From obesity and food obsession to real health

Local woman shares story of weight loss and change

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published September 25, 2019

 Jill Clark, of Troy, lost nearly 200 pounds with the help of a weight loss coach. Now she works as a coach to help others do the same.

Jill Clark, of Troy, lost nearly 200 pounds with the help of a weight loss coach. Now she works as a coach to help others do the same.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Jill Clark, of Troy, said the food in her home is largely clean, as in unprocessed, though some goodies slip in every so often.

Jill Clark, of Troy, said the food in her home is largely clean, as in unprocessed, though some goodies slip in every so often.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

TROY — It was nearly seven years and 175 pounds ago when Jill Clark, of Troy, decided she’d had just about enough.

At 321 pounds, she was walking her kids to the bus stop just six doors down from her home. By the time she returned, she was sweaty and out of breath.

“I’ve been obese my whole life, probably since I was 10 or 11. I didn’t notice it was an issue until I was a teenager, and I was heavy all through high school and all through college,” Clark said. “And then I just got comfortable and I got lazy. I met my husband, had kids, had a tough time getting the baby weight off, and it’s that classic tale of moms taking care of everyone but themselves.”

Realizing she had a problem was step one to a health and well-being overhaul, Clark said. Step two was finding out what diet regimen would work for her.

“I had joined a (weight loss program), and I’d done it many times throughout my life. I’m not sure why I thought this time would be any different. But I was in a meeting that morning, and (it) took me about three years to get off 100 pounds, which was amazing,” she explained. “I was physically healthier, but I was mentally a mess. I became food obsessed, and that’s all I thought about all day long. I knew I couldn’t do that anymore, and then I put about 10 pounds back on, which scared me to death.”

Looking for a new approach, Clark met with a health coach.

The two built a structured plan that focused less on food and more on mindset. That helped Clark lose the last 75 pounds, which she’s kept off for about a year and a half now.

“I would say I definitely eat clean — not crazy low carb, certainly not keto by any means. But I’m reading a lot of labels,” she said. “I’m fueling my body in a different way. I eat six times a day in smaller amounts, and that helps with my energy levels.”

Donald Larson, a nutritionist, trainer, and the owner and general manager of Gold’s Gym Detroit, isn’t surprised when he hears that a diet plan didn’t work to keep the pounds off in the long term. That’s the nature of diets, he said: They’re not meant for a lifetime.

“People on fad diets, those are typically the people that rebound the most,” Larson said. “It’s like (an addict) that will try to get on and off drugs until they hit rock bottom.”

Larson, like Clark, doesn’t advise anyone to scrap carbs from their diet to lose weight, since it will just come back the moment they give in to that slice of bread. He advises his clients to utilize a process of carb cycling, where someone will eat carbs only a few days a week, so their body learns to utilize fat as energy instead of glucose on carb-free days.

On top of that, clients tend to come to Larson because they want to incorporate exercise into their transformation. That’s a great idea, he said, but keep it interesting.

“You’ve got to do more than one thing. That’s why there’s all these boutique fitness programs out there like kickboxing and cycling, and I’ve incorporated all of those into classes here. You’ve got to make it interesting so they enjoy it. They won’t come if it’s a chore,” he said.

Clark suffers from a cardiac condition that limits her ability to exercise, but she said that just means she has to tailor her health plan to really focus on what she has control over, which is her nutrition and her mental health. Those habits extend to her family too, leading her husband to live healthier and lose 100 pounds himself.

Now she works as a health coach to help other people find the unique habits that will work for them. When clients book an appointment with her, she said, they tend to be serious about creating a life for themselves and their family.

Larson agreed. He said that changing lifestyle habits, particularly eating habits, is tough. So when someone is willing to make the commitment to a trainer or coach to get healthy, he knows they’re on a path to success.

“Typically, when people come in here, they’ve hit a certain point where they want a change. If they come in here and hire me, they’re ready to make that change. And that’s most of the transformation: They have to be really ready to do it,” he said.