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Changed lives<br> As The News Shape-Up Plan ends, four of the participants make a commitment to fitness

A lot can happen in four months, and as many of our Shape-Up Plan participants will tell you, their quest for good health during the 16-week program has become a passion.

First the good news: Amy Van Tuyl is training for her first triathlon. John Fortini earned his black belt in tae kwon do. The Rev. Angelo Chimera was appointed pastor at All Saints Roman Catholic Church in Riverside, and Melissa Gomez marked her fourth wedding anniversary.

Juanita Thomas, on the other hand, has withdrawn from the program citing personal reasons. The 43-year-old mother of seven reported medical complications have restricted her activity, making it impossible to complete the 16-week program she started in February.

More than 150 readers had applied for the program, and the five who were selected by our panel of health consultants were each assigned a registered dietitian and fitness trainer. Shape-Up Plan has never been a competition, but hopefully it will serve as an inspiration through the real life triumphs and struggles of the participants, who weekly monitored and reported their weight loss.

On three occasions—at the beginning, the midway point and at the end—their weights, body measurements, and fat densities were recorded by fitness trainer and Shape-Up consultant Pat LaDuca of Gold's Gym.

As you will see, our final four participants all lost pounds and inches while gaining confidence and self-esteem. More importantly, they each plan to make the pursuit of good health a permanent part of their lifestyles.

We hope that you, too, have launched good-health campaigns. The Buffalo News Shape-Up Blog ( ) will continue to report on all matters of health and fitness. From time to time we'll even update you on the progress of our participants.

>The Rev. Chimera

After dropping 24 pounds, Chimera has a new outlook on life to match his new church assignment in Riverside.

"The biggest change is my self-esteem and self-image," said Chimera. "I was unhappy with my body. I would look in the mirror and ask: ‘Who is this person?'

"I was getting more and more depressed over it. I was turning into someone I didn't like. Now I feel comfortable in my body," said the priest, who plans to hit the mall for a new suit and trousers.

"He's interested in knowing as much as he can," said LaDuca. "He's really on his way, as long as he can stay connected with someone. He's almost breaking 250, which is what his goal is. I told him to take it in small increments, because it will make him crazy if he does not."

Chimera's new goal is to hit the 220s, and according to his registered dietitian, a critical component will be to slow his pace of eating.

"He has the tendency to be a fast eater," noted Mary Jo Parker. "It is recommended that he adopt strategies, like putting the fork down between bites or eating in courses. He has done well when he has limited his options when eating out and has decreased the frequency.

"I have advised him to continue to plan ahead for special occasions to limit impulsive eating, as well as to nurture himself regularly in ways that don't involve eating."

>John Fortini

The biggest challenge, admitted this restaurant owner who lost 21 pounds, is keeping his eating in check at work.

"My biggest challenge is working with food every day," Fortini said. "Everything's there. I have food instantly ready. I'm not going to say it's bad food. In moderation, it's fine."

Fortini, who celebrated his 46th birthday in February, plans to continue his exercise regimen with trainer Jennifer DiGuardi of Momentum Wellness.

"I need structure," said Fortini. "It's been a killer experience working with a trainer, but I'm not yet down to where I want to be, which is between 190 and 200 pounds. I haven't weighed that in 26 years."

DiGuardi, meanwhile, has devised this strategy to deal with her client.

"We're going from three times a week to once week because he's really busy over the summer," DiGuardi explained. "Here's the deal: If he creeps up over 250, he has two weeks to get it back down. Otherwise he goes back to three times a week. So I threaten him with training."

Fortini, meanwhile, believed exercise has helped alleviate the joint aches he had experienced.

"I don't have any aches or pains," he said. "My back doesn't hurt. My elbows don't hurt. My knees don't hurt. I can do everything now without difficulty."


>Melissa Gomez

For the past two years, Gomez rarely dressed up. Instead she wore sweat pants, baggy clothes — anything that would hide her midriff bulge.

"I avoided pictures at all costs," said the 32-year-old mother of four, proudly holding up the pair of Size 7 black short-shorts that last summer were impossible to yank over her hips. Now, nearly 12 pounds lighter and with a waistline trimmed by 3 inches, she is able to button them. "I no longer wear sweat pants seven days a week. I am on my way. Slowly but surely it is happening and my body and mind are being transformed."

Gomez realized the 16-week program is just the beginning.

"I have to remember, if I slack off the weight will come back," she said. "This has to be something I consistently do. Taking two or three days off [from exercise] can turn into a week, and a week turns into two weeks."

After firing her trainer midway through the program, Gomez had taken to Zumba, the high-intensity Latin dance workout, and to walking four miles daily. Gomez's regime burned calories and increased stamina, according to LaDuca, but she needed more.

"She needs more muscle on her body," noted LaDuca. "You can see the difference between someone who is developing muscle and someone who is not, and she's not. She wasn't doing any weight training at all, and I think that's one of things — especially for women — we miss. Weight training in itself will stimulate her metabolism, and she'll start to burn calories a lot faster — even at rest."


>Amy Van Tuyl

During the program, Van Tuyl grew to love exercise, driving to the gym as many as three times a day. The functional workouts she performed with trainer Patrick Hall of 716 XFit combined strength training with aerobics to elevate her heart rate and tone her muscles. The college freshman was off to a fast start.

"Amy's initial weight loss was quick and very motivational to her," said Hall. "Her weight took many turns as it followed suit with her life. She took a couple of vacations, which set her back a bit, but she always regained her focus when she got back into town."

Van Tuyl, an avid swimmer who lost 11 pounds during the program, began triathlon training with Hall, and in a role reversal has become his swimming coach.

"Her fitness level and health have greatly improved over the 16 weeks, and I am extremely proud of her efforts," Hall said. "Amy continues her hard work in the gym, and has signed on as a paying client. Her next fitness endeavor is training for a triathlon."

The "competition" between trainer and client is good, according to LaDuca.

"Trainers know how to push. They know how to be your friend," said LaDuca. "If they stay with their trainer, that is huge because a trainer knows when to change their program."



Final Results

The Rev. Angelo Chimera

Starting Weight: 276 pounds

Results: lost 24 pounds


Melissa Gomez

Starting Weight: 176 pounds

Results: lost 11.6 pounds


Amy Van Tuyl

Starting Weight: 228 pounds

Results: lost 11.2 pounds


John Fortini

Starting Weight: 267 pounds

Results: lost 21.2 pounds

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