Lynne Pieroni
Definitely on her way

Daily Herald Health Writer

One day earlier this month, Lynne Pieroni put on a pair of pants she hasn’t worn in a year—and buttoned them.

Pieroni no longer gets winded carrying her laundry downstairs. She gets compliments at work. Even her younger sister has star ted asking Pieroni forworkout advice.

“I’m very, very encouraged,” said Pieroni, a 48- year-old corporate secretary from Hanover Park.

“I’m very motivated because of what people are saying. There are a lot of peoplewatchingmy progress.”

When Pieroni made her NewYear’s resolution to lose weight, the scale had just reached 200 for the first time in her life. Her cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugarwere reaching levels that soon would require medication.

Three months later, she’s lost 16 pounds and feels better than she has in years. Getting there has meant a lot of hardwork.

Doctor checkup

Pieroni started her weight-loss journey in January with a comprehensive health exam by Dr. Janet Collins, medical director of the Partners in Prevention program at Alexian Brothers Hospital Network in Schaumburg.

The good news: Pieroni never smoked, and her heart, lungs, joints and general strength checked out.

The bad news: her blood sugar, cholesterol, weight and other health measures are too high:

• Blood sugar: 115. This makes her pre-diabetic. Under 100 is normal.

• Total cholesterol: 212. That’s better than the 255 she scored in November, but it should be under 200.

• HDL cholesterol: 41. This “good” cholesterol should be over 50.

• Body mass index: 36. Healthy BMI is 18.5 to 24.9.

• Body fat ratio: Of her 200 pounds, 47 were fat.

Exercise and diet can go a long way to bring these numbers into a healthier range without medication, especially her BMI, Collins said.

“This is where I expect to see some dramatic improvement,” Collins said. “As you increase your exercise, you’ll lose fat, but you’ll also develop more lean musclemass.”

One other measure was a little worrying. Pieroni’s C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the body, was high.

Because Pieroni planned an exercise routine, Collins recommended a stress electrocardiogram to rule out heart disease.

Two weeks later, the stress test showed Pieroni’s heart is healthy. The real work could begin.

Five flights

The first time trainer Bill Jensen asked Pieroni to run up five flights of stairs, she nearly lost it.

“Now I know why all those people on ‘The Biggest Loser’ are always crying,” she said. “I was completely exhausted. But it felt good. Kind of.”

Twice a week, Pieroni works out with Jensen at Continental Athletic Club in Rolling Meadows. She also does independent workouts three days each week.

With Jensen’s help, Pieroni overhauled her old, too-easy exercise routine. She lifts heavier weights, pedals speed intervals on the bike and runs up eleven flights of stairs. Her clothes are starting to fit looser.

“He’s taught me how to work out smarter,” Pieroni said.

“Now I know what I should feel like when I’m getting a good workout.”

Jensen has noticed how much quicker Pieroni recovers from exercise. He won’t let her get too comfortable, though. Her next challenge is around the corner: boxing.

Protein and carbs

Pieroni has always paid attention to the calories and fat content of her food. For someone with high blood sugar, that’s not enough.

Susan Rizzo, a registered dietitian at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, taught Pieroni to also consider how much protein and carbohydrate she’s consuming.

Protein will keep her feeling full, and a steady stream of carbs will keep her blood sugar under control.

Rizzo advised Pieroni to choose low-fat meats; not only will they have less artery-clogging saturated fat, they’ll also be lower in calories.

For example, a four-ounce Italian sausage will have 32 grams of fat, compared to the 4 grams of fat in a four-ounce chicken breast.

“If you’re still hungry and go back for another serving of lean meat, that’s not a big deal,” Rizzo said. “If you go back for another sausage, that could be a problem.” Pieroni said she’s already noticed it’s easier to control herself.

When she made bacon for her daughters, Pieroni had just one piece, and she was satisfied with that.

“You’re developing your own instincts,” Rizzo said. “Weight is an issue that’s always going to be there, but if you do like you’re doing, listen to when you’re full and stop eating, you’re not going to have to be on a diet.”

Since January, Pieroni makes more of her own meals, including a lot of chicken, fish and vegetables, rather than eating out. She logs all her food on a Web site,, which calculates her calories and nutrients.

After trying to work with a 1,400 calorie diet, Pieroni lost weight — then hit a plateau. She was stuck on a 12-pound weight loss for over three weeks.

“I’ve never worked at something so hard in my life, and to not see it in my scale was so aggravating,” she said. “I wanted that number to go down.”

After a weigh-in one morning in early March, Pieroni melted into tears. The scale still hadn’t budged. But when Pieroni arrived at work, a coworker complimented her obvious weight loss.

“That couldn’t have been better timing,” Pieroni said. As a result, Pieroni quit the daily weigh-ins. Now she looks at the scale twice a week. After testing Pieroni’s resting metabolic rate, Rizzo advised her to increase her carbohydrate intake and her calories to 1,600.

Too few calories will trick the body into starvation mode, and it will conserve all the energy it can, Rizzo said.

“Because you’re also working out, we have to fuel the body,” Rizzo said.When Pieroni started eating more, she lost another three pounds.