that? I thanked her and pulled forward.

By the time I gathered my overloaded bag, the woman was gone so now I had to figure out where to go. I then noticed an African American gentleman who had parked next to me so I decided to ask him if I was going the correct way for the Metrorail. Little did I know that this gentleman, Milton Cooper, would become my angel. He informed me I was going the correct way and he walked along with me. He asked if I had the number of my parking spot which I did get because I did not have any breadcrumbs to leave a path to find my car in the massive garage.

Mr. Cooper took me to the turnstiles for the Metrorail. He explained that you pay for parking once inside. I paid the woman two dollars as the turnstiles are being converted to accept tickets instead of tokens. At that time, Mr. Cooper asked if I had the $4.00 in change or tokens for parking. Of course not, so I had to exit the turnstiles and go to the change machine. Mr. Cooper changed the bills and we once again returned and entered through the turnstiles where he entered my parking space number and received a receipt. We then went upstairs and waited for a train.

While assisting me, I realized that Mr. Cooper had already missed one train and I apologized but he said it was no problem. Once on the train, we chatted. Mr. Cooper lives in Homestead, works for the prison system and makes this commute every day. He explained that he would be getting off at the Government Center but that I would travel on for three more stops to Civic Center. He reinforced the directions my husband gave me as to where to walk once I was off of the Metrorail and gave me instructions for the travel back home.

I arrived without incident and was called down to a courtroom at 11:30 and then promptly sent back upstairs. I sat around and finally they called me and sent me home.
I did realize that Boot Camp has even helped with my jury duty. You see, as I walked several blocks from the Metrorail to the courthouse, I did so at a fast pace and it was pleasurable. I was not short of breath and I felt very comfortable even lugging my heavy bag. Keeping in mind that I think my trainer, Oshun, has eyes in the back of her head, I also took the steps at the Metrorail station instead of the escalator on the way back.

There are so many people in this world who do not have any concern for their fellow man. Many people want to keep to themselves. Mr. Milton Cooper is one of those people who confirm that there are good people left in today’s society. Never once did he make me feel like I was delaying him or that he was too busy to help me. He was patient and kind and went out of his way to assist me, a complete stranger, with my travel.

I am a recruit in Boot Camp and it was my pleasure to meet someone like Mr. Milton Cooper!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Recruit Tries Burlesque Training and Frog Legs - 22nd story

Throughout all the sessions of Warriors of Wine Boot Camp, I can often be heard saying, “You want my body to do what?” or “You want me to put my leg where?” I am often confronted with movements and positions that this body has not done or been in for years! Lately it seems that Oshun, our trainer, is pushing me to new realms of movement and positions.

The other week Oshun instructed us to get a bar stool from a table under the Grand Tiki. We then were instructed to sit on the stool which was very comfortable with our feet resting on the bottom rung. Oshun then told us to position our feet together on the top rung of the stool. With grunts and groans and a fear of falling, I struggled to get my size nine and a half sneakers on the same skinny rung and I felt like I was suffocating as my thighs pushed against my protruding belly. Oshun instructed us to stretch out, flex and lift one leg up and down which we did. We then did the same with the other leg. I felt as though I was a burlesque dancer practicing and asked Denisse, an owner of the Winery, if we were actually practicing for a performance at their Friday Night at the Winery! What a show that would be!

Next Oshun instructed us to lean back using the muscles in our abdomen and then put both our legs out straight. Now you have to picture this as these stools are just little oak stools with no backs or support at all. Here I am hanging on to the side of the bar stool with my hands wedged under my hind end as it hangs over the seat, body teetering backwards, legs in the air as if in imaginary stirrups, looking like I am about to give birth to a twenty pound watermelon! On top of that, once you are in a position and have done about 20 leg lifts, Oshun has this cruel way of making you hold that position for what seems like eternity so the grunts and groans of my natural childbirth days were vocalized! That was definitely a “you want me to do what?” day!

Last week Oshun introduced our group to a new exercise called the frog jump. Oshun explained that she wanted us to stand with our feet together, then spread them and squat as low as we could go, jump up bringing our hands together above our heads in a clap and moving our feet together like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz clicking her ruby red shoes while trying to get home. I definitely wanted to go home when I saw her perform this most cruel act of exercise. No way! Not only did she want us to do repetitions of this exercise, she wanted it done quickly! This was a “You want me to do what?” moment.

As you may recall, I broke my leg and ruptured my ACL dancing to the YMCA at a Catholic Women’s Convention so I have a horrible fear of falling. I think I was dyslexic and did an X instead of a Y for the Y in YMCA! Due to this constant fear, I had to think about the movement and ask her to do it in slow motion as jumping is not my forte. I stood there visualizing the movement and decided to give it a try.

