Finding the Right Plan and Support System Aids Local Weight Loss Stories

by Teresa Schiffer

When it comes to health and fitness, the journey is just as important as the destination. Knowing what your goals are and developing a real plan of action for achieving them is the first step on that journey. That’s what these two individuals have done, and they’re sharing their stories. From the frustration of injuries to the realization of their fitness goals, they have experienced the journey, and they are still on it.

Tom Phoebus has always known the value of good health and physical fitness. He kept himself in good shape up into his thirties, until he had some injuries. He tore his second ACL in both legs, causing him to slack up on his workouts. Tom’s wife, Renee, started going to Tigers World of Martial Arts in Winter Haven about four years ago and encouraged Tom to go with her.  Renee also had a knee injury that she wanted to strengthen, plus she wanted to lose some weight and generally improve her fitness. She was the motivating factor that got Tom back to the gym.

When Tom turned 50 he knew he wanted to get back into shape. At 5’10”, Tom weighed about 241 pounds when he began his transformation. Now he is down to 183 pounds. How did he achieve this outstanding result? He credits his diet and the trainers at Tigers World. The fitness studio offers a 12-week program that involves a specific diet that is heavy on fish and vegetables and low on carbohydrates. The only carb that was included in the diet was quinoa.

“Every night I ate fish for dinner,” Tom recalls, “every single night.” That, combined with lots of broccoli and salads for lunch gave Tom the nutrients he needed without weighing him down with fats and carbs. He eliminated dairy from his diet, as well as sugary beverages. “I used to drink two to three cans of Diet Coke a day when I’m teaching,” Tom says, “but now I’ve switched to water.”

It’s easy to make excuses when you’re busy, that’s why it can be helpful to have a motivational partner. By taking part in Lakeland Regional Health’s FitChurch Challenge, Dorothy Trogolo got a bunch of partners – 173 to be exact. The program is open to area churches as well as unaffiliated teams.

The FitChurch Challenge aims to educate and encourage people to undertake healthier habits, such as eating better and exercising, by making the program a group activity. Sixty-two-year-old Dorothy joined the challenge because it was a community activity offered by her church, College Heights United Methodist. FitChurch Challenge is completely free to participate in, making it accessible to more people.

Dorothy was obese when she started the challenge, a situation she was uncomfortable with. She committed whole-heartedly to the FitChurch Challenge because it was fact-based, supportive in nature, and simply fun. Her husband even teamed up with her. The program had both educational and fitness components to it, presenting information on nutrition and wellness that Dorothy hadn’t encountered before.

At the end of the challenge, both Dorothy and her husband were pleased to see they had lost weight. Not only did they lose, but they were able to keep the weight off after the three-month challenge had ended. The challenge took place at the beginning of 2018, and Dorothy and her husband are already signed up for 2019, which begins in January. Dorothy lost 16 pounds throughout the challenge, and lost another five during the rest of the year. “Yeah, I’ll take losing 20 pounds in a year!” she says enthusiastically.

Diet and exercise is so important to achieving weight loss goals. The diet that the FitChurch Challenge used was the Mayo Clinic Diet, and participants were each given a copy of the bestselling book by that name for reference. In addition to providing tips on what to eat, the Mayo Clinic Diet offers healthy habits that help make these changes part of one’s permanent routine.

Classes and fitness activities were also integral to the FitChurch Challenge. From Zumba to yoga, classes were provided at various locations to introduce participants to fun ways to keep in shape. They also did a lot of walking. Classes were geared to be accessible to participants on a variety of schedules. All this was free, as were the health screenings used to measure progress.

It’s normal to encounter obstacles in a journey like this. Past injuries can flare up, schedules get busy, but with a real plan and plenty of concrete support, Tom and Dorothy show us that results are possible within a realistic time frame. If you are interested in the programs that Tom and Dorothy used, you can find more information at and Ultimately, attaining fitness goals comes down to finding a program that works for you.

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