For all those who can list a million reasons as to why they have not yet incorporated any kind of fitness routine into their lives, please take a moment to read about Alyson Silverberg. Alyson is a very busy casting director, handling multiple shows at a time. And for anyone who works in this industry knows that our jobs are never 9 to 5. We always work at least 12 hours per day. But I’m not here to boast about her professional accomplishments (one of her actresses just won a Golden Globe, btw.) You see, Alyson has recently lost 71 pounds. 71 pounds! Think about how hard it is to lift 71 pounds. Yeah, it’s a lot. I want the world to celebrate her weight loss journey but first I need to discuss where she came from. Although I don’t want to focus on the past, it is a very important piece of her puzzle.
Even though she was never really much of an athlete (she wants me to mention that she tried really hard!) “My parents keep asking for the money they spent on dance and gymnastics back!” Alyson always managed to stay in “relatively fine shape.” “I was thin, fine. And I stayed that way until I was about 30,” she says. But in 2006 at age 33 Alyson was diagnosed with a very serious, very debilitating autoimmune disease called Scleroderma. This disease can be fatal, and more often than not it also comes with a high level of pain and other factors that limit your mobility. The most simple way to describe it is the “hardening of the skin” caused by an overproduction of your body’s own collagen. Since Alyson and I have been friends for years (I believe this is where real journalists use the term “full disclosure”) I can attest to the fact that at her worst, and for a very long time, I could knock on her skin. Knock. Her skin had hardened from head to toe. But a VERY long story short; with the help of fantastic doctors and after 12 stomach surgeries and 19 blood and iron transfusions, Alyson began to be on the mend starting the recovery process in 2012. She explains “After my last Scleroderma related surgery I started to feel well again. But then I realized I have gained 50 pounds from being immobile and not really watching my diet. I had other things to worry about. But now I felt like I had a decision to make. I was 40 years old and I completely missed my 30’s.” She stops a moment and sips her Sangria. We both acknowledge the irony of doing this interview over happy hour drinks and a cheese plate. Since we are pals it’s easy to get off track to gossip a little. “Ok, we need to focus. Please let me just start asking some questions, “ I plead. Then I giggled a little bit at my attempt at being serious.
PINK KALE: WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE AFTER 10 YEARS AND A SERIOUS ILLNESS TO START EXERCISING?
ALYSON: Well, I realized I needed to do something. And I remember that you and I were sitting on my porch and I was telling you about wanting to start a food delivery service.
PK: YES. I TOLD YOU I THOUGHT THEY WERE SUPER EXPENSIVE AND NEVER REALLY SEEMED TO DO THE TRICK. I TOLD YOU, IF YOU FELT UP TO IT, YOU SHOULD SPEND THAT MONEY ON A TRAINER AND FOCUS ON GETTING FIT INSTEAD.
A: Yes you said that. And the truth is that I had tried the meal delivery thing before and I lost about 10 pounds but then couldn’t afford to continue after about 2 months. And after I stopped the service, I gained that 10 lbs back in about 10 minutes! But after we started talking about exercising, about just one week later I bumped into my friend and she looked fantastic! She told me that she begun working out with a trainer. That’s when Brett Archer entered my life.
PK: AND SO IT BEGAN. TELL ME ABOUT DAY 1 WITH BRETT:
A: It was a come over and meet, evaluation and consultation kind of thing, discuss my goals, etc. We sat down and discussed what we would like from each other. I instantly liked him, which I discovered later is very important. I had to explain my situation and my physical limitations and asked him if he felt he could work with that. He said yes and we started. My goal was to lose 50 lbs.
PK: I ASKED HER TRAINER BRETT WHAT SHE WAS CAPABLE OF IN THAT FIRST SESSION:
BRETT: We tried to do a plank, we tried to do a push up against the couch, we tried to do a few sit ups. She couldn’t really do any of it.
A: Yes, which explains why I was too self conscious to work out in a gym, so starting out all of our sessions were in my apartment. We went on a walk and I got tired after like 10 minutes. He tried to teach me what a plank was and I could not even get up into one. Everything we did was hard, painful and excruciating. I hated it. I was embarrassed. There were tears.
PK: DESPITE HOW CHALLENGING IT WAS, YOU WERE DEDICATED TO IT.
A: Yes, very much. But I knew it had to be sustainable. Meaning, what I’d be able to afford and what I’d be able to do forever. I needed a realistic plan. Financially I knew I could afford twice a week. I could not afford to do a food service for the rest of my life so I asked Brett to teach me about eating in a different way that I would be able to maintain for the rest of my life. Brett was right, it’s 80% diet and 20% exercise.
PK: HOW DID YOUR DIET CHANGE?
A: Brett made me keep a food diary for 6 months. Everything I ate and drank for SIX. MONTHS. We based it on caloric intake that my body needed to lose weight but still be healthy. And I learned how to eat that way. But I still eat real food. I didn’t cut carbs. I just eat less of it and eat it at better times during the day, Everybody’s different so for details that would work for you, well, you’ll have to ask Brett!