Oshun instructs us to begin. I squat down and Oshun says “lower.” I squat down further and Oshun says “lower.” My train of thinking drifts away and my mind hears the musician singing that old song, The Limbo Rock where he says, “How low can you go?” in a deep haunting voice. This body just can’t go any lower! I give it a try and go lower and jump up, clapping my hands together and clicking my clean white sneakers together. All of a sudden I was in the state of disbelief. Did I actually complete a jump? I think I did. Could I do more? I continued and Oshun pushed further. Keep going! Don’t quit! This redhead’s determination, or maybe it was stubbornness, took over and I ended up completing 20 frog jumps. It was then that Oshun looked at me with that certain look she gives me when I know I did something well. My mind could not wrap itself around the idea that I had completed 20 frog jumps. O.K fatty. Hold back the tears. This time I was successful in holding them back but I think I was in shock for the rest of the session.

The next day I realized just why frogs croak. It must be because they so sore from hopping from lily pad to lily pad that they turn green and croaking is their way of expressing the pain. I woke up the next morning and thought my legs had been dislocated. The pain was immense. My buttocks hurt. My arms hurt. My thighs screamed in pain. I don’t think there was one part of my body that did not ache.

As I thought about the day before, I just had to believe that I was a part of a fairy tale. Remember the one about the girl who kissed the frog and he turned into a handsome prince? It wasn’t that one. It is the one where the old obese lady was touched by the golden hand of the trainer and turned into a fat, high leaping frog for just one day. And then she croaked. The end.

I am a recruit in the Warrior’s of Wine Boot Camp and I say, “I can do this!”

Unhappy Recruit Forced to Make Another Decision -21st story

You may recall that I am doing two Boot Camps this session. I am a member of the Warriors of Wine at Schnebly’s Winery on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and the YMCA Boot Camp on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Warriors of Wine started three weeks ago and I have been going every day with the exception of the day I overslept and woke up in a panic! I had accidentally set my alarm for p.m. instead of a.m. I woke up at 6:24 a.m., stood up in a panic and was rushing around when my husband calmly informed me that the class ends at 7 and I would never make it. I couldn’t believe how angry I was at myself for missing it. I know I need to be there.

This week is the beginning of the YMCA Boot Camp session. I have been really excited about the prospect of working out five days a week. I think it would be a great physical challenge for the old lady and I truly feel like I need to push myself a little harder. Unfortunately, during the past week, I received a call from the YMCA staff to inform me that they would not be offering the Tuesday and Thursday morning option for Boot Camp. There are not enough people signed up so they will only have Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning and evening sessions. I cannot begin to tell you how disappointed I was to hear that news. Now what am I going to do?

My boss had signed up with me for the Tuesday and Thursday session at the YMCA and it is easy for him to switch over to Monday and Wednesday which he is doing. I, on the other hand, cannot participate on those days because I attend Warriors of Wine at that time. I have thought about trying to make the evening sessions on those days but the more I thought about it, the more I don’t think that is physically feasible. The workouts are tough and I just do not think my body could keep up.
Someone told me I should go and work out at the YMCA on Tuesdays and Thursdays anyway. This is where the FLS Syndrome takes affect again. Fat Lady Syndrome is keeping me from doing just that. Even after everything I have been through and all the challenges of Boot Camp, I just do not feel comfortable enough to work out in front of other people who are not in my comfort zone. The recruits at Boot Camp know how hard I would out and they support me. My FLS leads me to believe that when I would show up at the YMCA to work out by myself, people would be wondering why I was there and just staring at my size. Now I know you are thinking that I should not feel that way but no matter what, I do. Those who suffer from FLS need a comfort zone and Boot Camp was my comfort zone. I know I took a big step in signing up for it by myself and stepping out of my safety zone and I am proud of myself for doing that but I just am not ready for the next step.

What do I do? I am considering doing personal training on Tuesdays and Thursday. I am investigating several options and I need to see which one is financially possible for me. I have dreamed about having the one-on-one training as I think it would be so beneficial to me. I know I will truly be pushed to my extreme limits and I know I need that right now. I would like to stay at the YMCA for it if it is possible. Nasty Nestor, one of the trainers from the YMCA, has already stepped up and told me he would love to punish me if I can work out the financial aspect of personal training. I know he would like to brutally put me through an exercise routine that would bring me close to death and he would smile while doing it! That’s nasty Nestor! Ha!

Well, time will tell and I am giving myself another week to come up with a firm plan to kick up my exercise routine to the next notch. BAM! Where will I end up? I have no clue but I can tell you this, I will not give up! There is such a difference in my life since I began Boot Camp at the YMCA. I’m not the fastest runner but I can now run and speed walk. I am not the most limber person but I can now get down on the floor and play with my grandson without needing a tow truck to get me up.

If I look back to one year ago, if someone would have told me that I would be in a Boot Camp and looking to enhance that Boot Camp with more exercise, I would have told them they were nuts! If you are sitting there on the couch thinking that you wish you could do what I am doing, let me tell you that YOU CAN! I sat on that couch with you for how many years thinking I could never do anything like this and I have proved myself wrong.

