Kae Ewing is going on a diet.
"So what else is new?" his friends ask.
Over the past few years, he's tried all sorts, from the birdseed diet to the drinking man's diet to franchised commercial programs and state-of-the-art medically supervised plans.
And they've all worked. Last year, for example, "I went from 290 to 220 in 11 1/2 weeks," he says. "That was at the UCI Weight Management Program, the same liquid diet Oprah Winfrey used."
But each time, after he reaches his goal, "I go back to my old habits and the weight comes back again, creepity creepity creep."
Ewing, 55, an Orange County native, was a champion athlete in his youth, making the all-American water polo team. At his peak form, the 6-foot-3 1/2 Ewing weighed less than 200 pounds. But after he finished college and went to work as a stockbroker, he began spending most of his time sitting behind a desk.
"I gradually gained weight over time," he says. "All of a sudden, you discover your waist is getting larger.
"If you have enough money, you can get custom-made clothes so that it's not as noticeable," says Ewing, now a vice president specializing in portfolio management with Shearson Lehman Hutton in Irvine. "But I still know it's there."
This time, however, Ewing is taking two steps he hopes will make his weight loss a permanent success. First, he has hired fitness consultant Joe Dillon of Body Accounting in Irvine to tailor a new set of eating and exercise habits for him. Second, he has agreed to let Orange County Life readers follow him through the process.
"It's going to be difficult to cheat with so many eyes watching," he says. "Besides, who would I be cheating, really? Myself."
For the past 10 years, Dillon has worked with both individual clients and groups, with the emphasis on total fitness rather than simple weight loss. For a fee of $1,500, he will spend approximately an hour each week with Ewing over the next 12 weeks, advising him and his wife, Louise, on everything from grocery shopping to exercise to stress reduction. During and after the formal part of the program, Dillon will be on call in case the Ewings have questions or need encouragement.
But first, the weigh-in. Instead of simply stepping onto the scales, Ewing was weighed while immersed in water to determine how much of his body weight consists of fat.
The results: Lean weight 172.89 pounds, fat 85.04 pounds, for a total of 257.93 pounds. That puts Ewing's body fat percentage at 32.97%. The ideal percentage for men, Dillon told him, is around 15%, although athletes average between 6% and 12%. Nationally, the average body fat percentage for men is 26%, although in health-conscious Southern California, it is 22%, according to Dillon.
To reach that 15% level, Ewing will have to lose 54.53 pounds, bringing his weight down to 203.40. "I don't know if I can go that far," he says. "My mental goal is somewhere in the 220s. But maybe by the time I reach that, I'll be able to go farther."
Ewing also had his blood cholesterol levels checked, although the results haven't come back yet from the lab. From those numbers, Dillon will be able to measure Ewing's progress. If he cheats on the diet, the cholesterol numbers will tell on him.
For their first session, Dillon drops by the Ewings' Lido Island home. Although most of the time he will be meeting only with Kae, Dillon says he likes to begin his program with both husband and wife because "the spouse's attitude and involvement can really make a difference, especially if it's a situation where the wife is doing most of the cooking. Couples are my most successful clients, because they have their own built-in support groups."
"This is not a diet," Dillon explains, sitting with the couple at their dining room table on a sunny Saturday morning. "The word 'diet' implies something short-term. Instead, by the end of 12 weeks, this will become a life style that you can practice unceasingly.
"It doesn't take a lot for people," Dillon says. "They just need some basic guidelines, presented in a loving, caring way, and they respond to that. I think most people really want to take care of themselves.
"I really boil it down to three basic things. It's nutrition, exercise or activity, and attitude. By that, I mean that most people aren't on their own 'to do' list. They aren't a priority for themselves."
In order to lose weight and keep it off, Dillon explains, "You have to change your metabolism, what we call your set point, or the weight level your body naturally reverts to. You can accelerate your metabolism by changing your diet, but also by exercising. Your metabolism speeds up not only during exercise, but for 8 to 10 hours after you've finished, your body continues to burn fuel faster. And if you exercise regularly, that higher level becomes constant."