Photo by Shelby Lum

Faces of Fitness

EllieBeforeEllie Webber

Former business student Ellie Webber, 22, wasn’t always comfortable working out in a gym. But things have changed drastically; she now spends five to seven days a week training herself — and others.

Her physical fitness mission took Webber to Beyond Limits Training as an instructor, but long before helping others, she had her own issues with weight and fitness. Prior to high school, she’d made it a point to walk everywhere possible just to do some cardio on a regular basis. Walking helped her lose some weight, but she still shied away from the gym because she was self-conscious.

“I would do some workouts in my room because I didn’t feel comfortable going to the gym,” she said. “The beginning is scary, I guess. You’re kind of embarrassed about what you look like and all that. I just kind of kept it to myself.”

Early on in college, Webber gained back some of the weight she had lost. At her largest, she weighed 235 pounds but now stays around 160 pounds.

“I put on the freshman 15 to 30, and started to see the scale go up, and got scared and didn’t want to go back to the way that I was,” she said. “So I started being more conscious of what I was eating, but I didn’t like going on the elliptical.”

Webber wanted to try something different than using a machine, so she began weightlifting with help from her then fiancé, now husband.

“I instantly loved not going on the machine, but actually picking up some free weights,” she said.

Photo by Shelby Lum

Photo by Shelby Lum

“Learning how to use barbells and the more complex, compound movements really intrigued me.”

More recently, she’s jumped in to CrossFit. “It’s so hard, it’s so challenging, but I think the reason I stick with it is because every day you get to see yourself improve,” Webber said.

She entered the 2014 CrossFit Open, a worldwide competition available to everyone in which competitors participate in five workouts over five weeks while posting their scores online in real time. She also joined a CrossFit team competition, Back at the Ranch. Webber’s next goal is to compete in the 2015 CrossFit Open. Short-term, Webber said she wants to become CrossFit Level One-certified. Long-term, she wants to compete in the CrossFit Games before she’s 35.

Even with ambitious personal goals, Webber still has her sights on helping others.

“I just want to help so many people,” she said. “I know that sounds crazy. I’d love the day that I’d wake up and there’s so many people asking me for help that I’m overwhelmed.”

What would you in middle school think of you today?

In middle school, I wouldn’t have pictured me doing this stuff — like thinking that I’m physically able to do it. So, if I saw myself in the future on TV, I’d be like, “There’s no way that’s me. You’re doing 50 burpees? I couldn’t contemplate doing one.”

What’s your diet like?

I just try to get a lot of protein and vegetables, which basically is my main source of nutrition. Lean meats like chicken and turkey. Egg whites — I eat so many eggs that I have to go to Costco and get the seven-and-a-half dozen container of eggs. And I go through that like it’s no one’s business.

What’s a workout that you really don’t like?

Well, everyone hates burpees. Put me down for that. I really, really, really hate running. It is the easiest way for me to lose weight, but I hate it so much. It’s just painful, it hurts my feet. I have plantar fasciitis. It’s rewarding to see the scale going down, but it’s just not fun.

What’s your training schedule like?

I train at least five days a week. Sometimes six. Sometimes even seven. It just depends. I’m going to be lifting as heavy as I can, building up my engine — my aerobic capacity. I’d say I’ll be in there at least two hours each time I work out. At least 10 hours a week is dedicated to training.

ChrisBefore2 copyChris Groves

It wasn’t Chris Groves’ game plan to live only 60 years.

“[My doctor] told me, ‘If you don’t lose some weight, you’re not going to live to 60,’ and I plan on living forever, so that was a significant decrease in my life-expectancy,” said Groves, 37.

“I used to carry around a 44-ounce Mountain Dew all day long,” he said. “So I would drink like four of them.”

He changed that habit soon after he started his quest to get healthy. When he began, Groves weighed 330 pounds. Three years later, he has lost 150 pounds.

“At 330 pounds, I really started to understand how easily people’s weights spiral out of control,” he said. “I really started feeling how easy it would be to become 400 pounds, or 450 pounds, because I couldn’t move well anymore, and I was having trouble tying my shoes and things like that. I just wanted to eat all the time.”

After making some serious adjustments, his diet consists of lots of veggies and lean meats. He also avoids processed sugars and foods — but it took some weaning to get there.

“On any given day, my breakfast is eggs, lunch is a salad, night is turkey burgers and vegetables,” Groves said. “I do my best to avoid sugar. That to me is like poison — other than fruits and stuff like that.”

In combination with dietary changes, he took dietary supplements, Alli (a fat-blocker) and Qsymia (an appetite-suppressant). He also monitored his progress by calorie-tracking with the MyFitnessPal app and using a wireless scale that shares data with it.

Groves said he doesn’t cheat on his diet often — mostly because he doesn’t feel it’s worth it.

“I realized that I can’t control that stuff,” he said. “I don’t want just one piece of pizza. I want six pieces of pizza … it just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t believe in that because if I have a cheat day, then for the next four days my body craves that food. And I just don’t want to feel like that. I don’t want to feel that crappy.”

He also hit a few plateaus where he just wasn’t losing the weight.

“What worked for me for the first 40 pounds stopped working after a while, so then I had to do

Photo by Shelby Lum

Photo by Shelby Lum

something different,” Groves said. “For the first part of the weight-loss, I didn’t really exercise a whole lot because I was just really big and so exercising was kind of hard. But for the last year I’ve really gotten into exercising, so I run a lot now — and I really enjoy exercising, which is quite a change for me.”

Running has become routine for Groves — he runs about five or six miles each day at the gym.

“I lead a very healthy lifestyle today, but if you told me on Day One, ‘Oh, these are all the things you need to do today to do that,’ I would have been like, ‘That is horrible!’”

Do you feel like your experience has helped others?

People tell me all the time that I’ve really helped them or motivated them. And I say that in a humble way … When people talk to me about it, I try to be as upfront and helpful as I can because I know what a struggle it is. I’m sometimes surprised at how little understanding there is of eating healthy … It’s those things I’ve learned over the three years that really is an opportunity to help people, I guess.

When you were bigger, did you ever think you’d be capable of losing the weight?

I really thought that my only hope would be to get surgery, and my insurance didn’t cover that so eventually I would need to figure out some way to pay for it. I never imagined I would be able to get back down to this weight — I thought maybe I’d be able to take off 20, 30 pounds.

What’s your next fitness goal?

I have about another 10-15 pounds that I want to lose — that will put me right where I want to be. But really toning and strengthening now is my real goal.

Do you feel like you spend less on food today?

In some ways, in some ways not. I spend money in other ways. I eat about $80 in apples a month — the sliced bags of apples. I’m kind of addicted to them. So I eat two boxes of them a week and they’re $10 a box, which is actually cut down from three boxes a week. So I was eating $120 of apples a month.