There is still time to register for the YMCA Boot Camp that started this week. Make that call! Get up and do it now.

I am a recruit in the Warrior’s of Wine Boot Camp and I need more!

Flora, Fauna and Fat! 20th story

I open the garage door and am greeted with a rush of humid air that is choking. I walk out of the garage only to be greeted by a swarm of mosquitoes that want to leave no piece of my exposed skin untouched. If only the Army could harness these mosquitoes and use them in reconnaissance, Osama bin Laden would be flushed out by the biting buggers! I jump into my truck and proceed to ignore the biting at my ankles as I drive North on SW 217th Avenue at 5:30 a.m. There is not another vehicle in sight. In seven minutes flat I arrive at my destination, Schenbly’s Winery. I park in the empty parking lot, grab my bag and walk to the sidewalk leading up to the main building. My first week in the Warrior of Wine Boot Camp has begun! The flora, fauna and fat that surround me will become my inspiration.

Entering the winery through a side gate, I am immediately struck by the flora surrounding me as the scents of different fruits and flowers open my nostrils. Although it is too dark to see them, I know there are many tropical plants and flowers around me. I also hear water at the front of the building and assume that there is a fountain of some sort nearby.

I continue and walk down the path through the side gate into the garden area of the winery. It is pitch black with the exception of the moon in the sky above and the Christmas lights strung under the Grand Tiki where Oshun, our trainer, is waiting for the recruits. The fans in the tiki blow a breeze which keeps the mosquitoes away from our fresh skin. We lay out our mats, weights and get our water bottles ready. I greeted Denisse Serge, one of the owner’s of the winery who I have known for a while and who is so supportive of the program that she is participating as a recruit. My friend, Patty, surprised me the night before by telling me she would go with me but the other recruits were new to me so we introduced ourselves.

Oshun began by warming us up. Stretches and more soon brought a sweat to our brows. Even though I was only off one week between Boot Camps, I felt like I hadn’t stretched in a month. I realize that once you are in the “more mature” category, you have got to keep going non-stop as it is so easy to lose the movement that you have achieved. Oshun then led us along the pathways out to the parking lot. As it was very dark, I asked that she just tell us if there were any steps as I could see this fat woman sprawled face first on the pavement unable to get up! No steps and I felt pretty good that I kept up a running pace for the first lap. We then ran back into the tiki. By this time, my fat body was dripping wet but I noticed that I could now breathe while running a little which definitely helps! Breathing is important.

As we continued to exercise, the effort seemed to be softened by the sights and sounds around me. I noticed that the sun slowly rose behind Oshun and the flora and fauna began to produce a harmonic composition that was extremely pleasing to my ears. Waterfalls to the right of us produced a constant rhythm like a drummer setting the pace. Birds interspersed with their chirps in different tones, assimilating the melody for the composition. Chameleons hopped from one plant to another creating a movement of the leaves and branches that mimicked a wind instrument. The koi in the ponds flipped their tails in the water creating an occasional splash which created an unexpected element in the composition. The flora and fauna were creating an amazing tune.

Driving by the winery, you would never imagine the beauty of the sights and sounds within. Nature has produced a beautiful background for this session of Warriors of Wine. Before I knew it, the class was over and I felt pretty good about completing it. I drove the quick trip home, showered, dressed and went to work feeling like I could take on the world.

The next evening, I drove over to the Homestead YMCA and signed up for the Boot Camp which begins on September 10th. I realize that I need to exercise more than just three days a week so I am going to attend Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the YMCA Boot Camp. I have missed the people from the YMCA and I still do not have enough confidence to go into the Y by myself without going to Boot Camp. Although I have often said I would try when one of my trainers were present, I am too embarrassed by my size and feel I don’t belong. FLS..Fat Lady Syndrome. Symptoms are fear of ridicule, snide remarks or failure. Even after everything I have done in the past three Boot Camps, I still suffer from FLS.

I am a 54 year old obese woman and I need to lose weight and inches and increase my mobility. I have tried every diet you have ever heard of. I have eaten grapefruit until I turned yellow. I have eaten cabbage to the point that I didn’t think I would ever exit the bathroom. I have been to different companies to try their diet plans. I firmly do not believe in surgical intervention. I have failed at exercising on my own.

I realize I need help of I will die too soon. I have found tremendous support and help in the form of Rico and Nestor from the YMCA Boot Camp and Oshun from Warriors of Wine. It is not just the program but those individuals, Rico, Nestor and Oshun, who are slowly changing my life. I need them more than they will ever understand.

I am a recruit in the YMCA Boot Camp and Warrior’s of Wine and I need to be there!

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Happy Decision - 19th Story

Last week I informed you of a hard choice I had to make regarding Boot Camp. Oshun, one of my trainers had left the YMCA. She has taken a position with Schnebly’s Winery where she will probably do some healthy cooking as well as run the Warriors of Wine Boot Camp. Nestor and Rico, my other favorite trainers, were still at the YMCA for me and I love working out with them. All three have supported me from day one in January when I placed that first call to Rico. I had to decide where to continue and I can honestly say that I have lost sleep over the decision and had a good cry over it as well.

