Yolanda Duckworth would like to be able to wear a bikini by her 50th birthday. Amy Reeves wants desperately to put an end to her emotional eating. And Kerri Castellini needs to find time in her frenetic schedule to shed 20 pounds. Essentially, they all want the same thing: to commit to their own strength and health. That's why they're here in Santa Barbara, at Bob Greene's Better Body Boot Camp: an intense four-day program led by the exercise physiologist who has been coaching Oprah for nearly two decades.
On the way to their first meeting with Bob, the women follow the palm-lined pathways of Bacara Resort & Spa
, a collection of Spanish colonial villas hugging the coast between the rolling Pacific and the Santa Ynez Mountains. They look more than a little nervous. Just last night, they flew across the country from Shreveport, Louisiana (Yolanda), Atlanta (Amy), and Washington, D.C. (Kerri), not entirely sure what they should expect from a "boot camp." Kerri was steeling herself for severely calorie-restricted meals. Yolanda had nightmarish visions of marathon sessions at the gym.
To their great relief, Bob's greeting is decidedly un-drill-sergeant-like. After welcoming his campers with a big smile and hugs in an elegantly decorated, high-ceilinged meeting room, he sits down in an armchair and invites the women to settle into two white sofas. "The first thing I have to tell you," Bob says, "is that weight loss isn't just about diet and exercise. I've never seen success come from simply changing what you eat and how you work out. It's about breaking down your barriers—the hang-ups that are keeping you locked in an unhealthy lifestyle. Are you ready to break down those barriers?"
The women nod. To help them, Bob has brought along three more experts: psychologist Ann Kearney-Cooke, PhD; dietitian Janis Jibrin; and life coach Angela Taylor. Over the next few days, in a series of sessions with their counselors, the women will sweat, bond, and cry as they face deep-seated fears about themselves and their relationships. For now, though, Bob simply wants to know what inspired them to come here.
"I've always struggled with my weight," says Yolanda, a coordinator at a cancer hospital and research center. "I want to be the person inside, who no one knows." With big brown eyes and strikingly high cheekbones, Yolanda has such good posture that she appears taller than her five-foot frame. She tugs at the sleeve of her purple sweatshirt as she explains that since her mother's stroke six months ago, she's had little time to focus on her own health. She has given up her only form of exercise—daily three- or four-mile walks with her dog—and her weight has crept up to 167 pounds. Yolanda's goal is 135.
Amy, a blonde, freckled second-grade teacher and mother of three, says, "My whole family is unhealthy. Even my 9-year-old son is becoming overweight, and I want to stop the trickle-down that's coming from me." At 5'5" and 140 pounds, Amy is at the top of the normal weight range for her height, but she and her two younger kids (the oldest is away at college) eat fast-food dinners three times a week and rarely exercise. Amy brushes a strand of hair over her shoulder and explains that her husband owns a business in South Carolina and comes home to Atlanta only on weekends. Taking care of their family alone is overwhelming, but she doesn't want to burden him by asking for help. Instead, she soothes herself with chips and cookies in front of the TV. The more she has on her to-do list, the less she's able to cope. Amy worries that if nothing changes, she and her children are headed for obesity.
Bubbly, 5'2" Kerri, with her shiny chestnut hair pulled high into a ponytail, tells the group she has dropped 50 pounds in the past year—down from 215. The weight loss began by accident, 29-year-old Kerri explains. Depleted after finishing law school, she hit a gym near her apartment to de-stress, and 15 pounds just melted away. Liking the results, she began taking body-sculpting classes. She even changed how she socializes—catching up with friends for a walk instead of dinner. But now the scale won't budge. In fact, Kerri has added a few pounds since her low of 165. She would like to drop another dress size, to an 8.
Bob reminds the women that he can't offer them any quick fixes; if they want to gain control of their bodies, they will need to reimagine their daily lives. He tells Yolanda, Amy, and Kerri to keep asking themselves one question for the duration of boot camp: "Do I feel deserving of the life I want?"