Shelia Riggens has done the diet thing. She's gone to the gym, tried weight loss pills, tried everything she could find but couldn't keep the pounds off.
"My biggest thing was eating," said Riggens, 49. "I wasn't sure what to eat. Some days I would starve myself."
That was the problem, says Liz Sylves, owner of the Hy-Tech Weight Loss franchise downtown that opened the first week of January.
"People on some weight loss programs go into starvation mode," Sylves said. "Then the next time they eat, their body stores that as fat."
Sylves' operation is one of a small but growing branch of weight loss that aims to create a realistic program based on an individual's physiology, as opposed to a generic mass-marketed diet. The happy benefit for some is that pounds come off painlessly.
"I eat everything now," said Riggens, who has lost 10 pounds in two months, "and I have so much energy."
Sylves and others say that makes sense: Your body doesn't need to starve to lose unwanted weight, it just needs the right foods. After testing to establish clients' baseline metabolism, Sylves works with them to create a diet and a plan of exercise that can help them lose weight and keep sanity.
"We make it so you don't have to give up life to make a lifestyle change," Sylves said.
Eating habits revised
Jamie Shine had always thought she had a slow metabolism before she went to Hy-Tech. She wanted to lose 68 pounds to avoid a family history of high blood pressure and diabetes. The 37-year-old found that understanding her body helped because she then knew why she should eat certain things.
"That's the bottom line, is changing your eating habits," said Shine, of Dunedin, who said Sylves' plan gives her plenty of food but also aids in making change. "For me, it was doing behavior modification."
Sylves' business is the first Hy-Tech outlet east of Michigan, but Healthy Inspirations has been serving women for the past five years on north Fourth Street.
Owner Michelle Paoli adds an in-house exercise regimen to metabolic knowledge and diet planning, but says that much of her clients' success relies on someone measuring progress.
"Women need that accountability," Paoli said. "They need to report to someone, know someone cares."
Been there, done that
Both women came to the business through paths similar to their clients': a history of failed efforts to keep weight off. Gimmick diets didn't work. Even hard work can undermine the right efforts, they said. Listening to your own body's needs is the answer.
Paoli was a compulsive exerciser who didn't lose weight until she learned to dial it back and eat better. Sylves was a heavy child who gained more weight as a teenager after steroid treatments for lupus.
"I wanted to be like the other kids, but I had this disease," said Sylves, 30, who became so interested in health and nutrition that she got a degree in exercise science. "I tell people, I wish I had a place like (Hy-Tech) to go to when I was younger."
Most diets are too harsh to be healthy or too restrictive to be sustainable, the women say.
Nutritionist Betty Wedman-St. Louis says that though she agrees with a metabolic approach, some of the science is thin.
"Blowing into a machine is not any better than the antique formulas that are in diet books," said Wedman-St. Louis, who does genetic testing to understand her clients' metabolism. "But if that's what it takes to get them motivated, that's great."
Wedman-St. Louis agrees that accountability is a big part of the puzzle, and a sane plan makes sense, but she said the ultimate answer is comprehensive. People have weight and health problems because they don't eat right or exercise, she said, but also because they don't sleep enough, don't relax, don't take time for life.
Logic, not shots
Setting the social clock back 50 years may be beyond any one person's means, but all the women agree that surgery and steroids and shots are wrong. A reasonable plan of diet and exercise, they say, can help men and women look and feel better without torturous trials.
Dave Chudzik, 39, of Lutz, started with Sylves hoping to achieve his college weight of 240, down from 312. He has lost only 13 pounds in two months, but his body fat has dropped significantly, which he said shows him he's on the right path.
"This is the first logical thing I've tried," he said. "I know I'm not going to be 190 and 18 years old again, but things are starting to fit into place."
Paul Swider can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 892-2271.