Although everyone was telling me that they would support me and be there for me no matter what, I still felt like I was being pulled like salt water taffy on the stretching machine that I watched in the window on the boardwalk of Wildwood, New Jersey as a kid. After stretching and molding, I would watch it come down the chute into the boxes. I felt like everyone was just standing and watching me being pulled and waiting to see into which box I would land. Who would I disappoint?

It was obvious at work and at home that I was in agony over having to choose. Finally my husband set me straight by telling me, “Forget everyone else and do what is good for Doris.” It was then that I again realized that I was letting my Fat Lady Syndrome (FLS) rule me. I was trying to please everyone else, forgetting about my own needs, because being a fat lady you don’t feel you deserve to think about yourself. Who was I writing these articles for? Not for the YMCA! Not for an individual trainer! Not for the paper! I am writing them as therapy for me! ME! DORIS!

I had given myself until this past Sunday evening to make my decision, but after a few phone calls on Friday after work, a thought began swirling around in my mind that scared the devil out of me. I really felt like I have been in a small rut with my exercising lately and maybe needed a change of some sort. Could I really do what I was thinking? I then made a call to Oshun and posed a question to her and told her I wanted an honest answer. I asked Oshun, “You know where I am fitness wise. Do you think I could honestly do Boot Camp five days a week?” Oshun’s answer to me was an immediate, “Definitely!” I told her of my plan but wanted to confirm it with others.

I then made a call to Rico, one of my trainers at the YMCA. I confirmed with Rico that Tuesday and Thursday is a Boot Camp option with the Y and he also confirmed that he thought I could do the five days. All of a sudden I thought I heard trumpets playing and angels singing! A huge wave of relief washed over me like a tidal wave! I think my heart skipped a few beats as I realized that I had finally found a way that I can keep my connection with all of my trainers and the YMCA. I made a decision two days ahead of schedule and I made the decision for me!
This session, I will be a Warrior of Wine on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays by attending Oshun’s Boot Camp at Schnebly’s Winery. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I will be under the punishing eyes of Nasty Nestor and Rambo Rico at the YMCA Boot Camp. Yes, believe it or not, this 54 year old obese woman, 280 pounds of her, will be working out at Boot Camps five days a week. Yes. I said five!

This is a life changing decision. I have gone from being sedentary and doing absolutely nothing to working out three times a week. Am I crazy to even think that I can possibly exercise five days a week? Can I really get up at 5 a.m., five days a week and exercise for an hour prior to starting my day at work? Will my body survive the grueling training or will I have a cellulite meltdown? Am I kidding myself that I can do this? I have got to try for me! Time will tell and I hope this will definitely add to my articles as I will write about both experiences each week.
Warriors of Wine started this week and I have already attended the sessions. On September 9th, the YMCA Boot Camp will begin. This has also taken care of my worries for the weeks in between Boot Camps as I only had one week off.

Boot Camp registration is taking place now no matter where you would like to go. Get up! Do it for you! I’m learning that maybe I do deserve to think about myself!
I am a recruit in the YMCA Boot Camp and Schnebly’s Warriors of Wine and I am beginning to believe that I am doing all of this for Doris!

Friday, August 21, 2009


As many of you remember, I have discussed many of the trainers in Boot Camp. I have told you of their personalities and caring. Ariel Concepcion, known as “Rico”, Nestor Villageliu and Oshun Marcella have been the main trainers and my strong support trio.

Rambo Rico, is the trainer who pushes me to my extreme most limits and has a loud, wild way about him. You can hear Rico a mile away and he needs no megaphone. Rico’s devilish smile runs from ear to ear and I believe Rico gets high on seeing me in pain! The more pain I show, the more he pushes me further. You look at his face and just know that he is thinking ahead to another sadistic way that he can try this fat woman’s body. As I stated before, I hated Rico the first two weeks and did not think I would ever go back voluntarily to his class. Slowly, his loudness and methods grew on me. I like the fact that if the group was going to run two miles, he expected me to at least complete the two miles whether speed walking or running. I was not exempt and I appreciated his strong support of my efforts. He was the coach who always had the others cheering for me. Sweet sadistic Rico!

Nasty Nestor used to be called the Youngster by me because of his sweet young age. I have since changed his name as his work-outs are nasty and like Rico, he is always pushing my body to places it hasn’t been in years. Nestor is constantly bullying and taunting me in a way that I just love. “Doris. Are you going to let me beat you? Are you going to give up?” He waits to hear me swear in my Boot Camp language, “frick and frack and frick and frack” because he then knows that he is pushing me hard. In the pool during class I will see these little beady eyes pop up out of the water staring at me. Yep…Nasty Nestor! It was in Nasty Nestor’s session of mountain climber exercises that I pulled the muscle in my leg and had to go to the hospital. You would think his guilt would eat away at him but he keeps threatening me with more mountain climbers! Sweet young boy!

