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Dieters' Plateau Stress, Metabolism Take Toll, But Commitment Remains

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The gym has gone from routine to rare for Frank Turpin.

Who could blame him?

His quit his job and began a new full-time gig. He's also moving to a new home, always a stressful venture. Add a chronic back problem that has flared up recently, and it's hardly the ideal environment for consistent exercise.

"It's a stressful time," said Turpin, weighing in at the Norcross Gold's Gym.

Norcross residents Turpin and Vanessa Brooks are each on a quest to shed significant excess poundage by next spring. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is following them on this quest, chronicling the ups and downs of the weight-loss battle.

The stress --- and lack of exercise --- is reflected in the scale. Turpin's weight is about 352 --- three pounds more than the last time we checked in with him . Still, he remains 20 pounds lighter than his starting weight of 372.

But despite the setback, his motivation is stronger than ever: In two months he'll be getting married.

He met his future bride, Laqeata Cephas, at a pinochle tournament in February.

"I'm an addict [to pinochle]," he said.

As for her, "She's beautiful."

His immediate goal is to whittle his weight down to 325 pounds by the time he waits at the altar.

Brooks has faced her own roadblock --- albeit a positive one.

She has only dropped a pound --- to 252 --- since the last chapter in her story. Her weight when she began dieting was 277. But it's part of a specific process.

She has been on a program that attempts to shock her metabolism: she has to gain three pounds, then immediately lose three pounds. The process continues until it takes two weeks to gain three pounds.

This goal took a while to achieve. But the 14-day marker just passed.

"I'm officially finished with the metabolic tune up," Brooks said. "You have to go 14 days without gaining three pounds. I've been on it for two months. I've been doing a lot of the fad dieting so it throws your metabolism out of sync. It took a while."

She now goes back to aggressive dieting and won't face another "tuneup" until her weight loss plateaus again.

"Your body is a unique machine, and you have to trick it," she said.

Not to mention the muscle weight she's put on, which she's flexing with a new hobby.

Brooks has taken up motorcycle riding. She began on a 400-pound model and has worked up to a 1,000-pound model.

"I never tried it before," she said. "I probably wouldn't have done it earlier. I'm definitely getting stronger."

Copyright 2003 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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