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Women Devise Own Ways of Staying Trim

January 25, 1990|JAN HOFMANN | Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Ina Massler Levin had a new baby and couldn't make it to the gym anymore. The pounds were starting to add up.

Bambi Arnold's three children were all in school, finally, but she was under doctor's orders to wear a neck brace and avoid athletic pursuits. "I was devastated," she said. "Now that I had the time to play tennis or sail or whatever, I was not supposed to."

And Florence Wolfinger, turned down for life insurance because of her poor health, suffered violent headaches, weakness in the knees, dizziness, fainting spells, exhaustion, insomnia, and a feeling of aimlessness, "just to name a few," she said.

But each of these women found a fitness program that worked for her, and stuck with it.

Today, Arnold proclaims, "I'm a brand new person."

Wolfinger and Levin agree that their lives have been transformed.

Although each underwent the metamorphosis in her own way, they did cover some common ground: giving up sweets, cutting back on fat, getting more exercise.

Levin and her husband, Michael, who live in Laguna Niguel, decided nine years ago that it was time to get in shape.

So they joined a gym.

"At the beginning we were so good about going," she said. "We would go at least three times a week and work out on separate equipment." She took an aerobics class while Michael would run on the indoor track. Afterward, they would meet in the swimming pool or Jacuzzi.

"Two years later, things had changed quite a bit," Ina Levin said. "We now had a baby and not much time to spend on exercise. But we talked about it a lot.

"Michael kept his gym membership active, and ran as often as he could at the beach or the local high school. I let my gym membership expire, but discovered there was fitness after babies via Mommy and Me exercise class. We would do all kinds of routines while holding the babies, using them a lot like weights. Of course, we were free to stop when they needed to be fed or changed or burped. We had a lot of fun, and I was back into exercising."

But using a baby as an exercise accessory has at least one drawback: What do you do when the baby gets too big?

Levin's answer was to look for a gym with child-care facilities. That led her to Jazzercise aerobics classes.

"I can pace the classes according to my needs and abilities," she said. "I have copies of schedules from all over the southern Orange County area. . . . Best of all, if I have to, I can take both of my children with me."

That's right: The Levins now have two daughters.

After giving birth to her second daughter four years ago, Levin had trouble losing the weight she had gained during pregnancy. She added dietary changes to the exercise, and lost 30 pounds. Now she is an instructor for Weight Watchers.

"Fitness had become a priority for us," Levin said. "We like the way we look and feel.

"We both realized how important exercise was to us on our last trip to Las Vegas. Our children had stayed home with their grandparents so we had all the time to ourselves. As soon as we got to our room, we each made a phone call.

"In the past those first calls would have been to make show reservations. This time, Michael found out where the nearest gym was, and I found out where to take a Jazzercise class."

After her doctor told her not to exercise more than two years ago, Arnold sought another opinion from a chiropractor.

"He painted a much different picture for my future," said the Newport Beach resident. "He suggested I join a health club and start my quest to lose the 60 pounds that I had accumulated in the last 10 years."

Arnold's husband suggested she begin by spending a week or two at a health spa. She checked into prices and programs, but after comparing the cost with that of a year's membership in a local health club, she decided to skip the spa and go straight to the club.

"I found out I could belong to the health club, have a personal trainer for two hours per week and participate in the different classes for approximately one year for the same cost as one week in a health spa resort," she said.

Under the guidance of a personal trainer at the Shape Up Center in Costa Mesa, Arnold began her new regimen: aerobics three times a week, weight training two days a week and a new diet.

"I wrote down everything that I ate or drank daily. I was given a list of healthy food to eat and buy at any market. I learned the importance of drinking water, the value of fresh and cooked vegetables and grains. Fats and sugars which I craved became not as important to me."

She stayed with the program ("I didn't cheat because the only person I was hurting was myself") and her weight began to decrease.

Also, "my energy level improved and I found I liked what I was doing."

In six weeks, she lost 20 pounds and dropped two dress sizes. Eventually, she lost 60 pounds and has kept the weight off.

For Arnold, the personal trainer was an important factor. "Having someone that took a personal interest in my effort to learn to eat in a healthy way made my progress a success," she said.

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