Oshun is the only woman trainer in the group. Oshun’s workouts are more involved with core and balance as well as aerobics. I was well into my sessions of Boot Camp before I met Oshun. At first, I did not think I could adjust to her exercise routines and really did not think I would continue in her classes as I was used to Rambo Rico and Nasty Nestor. After several sessions with her, I fell into sync and really felt at ease in her classes. Did she push me? Yes. I feel like I have made a very strong connection with Oshun. She has made me face many obstacles that have brought me to tears because she made me confront many many years worth of fears that a 54 year old obese woman had suppressed. My last breakthrough was in her last class. For the first time since I started the Boot Camp process in January, I was able to balance in positions that I could never hold before. I shocked myself and it was hard for me to believe that I was actually doing it. Picture me standing there crying over being able to balance! I often say in class, “For the record, please note that I am doing this.” because I often don’t believe it myself! It may just be a “woman thing” but I feel that Oshun cares about my entire self. She makes me feel like I can do anything and should darn well try. She makes this woman feel like she wants to fight her way out of the fat cocoon that encases her soul. Sweet, sensitive Oshun!

Summer Y Train has ended and I now have a few weeks between Boot Camps. These weeks are always hard for me but this time, I have the added stress of having to make a choice regarding Boot Camp. This 54 year old obese woman does not like to be presented with choices. I like things planned and orderly and this is causing great pain.

My support trio is breaking up. You see, Oshun is leaving the YMCA. She has taken a position with Schnebly’s Winery where she will probably do some healthy cooking as well as run a Warriors of Wine Boot Camp. This is a wonderful move for her and a great addition to Schnebly’s. Now I have to decide where to continue and my heart is stretching me like Gumby in two different directions.

Living west out by the Everglades, I can easily make it to Schnebly’s to exercise and home to shower prior to work. Maybe I can take my wine glass with me and get my free glass of wine every day also! Never thought of that perk till now!

On the other hand, the YMCA was there to accept this 54 year old obese woman into their Boot Camp Program and made me feel welcome and comfortable. The entire staff, from Anna, the receptionist who greets me at 5:30 a.m. to the lifeguards, everyone makes me feel like I am cared for. I am still aiming to be a poster girl for the Y and not just the fat lady before shot!
What will I do? I have to make a choice by next week and I’ll let you know but there is something I need to tell you all.

Boot Camp registration is taking place now. Don’t think you can’t do it. Get up off your chair and make the move. I am a 54 year old woman who is well over 100 pounds overweight and have lived a sedentary lifestyle but I am proud to say that I have just completed my fourth Boot Camp. If I can do it, you have no excuse!

The new session of Boot Camp will begin at the YMCA on September 9th, 2009.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Summer Session Ends!
Doris D. Meneses

My summer session of Boot Camp is coming to a close. Friday the 14th is our last day and Saturday will be our picnic and awards. Every recruit gets a certificate for successfully completing the Boot Camp and over the past several sessions, I have received a Most Dedicated Recruit award and the Most Improved Recruit award. If there was an award for Most Insane Recruit, I know I would get it hands down! Hoorah!

The new session of Boot Camp will not begin again until September so now I am pondering what I am going to do in order to stay at the level I am at now and not backslide like I have in the past. I am not one who will exercise by myself. Those two or three weeks between sessions have proven deadly to me purely because of laziness and food.

Yes I am lazy. I admit it. I would prefer to stay in bed until 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. rather than get up at 5:00 to be at the YMCA at 6:00 to exercise. On top of that, most of my work days are a minimum of ten hours and most times longer due to my work load. My mom says, “Sissy. Evidently you spend too much time fooling around or you would be done your work.” I think she still believes I am in grade school. In addition to my job, I do my husband’s bookkeeping for his business and try to find time to sew or craft which is my attempt at staying sane! In the past, I have not been able to continue to exercise during the interim of Boot Camp. I am determined that this time, I will not let myself drift back into bad exercise habits. Lord, give me the strength to get up when the alarm goes off!

Food is my big downfall during the interim time. Exercising and food go hand in hand. You see, when I am exercising hard, I feel the pain and all those aches and pains are a constant reminder to stop when I go to eat something I shouldn’t. Food glorious food! Stress adds to that call of food.

