Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

October 11, 2012

Andover fitness experts are willing to answer questions about healthy living

New column starting in Townsman

By Neil Fater
The Andover Townsman

---- — One of the biggest problems for people trying to start exercising? “They try too hard,” says Scott Topjian, fitness director at Main Street’s Latitude Sports Club.

“Fitness is a lifestyle, not a quick fix that will work and stay the same once you stop,” he says. His solution is to “find a friend, co-worker, family member or somebody that wants to achieve the same as you and begin your trek towards a more fit future together.”

Workout guru Art McDermott believes people running on treadmills are not making the best use of their time. Shorter, high intensity workouts are better, he believes.

“As humans we were designed for ‘sprint-rest-sprint-rest’ patterns, not long-distance work. Many exercise enthusiasts are realizing the physique of a sprinter is much more desirable than that of a marathon runner,” McDermott says.

These were among the answers received when Cindy Rayner of Yang’s Fitness asked other local exercise professionals to answer questions about fitness and nutrition.

Some of the answers are being used today to launch a new Townsman feature, a regular fitness column devoted to helping Andover residents live a little healthier.

The Andover fitness experts included in this week’s article are:

Stacy Gillis, certified personal trainer/figure competitor, Elite Personal Training Studio;

Scott Topjian, fitness director, Latitude Sports Clubs;

Art McDermott, owner of Matrix Strength & Fitness; and

Jamey Lachiana, exercise physiologist at Yang’s Fitness.

Here are some examples of what they have to say, and the type of information you can expect to find in the column.


How do you get started on a fitness plan and how do you stay motivated to work out and make good eating choices...long term?

Stacy Gillis: Most importantly you need to be ready mentally and have a goal and a deadline in mind. Ask yourself, do I want to lose weight, feel stronger, improve my endurance? Ask your family for their emotional support. Think about what motivates you whether it is working with a trainer, joining a gym or exercising outdoors. If you like to exercise in a group, try a class. Join a friend at their gym for a day and see if the gym is for you.

One of the best ways to stay motivated is by seeing your progress. Take a picture of yourself at the start of your program and then again every four weeks. Mix up your exercise routine with a lot of cross training so you’re not getting bored.

Make healthy eating choices by being prepared. Eat every two to three hours to keep up your energy level. Think about what you’re going to eat over the next few days and prepare foods ahead of time. Think positively, instead of saying I am not going to eat junk food ever again, say I will eat healthy foods each day. If you have a bad eating day put that day behind you and work extra hard the next day. Once you eat healthy and frequently you will feel stronger and happier and that will be your motivation to continue with your journey long term!


How could you help an overweight kid who doesn’t like sports, but does love video games and junk food?

Scott Topjian: Regardless of what the activity is, getting a child up and out and moving about is imperative. Applaud their efforts and accomplishments. After all, pretty much anything is better than sitting and playing games.

As for the food, children old enough to choose and prepare their own foods are old enough to be taught proper food selections and more importantly, portion control.


How can I figure out how many calories I am supposed to eat?

Art McDermott: The first step here is to NOT count calories! Contrary to what some weight management chains would like you to believe, “a calorie is NOT a calorie.”

Yes, it is true that in order to lose weight, calories out needs to exceed calories in. Simple physics. However, the impact of a calorie of protein is quite different than the impact of a calorie of sugar.

Simplistically put: Protein intake can elevate your metabolism, while carbohydrate intake can stimulate fat storage. It is the release of insulin that needs to be controlled above all.

The interaction of hormones here is just as complex as the formula to determine daily caloric needs of an individual. It is simply not necessary to do.

The key is the source of the calories, not necessarily the calories themselves. This does not imply that portion size is not vital.

Here in the US, we believe that a restaurant that provides gigantic portions is a good thing. Not so. Portion size is our problem. If you control your portion size, calorie control follows naturally.


What do you see as the most common obstacles people face when trying to lose weight? What is your solution?

Jamey Lachiana: There are many obstacles people face when trying to lose weight. Of those, I find the biggest obstacles are: over indulgence of calories, lack of movement, and too many excuses to make changes to the first two obstacles.

People who need to make proper healthy changes to their lives have to want to change. Until they are ready to make this change, they will always go into it half-hearted and more than likely simply yo-yo the scale up and down.

There are two ways to lose weight; eat less than you are currently eating and lose more calories by way of movement. Those two methods together are the most efficient, but starting with one is better than neither. Understand that if your goal is fat loss, eating the proper amount of calories is 60-70% of whether or not you will lose weight.

I would suggest meeting with a registered dietitian so they can evaluate your eating habits as well as calculate the amount of calories you should be consuming on a daily basis in order to reach your goal. There is no specific number of calories the general population should be eating because every body is unique.

For excess movement, intensity is the key. If you move little, little calories will be used. The harder you work, the more calories you burn. If you don’t currently move more than at work and around the house, something as simple as a 30-minute walk will help spark a change. Maybe the next step is a gym membership and/or seeking assistance from a qualified fitness professional for guidance to reach your goal. Remember, this is all about you and no one else.


Editor’s Note: Andover trainers and other Andover exercise professionals interested in participating in these columns can contact the Townsman at and put “Exercise column” in the subject line.