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Gym Helping Women Lose 2,004 lbs. in '04

The Women's Club is a ladies-only facility stressing individualized weight-loss programs.

It's one thing to talk about losing weight — another thing, entirely, to actually do it. But at The Women's Club in Chantilly, members are turning words into action, and the club is doing all it can to help them.

"We're trying to help the women of Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton and South Riding lose 2,004 pounds in 2004," said Amy Kelly, one of the club managers. "It's not by dieting, but by exercise and behavior modification."

A ladies-only facility, The Women's Club is at 14175 Sullyfield Circle, off Route 28 and Willard Road (phone 703-817-0700). And it views its latest endeavor as a community-service program for its members.

"The goal is to educate the women about the importance of exercising for permanent health," said Kelly. And behavior modification could be something as simple as increasing water intake to six or eight glasses of water a day.

PARTICIPANTS in the program also learn that dieting is a no-win situation. The ideal way to control one's weight, said Kelly, is by increasing one's basal metabolic weight — the amount of calories the body burns at rest.

"If you diet and restrict enough calories, your body starts to use the lean muscle mass as fuel," she explained. "And lean muscle mass is the only thing that helps you burn calories when you're at rest."

So those in the program exercise a minimum of three times a week for 45-60 minutes, each time. They each receive a tracking log and a weekly commitment goal for the group as a whole. Then they discuss how these things worked for them and the impact they made on the women's daily lives.

"They also get to meet with a trainer once a month to make sure they do their resistance training [working with weights], three times a week," said Kelly. "The idea is to build on these goals and create [improved] habits in their health and nutrition."

The women also learn about portion control and what constitutes a basic framework of good eating — a properly proportioned balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fat. Each person's program is individualized, depending on their own goals.

And when they put it all together, said Kelly, they'll even receive some unexpected benefits. Their cholesterol levels, blood pressure and resting heart rate will all lower.

"The goal is to see positive trends in their general health and, while they're focusing on these things, the weight will come off," said Kelly. "Lean-muscle mass will increase while adipose [fatty] tissue will decrease."

USUALLY, she said, once people learn the appropriate and healthy food choices to make, they'll eat less of the non-healthy types of foods. For example, said Kelly, "There's no health benefit to eating a croissant. Instead, choose a slice of whole grain toast with a small amount of butter on it."

Learning to make these choices is a lifestyle change, she admits. And, for some people, eating healthy foods will never be exciting. But, said Kelly, "What will be exciting are the results they'll get from the process. And they'll live longer — which is really exciting."

The exercise program consists of cardiovascular and flexibility exercises, plus resistance training. Participants check off each exercise they do on a card showing what types of equipment they use, the amount of weight involved, how much time they should spend on it and which flexibility exercises they should do.

Similarly, in their tracking log, they record their commitment goals and their day-to-day nutritional behavior. Said Kelly: "It's not just what they eat, but when — and trying to get a handle on what's going into their body, each day."

In addition, two of the club's personal trainers, Jenn Harrison and Janelle Palmiotto, give seminars, Mondays and Thursdays at 7 p.m., on either nutrition, behavior modification or exercise.

The weight-loss program began Jan. 5 and will run all year. It's for members only, but women may join in at any time. The seminar topics are presented in six-week cycles, and non-members may attend any cycle, free of charge. (The program, itself, is free to members).

Some 30 people are enrolled in it and will share their success stories with each other on April 17. "People are very excited and enthused about it," said Kelly. "And they've already lost over 80 pounds."

THE WOMEN'S CLUB has been in Chantilly for 14 years and is an independent entity, not part of a chain. Hours are Monday-Friday, 5:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Sunday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. And the fact that it's for women only has turned out to be a plus.

"Some people feel better about working with a female staff," explained Kelly. "There's a level of comfort and, most importantly, it's a supportive environment." And its weight-loss program is definitely a hit with the patrons.

Peggy Hall, 61, of Franklin Farm joined the club, the end of September, because of health problems she was having then. "I thought this would be a benefit to me," she said. "I have sleep apnea, and doctors said if I lose 20 pounds, it would help."

She began losing weight, in the first two weeks, and hopes to lose the 20 pounds over three or four months. "I wouldn't have done this if I hadn't joined the club," she said. "It has encouraged me to drink more water, and I'm staying away from sweets and eating more fruits and vegetables. I notice that I have more energy when I drink more water."

Calling the program a "great motivator," Hall said people "tend to be not as motivated unless they're working with a group. I'd recommend it to others because, when you hear other people's success stories, you want to do the same thing."

Likewise, Sheila Sacks, 57, of Franklin Glen, is also enthusiastic about it. "People in my office said to me that I'm losing weight, and that's great," she said. "I'm using the weights more, and being in the program makes me more dedicated."

She, too, recommends it highly because of its success in changing people's lifestyles. "There's a lot of bad habits out there, and I think it's a good thing to work on this. And everybody knows that exercise is important." She also likes having a trainer handy to ask for help and is pleased to receive the "extra reinforcement" from the other women in the program.

"It's a nice atmosphere — very friendly," said Sacks. "They have a good variety of exercise equipment and, being women, you feel comfortable there."