Call of food? Yes. Food calls me my by name. It is up close and personal and often screams at me. It calls me from the racks of the grocery store. It calls me from my kitchen cupboard. It calls me from the candy jar at work.
I try hard to stick to the outside walls of the grocery store where I can ignore the bad things but then I have to check out. I hear little hisses as I stand there waiting to check out. “Pssst. Pssst.” I look and I see no one. I look at the clerk silently begging her to hurry up as I try to ignore the sounds and then I hear, “Psst….you know you want me. Pick me up. I’ll make you feel better. Psst. Here I am.” I struggle hard and keep my head forward and break out into a sweat but then, it must be a close friend calling me because I hear it call me by my nickname, “Sissy. I’m here. Get me!” I turn to see who it is and my heart is immediately filled with horror and desire at the same time! There it is. The dreaded chocolate! The worse culprits are peanut butter cups. When I am stressed I want to feast on delights such as peanut butter cups until I am in a sugar induced trance. Is there anything better? If you are in the grocery store during the next few weeks and you see a lady sweating in the check-out line who looks like she is in a trance and you hear her mumble, “Yeah though I walk through the aisle of death, I fear those pounds. My arm reacheth over to chocolate. My strength is fading,” just reach over and hit her with your rod or staff as she picks up the peanut butter cups. At that point, you will have realized that you have just been introduced to ME!

Can I survive the interim period? I honestly do not know. One of my greatest desires is to be able to afford a personal trainer during those weeks that I am off. Maybe one day I can make it my first priority. Right now I cannot. Life’s other demands have to come first.

In the meantime, I have told the editor that I did not know if people were bored reading about my struggle with obesity and maybe I should end the series. It has been good therapy for this 54 year old obese lady to put it out to the public and I am humbled by the outpouring of support that I have received. I only write what I know and what I experience. Life as an obese woman is not an easy life. Hopefully I will share more of my experiences with you and you will want to hear them. Please let me know how you feel about the continuation of the series.

I am a 54 year old obese recruit in the YMCA Boot Camp and I know for a fact that I still need to be there!

NOTE - Healthy Eating Seminar by Oshun that is open to the public at the YMCA on August 20th at 7 p.m. Cost is $15 to non-YMCA members and $10 to members. Please register ahead of time by calling the YMCA at 305-248-5189. See you there!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Hey Abbott!

I know you are all wondering about my third aquatic session. It took three tries but I finally have a winner in the bathing suit division. I will no longer wear the Oompa Loompa Syndrome bathing suit wherein my skirt kept filling up like a balloon no matter what exercise I did. No appearances in the two piece tank top styled suit with the dreaded Droopy Drawer Syndrome. The suit that I tried last and thought would be horrible was by all accounts, the best!

That morning, I easily donned my flimsy one piece that had absolutely no support for the womanly figure. It was the cheapest of all my bathing suits and had the least amount of Spandex. Bulges were free to bulge. Fat was free to flow. Breasts were free to sag. After the last two experiences, I felt that I had to give it a shot so off to the YMCA I went.

I was the first to go into the water and as I did, I wondered what would happen today. For the first time in three weeks, nothing seemed to be happening and I was thrilled. We started running, doing underwater dips along the ropes and kicking with kick boards. The Styrofoam noodles came out and we did leg crunches and all kinds of stretches. As I was doing the exercises, I realized that this suit was working out great. It seemed that I had my own personal flotation devices so the lack of support in the breast area was not an issue. It was a winner. I finished class feeling secure. Yes, my thighs were exposed but I didn’t care. I finally realized that no one was staring at my trunk thighs. No one was looking at my log arms. This day exuded success!

During this session of Boot Camp, I am seeing more changes for the good. My balance is improving. Before I just could not control my balance and it really bothered me. During one of last week’s classes, we were made to partner up with someone and lift our foot up into their hands that were at chest height and balance. Oshun paired me up with a young man in the class, Jose Blandon. I thought to myself, “Oh great. This young guy is probably going to be upset that he is paired up with the old lady.” I explained to Jose that I really did not think I could do this exercise. He calmly told me not to worry and that he didn’t know if he could do it as his balance was terrible as well. He told me, “Come on.” and held his hands low so I could get my foot into his grip. I was impressed with how supportive this young man was and how he immediately put me at ease and made me feel confident that he could support my weight and would not drop me. I did the exercise and I felt comfortable doing it. I was proud of that moment.

Also improving is my ability to hold my own weight. I stated before that I have gone from not being able to lift my body up into a plank position for a push up to being able to hold my body up. Now I am able to bend my arms, albeit slightly, toward doing a full push up. Sometimes I feel that I could do it but I know I would never make it back up and they would have to call for a crane to raise me up! Last week we ran a circuit and one of the exercises was to get on the mat with our elbows and forearms down, pushing our body up into a plank supported by our toes. From our elbows we had to move one arm at a time into a push up position and then back down one arm at a time. I did it and I did it many times.

Earlier, I was finally able to grasp both of my hands behind my back. This past week, I realized that I can now grasp them behind my back and raise them ever so slightly so they are not resting on my butt. You would have thought that I had won the lottery with that inch or so.

I know you may laugh at these simple moves and changes that most of you can do at any moment without thinking. I cannot do that. My body has been entombed for years in layers of fat that have suffocated my movement. My fitness life reminds me of that classic skit on Abbott and Costello or The Three Stooges. Slowly I turn. Step by step. Inch by inch. Many weeks I feel discouraged and depressed because I just am not losing weight or feeling any progress. Then out of the blue, my body will allow me to complete one of those simple moves.