PK: GIVE ME AN OVERVIEW OF WHAT YOUR WORKOUTS ENTAILED:
A: We started with walks that later turned into runs. Push ups, sit ups. A lot of jump squats and lunges. And because I have no equipment in my house, Brett would do things like use my Duraflame logs as weights and dumbbells. Or we would go into the street, he would tie a rope around his waist and I would have to pull him down the street. It was like Rocky! I can’t remember which Rocky. I’m gonna look it up. But mostly, starting with cardio.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR FIRST MILESTONE:
A: The first day I ran a mile and the day I held a forearm plank for 5 minutes. There were tears.
PK: (LAUGHING) YOU CRY A LOT!
A: Yes (laughing)
B: Yes (laughing)
PK: I KNOW IT TOOK YOU ABOUT A YEAR TO LOSE 40 POUNDS. I LOVE THIS BY THE WAY, I DO NOT BELIEVE IN QUICK FIXES. BUT YOU WERE 10 LBS SHY OF YOUR GOAL. HOW WERE YOU FEELING ABOUT THIS:
A: I still felt good because I was 40 lbs lighter but I did feel like I could do more. It’s important for me to add that I never obsessed about the number. Brett told me not to buy a scale and I didn’t. But even so, I felt like I could hit my goal but I didn’t know how because I had plateaued at the 40 lbs. I was maintaining the weight loss with how I was working out and how I was eating and I stayed that way for about 6 more months.
PK: THIS BRINGS US TO ABOUT 8 MONTHS AGO.
A: Yes. I needed to hit that 50 lb goal! Brett said to get over the plateau we need to change it up. “Your body’s strong enough now, we need to change what we are doing. We need to introduce weight training.” So from that day we did one day at my apartment and one day at the gym doing weights.
PK: (LAUGHING) YOU KNOW HOW SATISFIED THIS MAKES ME. I WAS SO INTO YOUR WEIGHT LOSS AND KEPT TALKING ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF WEIGHTS. (see my old article)
A: Yes, I was so into what was happening and Brett suggested it. It was time to go to an actual gym.
PK: YOU WENT TO THE SCARY GYM!
A: I loved it! I loved it from the second I got there. I love going.
PK: WHY DON’T YOU TELL EVERONE WHAT HAPPENED WHEN YOU ADDED WEIGHTS TO YOUR EXISTING CARDIO AND STRENGTH WORKOUTS.
A: I lost 25 lbs in about 2 months. Within 2 weeks it started dropping off. Adding the weights jacked my metabolism and I never stopped losing. Before weights I would go up a pound, down a pound, up and down and up and down. But really just plateauing around the same number.
PK: OK, GIVE ME YOUR WEIGHT AS OF THIS MORNING.
A: 133.6 lbs! That’s a 71.4 weight loss. I started at 205!
PK: YOU SMASHED YOUR GOAL OF 50 LBS!
A: YES! High five!
**I would like to mention that at the height of her Scleroderma, Alyson struggled giving a high five because she could not straighten her wrist or fingers. As her friend I have been monitoring her high five progression over the years so High Fives have become a joke of ours.
PK: BRETT, WHY DO YOU THINK THAT ALYSON SUCCEEDED?
B: Alyson is the most hardworking, dedicated, committed client I have ever had. My job is to motivate and inspire. It’s up to the clients to do the work and lose the weight. It takes a high level of determination to fight through a disease. Health and fitness was the next thing she was fighting for.
PK: ALY, WHY DO YOU THINK YOUR REALTIONSHIP WITH BRETT WORKED?
A: Because he is patient. Besides being knowledgeable about what the body can and should not do, he was more than ‘ do a push up or do a sit up.’ It has been a journey of physical and emotional growth with this man. I could never have done it with out him. Without his knowledge, strength, kindness. I love him.
PK: CAN YOU BEQUEATH YOUR WORDS OF WISDOM TO THOSE STARTING OUT?
A: This is not easy. That’s it. Kidding! Changing this part of my life has changed everything. It has helped me reclaim my emotional and physical strength that I did not even know I had even prior to getting sick. From not being able to do anything, not tie my shoes, stand up with out help, to running and planking makes me feel…it’s just beyond!
B: She’s crying but she always does that.
PK: HIGH FIVE.
FAST FUN FACTS WITH ALYSON SILVERBERG:
MY INSPIRATIONAL WORD IS…”Inner-strength. It’s hyphenated but I think it’s still one word.”
MY FAVORITE MANTRA IS…”I can do this. This won’t beat me. I can do this.”
**Wait. 2 days later she texted me. She would like to make an addition:
MY OTHER FAVORITE MANTRA IS…”It’s just moving, Alyson.”
IN THE BEGINNING…”A huge part in the beginning of my journey was visualization. I would say to Brett, ‘I can see myself getting healthy. I want you to help to build me back up from the inside out.’ This is going to be hard but I visualized what I wanted to look like and how I wanted to feel. I’m 98% there!”
3 WORDS THAT HELP ME SUCCEED…”Support. Drive. Commitment.”
MY HONORABLE MENTION GOES TO…”My family and my friends. Support is such a huge part for me. For everyone, really. I had people who would let me vent, complain, and brag about my accomplishments. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH. It’s easy for people who have always exercised. For people who haven’t, beyond the physical, it is an emotional thing. Having that community of support is a necessity. I don’t know what I would have done if I did not have that.”
FAVORITE BRETT QUOTE…I was working so hard I was sweating everywhere. I said, “I’m sweating from my eyes.” Brett, “Those are called tears, Alyson.”
If you would like to get in touch with Brett Archer, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.