Danville Express

Column - January 12, 2007

Diablo Views: She's challenging us again

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Get-in-shape guru Debbie Carmel is at it again. The Alamo resident is heading up the second annual Weight Loss Challenge for Alamo and Surrounding Areas to take place Jan. 13-March 10. She inspires everyone to challenge themselves to shed pounds with proper diet and exercise, offering the incentive of drawings at a grand finale luncheon to announce the "biggest loser." The winning loser receives fantastic prizes. But most importantly, the Challenge provides camaraderie.

Debbie, 47, is a supervisor for the city and county of San Francisco, and has a degree in recreation management from the University of Oregon. Last year she used her impressive management skills and endless enthusiasm to plan the Challenge with Fit Fitness Studio in Danville. She went to each event, plus solicited gifts from merchants for the luncheon prizes. She met her target of making the challenge successful but did not have time to focus on her own fitness goals. After stepping on the scales Jan. 1, she decided to go for it again and this time challenge herself to lose weight. "My goal is to look trim and sexy," she said.

Debbie is 5 feet 7 inches and for many years her weight was a steady 130-135. "And I thought that was fat at the time," she said with a laugh. She added pounds when she gave birth to her twins nine-and-a-half years ago, and her two-hour-plus commute didn't help. In July, she began an even more stressful job, as a supervisor in the San Francisco Retirement System, and said the added pressure resulted in gaining back some of last year's lost pounds. Debbie gives a regular accounting of her weight challenges in the monthly Alamo Today publication but was chagrined to find that being in the public eye didn't make the weight melt off automatically. "I thought I'd be a beanpole by now but it doesn't work that way," she told me.

Bally's Total Fitness in the Town and Country Shopping Center in Danville is sponsoring the Challenge this year, offering eight weeks of free membership to participants and providing trainers to lead the walks. The only requirements are to weigh in at Bally's between noon and 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 13, to have a "before" photo taken, and to weigh in again at the end, wearing the same clothes. The group exercise sessions and other events are optional but they are the fun part. Last year's mission statement was "fun," "support" and "recognition," and the feedback was: Mission accomplished.

Three members from last year's Challenge - Marilyn Bailey, Linda Siino and Roxanne Claslin - will help organize and run the activities, to include walking, biking, a "be a kid again" skate night and a get-together at Fresh Choice. Roxanne will plan the awards luncheon at Round Hill Country Club on Sunday, March 11. Debbie's twins Samantha and Gregory, students at Rancho Romero Elementary, can't wait to visit the businesses with her again to ask for contributions. Her husband Chuck is happy to keep the home fires burning, and they all see it as a way to give back to the community.

Last year I didn't meet the group until its Biggest Loser luncheon. The event was so exciting that first thing I knew I was walking down the Iron Horse Trail with a bunch of very good walkers who had signed up for another eight weeks. I met Liz, who sits on an exercise ball at her desk to work out her abdominal muscles. I also met Robert, a Marine whose fitness took a nosedive after he was involved in a bad car accident. The miles flew by as we chatted about everything under the sun. After all the nutrition talk, I changed my breakfast to a protein drink.

Tomorrow everyone - men are also encouraged - can meet Debbie at Bally's and sign up for the Challenge. The studio is even providing healthy appetizers. Contact Debbie at dmcarmel@yahoo.com or 930-0243 to donate prizes for the luncheon. Tickets for the drawing are given for pounds lost and events attended. Even if you're in perfect shape, you might want to go to tomorrow to see what it's all about. But be warned: The enthusiasm is contagious. -Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.


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