Hey Abbott! Step by step. Inch by inch. I am a recruit in the YMCA Boot Camp and I know for a fact that I NEED TO BE THERE!

NOTE - Healthy Eating Seminar by Oshun that is open to the public at the YMCA on August 20th at 7 p.m. Cost is $15 to non-YMCA members and $10 to members. See you there!

Recruit Discovers White Meat, Pounds and Great Food!

During the third week of July, I attended my second aquatic session sans the Oompa Loompa bathing suit wherein my skirt kept filling up like a balloon no matter what exercise I did. Instead, I decided to wear the two piece tank top styled suit. Our trainer, Nick, started us off on the deck of the pool warming up. Leg lifts, stretches, squats and marching. Everything was going well until he told us to do 25 jumping jacks. I have finally gotten to the point where I can do about 15 jumping jacks before stopping and I’m pretty proud of that fact, but unfortunately, Nick did not realize that you do not make an obese old lady with a large chest, do jumping jacks in a bathing suit! My best friend and I looked at each other and laughed. We need our sports bras! Of course, being women, we improvised and criss-crossed our arms over our chest and did half jumping jacks.

Next we were instructed to get into the pool and upon entering the water, no balloon effect so my confidence grew. Nick stood on the deck of the pool and began. He instructed us first to do some knee lifts, etc. Once we were warmed up, he started the heavier aerobics and we were instructed to jog in the pool. I began a good jog only to panic. What was happening? I felt something really weird. Was it the balloon effect again? It couldn’t be. I was having some sort of bathing suit malfunction again. No, it wasn’t Oompa Loompa Syndrome; it was the dreaded Droopy Drawer Syndrome. As I jogged, my bathing suit top rode up and my bottoms fell down. I kept trying to jog and hold my shirt down and my pants on for dear life. At one point, I knew my entire torso was showing. Although this was underwater, I furiously yanked at my suit as I could just imagine what was visible from the deck of the pool. I am sure that the shock of all that white meat of my body being exposed, and there was a lot of it, blinded our morning lifeguards, Lauren DeBow and Candice Ray! I silently prayed that they would not stare too closely. Lauren and Candice have always been very supportive of my efforts even though they really don’t know me as well as the trainers. I am just thankful that they didn’t fall off the lifeguard stand laughing! I finished the class hanging on for dear life to the two parts of my bathing suit. This bathing suit was far worse than the Oompa Loompa suit!

The next day we had a weigh-in and a healthy cooking class given by Oshun, one of our trainers who is a healthy cooking chef. I knew the scales would not be in my favor after just coming back from two weeks on vacation. When I weighed in at the beginning of this session, the scales were at 280. I dreaded weigh-in this time but as my trainers, Rambo Rico and Nestor the Youngster, stood by, I stepped up on the scale. I just could not believe my eyes. The number climbed. Rico took the weight from the 250 mark and moved it to the 300 mark and the scale still did not balance. I know that rhubarb pie I had on vacation was not that fattening. What could be wrong? I could feel the red from embarrassment flowing into my cheeks. Don’t cry! Don’t sweat! According to the scale, I was weighing in at over 320 pounds. Can I hold back the tears much longer? This can’t be! Rico told me to step off so they could reset the scale. Again I stepped on and the numbers climbed to 330! Just as I was ready to cry, Rico started laughing. I didn’t know what was going on. Evidently Nasty Nestor had cleverly put his foot on the back of the scale while I was weighing in! Don’t they know they can give an old lady a heart attack? It was then that my boxing skills came into play and I pulled back and landed a good one on Nestor’s arm. I hope it hurt! Bottom line, I was up four pounds on the scale to 284 which isn’t good but I was sort of happy with that number after spending two weeks on vacation.

After the fright of weigh-in, I moved on to the healthy cooking class. I have attended several of Oshun’s workshops and each one presents new and interesting ideas. This workshop was nice as we had a very diverse group and the workshop was well attended. We sampled salsa, chutney, soy beans, chicken, dragon fruit, brown rice and much more. She made us try things we have never eaten in our lives and I was proud of myself that I didn’t die trying! Oshun stressed that we were all so much healthier when everyone cooked at home instead of indulging in fast food and we all know she is correct. Everyone went home with their bellies full and a lot more knowledge about the foods we eat.

After this week, I realized several things. The most obvious thing I learned is that although white meat is good for you, I am going to water test next week’s bathing suit so I don’t show all of mine! Will I ever have a normal day in the pool without bathing suit malfunctions? The second thing that was reinforced was the fact that the food I had ingested has resulted in pounds. I realized that I was on vacation however; I have become sloppy about what I am putting in my mouth. Because of the exercising, you may say that I have even become cocky about it and have been eating things or eating quantities that I know I should not be eating. It is time to get strict as exercising will not work without curtailing my food intake. Finally, I couldn’t be mad at Nestor or Rico for their prank because they did something I would have done. I love those guys and keep telling them that they should just admit that they love me because admitting it is half the battle!

