Walnut Boot Camp Stresses Life Style Changes
Starting at 8 a.m. and exercising for an hour, women from the San Gabriel Valley do this warm-up sequence at the Walnut Women's Boot Camp before transitioning into another sequence of wall sits combined with barbell lifts, plank and running around the building.
“I can barely do any more” and “go faster” are heard throughout the gym, as the pain increases for each woman with each repetition. In the sequence, the women are divided into groups of three and must remain at one section of the three-part sequence until their partners finish their sets.
The Walnut Women's Boot Camp, a women's only boot camp, aims to help women achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle, not just lose weight. The Boot Camp is hosting a “1,000-pound Melt-Down Challenge,” where residents weigh in and compete to lose the most pounds. This challenge is the Boot Camp's contribution to the nation's overall fight against obesity, while also encouraging cities and organizations to come together to lose weight.
With more than a third of adult Americans obese, fitness programs such as this Boot Camp can help decrease the national epidemic's effects by reducing the percentage of the national health care budget spent on obesity and its related illnesses. Currently, the U.S. spends about 21 percent of its health care budget or about $190.2 billion on obesity, according to a recent Cornwall University report.
Robert Girandola, an obesity expert and professor of kinesiology at the University of Southern California, said obesity affects the national economy since people will retire earlier “because they're too fat,” and therefore, “they're debilitated.”
“It's going to put a tremendous burden on the government to try to fund the people who probably don't work and probably don't have money for it,” he said.
The study also found an obese person spends about $2,700 more on medical costs than if he or she were not obese.
In order to become healthier and decrease further medical expenses, women can invest about $160 to $190 per month to attend the Walnut Women's Boot Camp. The Boot Camp, which was started in 2000 by Eric Bonilla, features high-energy group-style workouts, where women can go at their own pace. All exercises target women's problem areas such as the waist, hips, stomach and thighs.
Bonilla said the Boot Camp is not just a glorified exercise class because the sequences are tougher and specialized in that “all of our exercises, workouts, our whole environment, our whole mindset is geared toward the women.”
“They're multi-joint movements, where there's multiple muscles being utilized,” Bonilla said. “So when we do that, then we're actually burning more calories and then burning more fat.”
Doing exercises using one's body weight, exercise bands and dumbbells will also help women “become more functional not only if they play sports but also in the real world,” Bonilla said.
Moving from a modified plank push-up to a bench dip, boot camper Tina Dominguez said the group-style workouts have helped her lose more than other weight-loss methods she's tried, such as cleanses and diets. She has dropped from a size 12 to a size 8 since starting over a month and a half ago.
“We encourage each other here as opposed to going to a 24 Hour Fitness where you're just kind of on your own,” Dominguez said.
Looking over Dominguez's meal plan for dinner, Bonilla advises she eat chicken or turkey as her main course with a tomato or vegetable sauce rather than beef with a creamy or cheesy sauce.
Bonilla, 44, gives nutritional counseling to boot campers as another way to “encourage long-term success instead of just always looking for that quick fix or that next diet pill.”
“We're in here trying to be a part of their lives and make this a healthy life change for them,” Bonilla said.
Instead of running to grab some fast food for a snack while out running errands, Dominguez, 47, said she has her protein shake, which she learned about from Bonilla's Facebook page for the Boot Camp. Bonilla sends out daily nutritional Facebook posts and Tweets, along with weekly e-mail newsletters to keep boot campers motivated.
Dominguez said it's sometimes difficult to stick to Bonilla's meal plan. She said she gets “side-tracked” particularly on the weekends “when a pizza sounds good, or a nice cold beer.” She said her family is also a distraction, such as when she goes grocery shopping.
“They're not going to eat the same thing that I need to eat, so that's where it kind of gets difficult,” she said.
Laura Gallegos, another Boot Camp participant, agrees this lifestyle change is more successful compared to a temporary diet.
“I don't believe in the diet,” Gallegos said. “You have to just change your ways of eating.”
Bonilla utilizes body mass index (BMI) measurements to keep track of his participants' weight-loss. He measures participants every four weeks, but he said he doesn't place too much emphasis on measurements.
He said he focuses on what the women say about “how their clothes fit, how they feel,” in addition to getting away from the scale.
Gallegos agreed and said, “I feel like the scale lies, but clothes don’t.”
Some researchers say BMI measurements underestimate the economic cost of obesity, causing policy makers to downplay the problem. A report by journal PloS ONE found almost half of women currently labeled as not obese were obese, and argued that Americans are fatter than they realize.
As an alternative, the report suggests using a dual-energy X-ray absorptionmetry (DEXA) scan or a blood test that measures leptin levels to get more accurate results.
Obesity expert Girandola said DEXA is not feasible because it requires “sophisticated equipment,” and leptin only “seems to work in animals.” He said the best way to measure body composition is measuring people, but “from an epidemiological standpoint on a large number of people, it's impractical.”
Girandola said BMI shouldn't be fully discredited since it only poses problems for athletes “who are probably leaner and probably have more muscle mass.”
51-year-old Gallegos, who has struggled with weight her entire life, specifically blames her weight gain on her eating habits from the past few years, where she said “all I did was go through drive-thrus on the way home.”
Girandola said foods are one of the main issues causing people worldwide to become overweight or obese, since it's “available 24/7.”
“People are too enamored with foods unfortunately,” Girandola said.
“The manufacturers of food are trying to get us to buy all these foods that are almost like elixirs,” he added. “They're like drugs.”
Socialization is an added obstacle for Gallegos since she said “every celebration, whether sad, happy, is about food and drink.”
Gallegos said she has lost 10 pounds so far since starting the Boot Camp over two months ago, but “every day is a struggle.”
Bonilla said because nutrition only accounts for about “85 percent” of weight loss, people need to focus on exercising at least three times per week.
“I think they [the women] know how big they are, I just don't think they realize how much work it's going to take to take it off.” Bonilla said. “They underestimate how many calories they eat, and overestimate what they do.”
Americans must realize weight loss is a life-long task, and not rely on fast food for meals or “quick fixes” for weight loss, Bonilla said.
“We're committed, and I'm committed, here to just promote regular exercise, taking this as a lifestyle change, understanding that fitness is a marathon and not a sprint,” he said.
Boasting clients have shed about 175,600 unwanted pounds and lost about 70,020 inches (or almost 20 football fields), Bonilla said there are very few backsliders. If there are people who gain weight during the program, then he said they gain at the most only 10 pounds, which can be quickly burnt off.
Increasing activity levels seems to be the best solution for losing weight, especially promoting it at a young age. With advancements in technology, more activities are indoors, creating a more sedentary lifestyle for the public. Girandola said “kids don't want to go outside, they learn to play games and sit on their butts all day long.”
Bonilla said people must make the change themselves to be more active.
“To get people going, it has to start with them,” Bonilla said. “Just being active, just having that lifestyle, that mindset of basically having to be active.”