The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 28 - April 13, 2011


Overcoming major obstacles

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Rebecca Donovan, who suffers from
fibromyalgia, has lost 26 pounds in
just over two months.



Rebecca Donovan is my second best success story, if you measure by weight lost. My best success was a cancer survivor who lost 120 pounds in 8 months. Rebecca has lost 26 pounds in 2 1/2 months. But success can also be measured by improved quality of life.

Like many people who seek a personal trainer, Rebecca came in wanting to lose weight. At 5' 2" she weighed 242 pounds. She said she had tried Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Atkins and NutriSystem. Any weight lost, like with so many diet programs, she had gained all back, and then some.

The best way to tell this story is in her words.

"I have lost 26 pounds since beginning to work out with Ellen on Jan. 21, 2011. More importantly, clothes I haven't been able to wear in years now fit easily. I have had brain surgery for a malignant tumor and have weakness on my left side. I have had continuous years of fibromyalgia, which sometimes prevented me from moving and has caused much pain. I've already had knee surgery and came to Ellen as a last attempt to avoid a second surgery. I have had many other surgeries.

"Since working with Ellen, I am able to do things I haven't been able to do since the brain surgery, such as walking and staying balanced. I have so much more energy. There are many activities I thought I would never be able to do again, but now I can. I've regained confidence and agility I didn't expect to achieve.

"I return North regularly for medical evaluations with my doctors. On my last check-ups, all my doctors said they were very impressed with my progress, saying the exercises I'd been given were exactly what they would have advised.

"When I first started working out with Ellen, I couldn't get on a treadmill. Not only do I now walk on a treadmill for 30 minutes on my own, but I can move much more easily. Ellen has been great fun and makes me laugh while I hardly notice I'm doing challenging exercises. Her nutrition coaching has also been invaluable helping me achieve weight loss.

"Although I was a challenge, Ellen was creative and persistent with finding exercises that worked and didn't cause more injury. With back, shoulder and knee issues, Ellen came up with a game plan to allow me to work on my weight loss and conditioning goals. Others have said the exercises have kept my back strong which has been critical to my success.

"All of this has changed my attitude. I can't believe I can now do so much."

Rebecca said she looked at other gyms, but she said she felt like I really cared and would spend the time it would take to address her many concerns and issues. Success like Rebecca's far exceeds any paycheck. It's why I do what I do.

Her secret? There's no magic bullet. As you've heard until you can't stand it, losing weight is all about a lifestyle change. Rebecca now comes to the gym on her own.

Studies show that the one thing that seems to be most successful for weight loss is keeping a food and exercise diary. I instruct clients how to do this online or on paper, and how to find an optimal weekly menu plan. We talk about portions, how to eat out and how to (get this) still keep a daily alcoholic drink. Giving that up sometimes isn't an option for snowbirds on vacation.

I don't make everyone eat only vegetables, by the way. Success comes with programs that a client can adhere to. Respecting where each client is becomes crucial.

I asked Rebecca if it was OK that I share her sensitive medical history. She said, "If it can help others get motivated and know that improvement is possible, then tell my story." We often use the scale as a measure of success. But the way clothes fit, improved muscle tone and regaining balance all figure into the big equation.

I admire Rebecca's determination. She gave up chocolate, but not alcohol. I'm not sure many women could give up chocolate. I sure couldn't.

Island resident Ellen Jaffe Jones is an accomplished endurance runner, cookbook author, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America certified personal trainer and RRCA certified running coach. For coaching or training, she can be reached at or 941-704-1025.

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