Sisters teach each other the basics of fitness

Staff writerApril 8, 2012 

The way Rochelle LaRose and Erica Eddings describe shedding a combined 205 pounds, losing weight sounds pretty easy.

Just follow these two steps: 1. Eat right. 2. Exercise. That’s it.

Of course, it’s not really that easy.

“I’d never learned how to eat right,” Eddings, 38, said. “I needed help.”

And exercise, well, that hurt both of the sisters from Olympia. They needed help there too.

They said it took the support of each other, friends and education from a local fitness studio – Tumwater’s Fit Life – to make that two-step process doable.

Today, LaRose, 44, weighs 177 pounds (down 122 from October 2010) and Eddings weighs 167 (down 83 pounds in nine months). Both are training for the May 20 Capital City Half Marathon.

LaRose and Eddings say that for years they dealt with stress by eating poorly, and they didn’t work out. They assumed they’d have to do something drastic if they were going to lose weight, so they didn’t do anything.

That changed two years ago when LaRose’s doctor referred her to a cardiologist who said her unhealthy lifestyle was leaving potentially deadly calcium deposits in her heart. “The doctor said it wouldn’t be a concern if I was 70,” LaRose said. “But I was 42.”

There needed to be lifestyle changes. She needed to eat right and exercise.

“I didn’t do it very effectively on my own,” she said.

LaRose joined Weight Watchers and started walking with a friend and started seeing results.

Meanwhile, Eddings, inspired by her sister and a TV program in which the hosts ran a marathon, decided to start exercising too. But she didn’t change her eating habits, so her body didn’t change.

They then started training together with Tessa Effland at Fit Life. The big change came when the studio decided to introduce a new nutrition program in 2011. They later learned it was Eddings who inspired the program because she wasn’t seeing results from her hard work.

At first, Eddings didn’t want to go the classes. “I didn’t want to sit around a campfire singing ‘Kumbaya’ and talking about weight loss,” she said.

Eddings said it took “an intervention” by her sister and Effland to get her to class.

“She (Effland) told me it’s not like that,” Eddings said. “She said I don’t know how to eat healthy and I need to learn.”

One of the first challenges was almost more than she could handle. Give up Diet Coke for a week.

She didn’t understand why. It has no calories, no fat, no carbs. The problem was, she learned, it was still sweet, and that was triggering cravings for other sweet, unhealthful foods. Plus, she drank so much Diet Coke that she rarely drank water.

When the sisters heard the challenge, LaRose promptly pointed out that Eddings had a 12-pack stashed in her car and asked Effland if she wanted her to go it.

“She (Eddings) looked like I was sending her best friend to the gas chamber,” LaRose said.

Eddings stayed away from the shiny silver cans for a week, then Effland challenged her to another pop-free week. The challenge dragged on for a couple months until Eddings got sick.

“All I wanted was my Diet Coke,” she said. “I had some in the garage, so I went out and got some. I listened to the sound of it opening and held it my hands. I listened to the fizz and I was so excited.”

She took a couple swallows, then poured it out. “I don’t want this,” she said. “I want my water.”

She hasn’t had Diet Coke for nearly a year.

Slowly the challenges to eat better and exercise more turned from challenges into a lifestyle.

They both say they feel much better. They no longer shop at plus-size stores, and they occasionally surprise themselves when they catch glimpses of their new bodies in a mirror or a shop window.

They’re accustomed to weaving their cardio and weightlifting workouts into their busy schedules, and the workouts that once hurt so bad (“We contemplated letting the dog starve because it hurt too bad to bend over to fill his bowl,” LaRose said) are now invigorating.

And those two little steps – eat right, exercise – are finally as easy as they sound.

BIKE FEST AND SWAP

The Tacoma and Olympia REIs are staging free Cyclefest events 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday and May 5. The events offer opportunities to sign up for commuter challenges and information about local clubs and recreational rides. Experts are scheduled to be on hand to answer questions about techniques, gear and maintenance. Free safety assessments are offered to anybody who brings their bike.

The events are free. Register at rei.com/Tacoma or rei.com/Olympia.

Need a bike? The Tacoma Bike Swap is scheduled for April 28, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the University of Puget Sound. Vendors and individuals will be selling new and used bikes. The event includes beginner bike maintenance clinics. For more information or to register to sell a bike or equipment, email bikeswap@cityoftacoma.org.

Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via craig.hill@thenewstribune.com, facebook.com/adventureguys or twitter.com/adventureguys. Also get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure, thenewstribune.com/fitness.

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