I am a recruit in the YMCA Boot Camp and I know that even with wearing a malfunctioning bathing suit and scaring the trainers and lifeguards, I just might deserve to be there! Even more importantly, I am a recruit in the YMCA Boot Camp and I know for a fact that because of my eating habits, I NEED TO BE THERE!

The Battle of Spandex!

Friday morning of the first week presented a new experience in the summer session of Boot Camp. Fridays are aquatic day. This means that the recruits are to come ready to go in the pool.

The evening before aquatic day, I spent hours trying on the three bathing suits I have so that I could see which one shows the least amount of fat. Important questions raced through my mind. Do I wear the bathing suit with the skirt that hides my thunder thighs but makes me look like Niagara Falls when I get out of the pool because the skirt holds so much water? Do I wear the one piece that will be speedy swimming laps but shows every single bulge on my body and has what I would term a pre-teen bra that cannot even attempt to hold up one of my breasts? Do I wear the two piece bathing suit? Stop! I don’t mean a bikini! Geez…I’m not that crazy! By two-piece I mean a long tank top with the underwear type pants that hides nothing when it comes to the logs jutting out from my torso. All bathing suits are Spandex. I’ve said it before that all fat women should never wear Spandex. After much him-hawing, I decide I will wear the one with the skirt that seems to cover up more flaws that the others.

Now I must tell you that I have no fear of the water because as my late father would exclaim proudly, “I come from a family of great floaters!” Some of my earliest memories are of family vacations to Wildwood, N.J. and my father just laying back and floating over every wave that hit. When we started coming south to Florida for vacation, I was old enough to join him in the great float-out. It took me a while to realize that the reason we had a family of great floaters was because many of our family members, including my dad and I, were heavy. I’m here to tell you, fat people float! Skinny people sink!

On the first aquatic day, I woke up and worked up a sweat pulling the Spandex compression suit onto my body. Tugging, groaning untwisting straps as I adjusted every part of my torso into the suit so that my fat pockets were smoothed over and seemed to lie in the least invasive positions. I felt like the Pillsbury Dough Girl about to pop out of the can! I then grabbed a beach cover-up and threw that over top, snagged my goggles, donned my water shoes and was out the door. As I jumped into my vehicle, I noticed a slight flash of lightning to the south. I ran back in the house, grabbed my exercise clothes and sneakers just in case.

Upon arriving at the YMCA I am told that we will not be swimming today due to the weather. My brain screams with joy as I am given one more week before having to show my body to all. I realized then that I could not workout without my sports bra on so I ran into the locker room, tugged, groaned and untwisted again as I worked up another sweat taking off the bathing suit, put on my work-out clothes and went to class. After a short stint of exercises, one of the trainers came in and said they checked the weather and all was clear for swimming. They told us we had ten minutes to meet out at the pool. You have got to be kidding! Ten minutes? I ran back into the locker room, took off my now sweaty exercise clothing and once again fought the Spandex battle as I pulled and tugged and twisted to try and get my bathing suit onto my sweaty body. I already felt like I ran a five mile race just getting dressed three times!

After spending a few minutes searching to find the door to the pool, I went outside and quickly jumped in so that I could hide my body in the water. All of a sudden I felt the skirt of my bathing suit float up and fill with air. I looked down and realized that I must have looked like an Oompa Loompa in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory because I was one hundred percent inflated. I quickly pushed my skirt down and held it at the bottom. I glanced around as my mind hears music, “Oompa Loompa Doompadee doo. I’ve got another puzzle for you. Oompa Loompa doompadah dee. If you are wise you’ll listen to me.” Do others hear it too?

Our trainer gave us two pieces of equipment, a noodle and foam barbells. As I leaned back on my noodle pulling my legs up and swinging them as directed, I once again experienced Oompa Loompa syndrome. All through the exercise session I had to push the skirt down to deflate it. I realized that I would have to rethink which bathing suit to wear next week. The skirt is good on land for covering the thighs but not in the water for exercising.

Presently I am already trying to decide which bathing suit will be worn next week and I have a few thoughts for you to ponder. I really think the women in the 20’s and 30’s had it easy with their bloomer bathing suits that covered the entire body and were made of cotton. Do you think I can bring that back? What about outlawing Spandex! Why are we tortured by Spandex visually and physically? How do men wear Speedo’s? Better yet, how do obese men wear Speedo’s? How do women wear thong bathing suits? Does it feel like a piece of dental floss between your cheeks?

Everything considered, the aquatic session was a nice change from the gym work-out. The water provides a cushion on your joints and water jogging is more comfortable than on land.

I am a recruit in the YMCA Boot Camp and I am beginning to believe that even wearing a bathing suit, I deserve to be there!