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Kimberly Garrison: Forget pills & gimmicks: Exercise, diet work best

JANICE POLEON might be best described as a weight-loss drama queen. When it comes to weight-loss quick-fix schemes, you name it, and the New Jersey native's probably tried it.

JANICE POLEON might be best described as a weight-loss drama queen. When it comes to weight-loss quick-fix schemes, you name it, and the New Jersey native's probably tried it.

Janice, 30, has been worrying about her weight as long as she can remember, and the chronicles of her weight-loss drama go back to high school, when she compared herself to her sisters.

"I always worried about my weight growing up, since my sisters were always thinner than I," Poleon recalled recently. "In 11th grade I had a bad breakup [well, as serious as you can get in high school] and got very depressed - so depressed that I ate for comfort and gained a lot of weight, I went from a size 11/12 to a size 18. During the same school year, I started taking a dietary supplement called Accu-trim and slimmed back down to a size 11-12 in time for the junior prom."

Once off to college, instead of the "freshman 15," Poleon gained the freshman 50. She went looking for that dietary supplement, "but, unfortunately, it was off the market, so I started taking everything under the sun to do the trick."

She lost weight on Metabolife, "but as soon as I went off of it, I gained it all back, plus some."

Then came a product called Xenadrine that quickly became her absolute favorite weight-loss supplement. Janice faithfully took the product every day for several years, and said that it gave her a boost of energy and helped to keep the pounds at bay.

But once the product was reformulated without ephedra after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the supplement, Poleon found that it no longer worked for her. The unwanted pounds came back with a vengeance.

So did her search for the perfect weight-loss supplement. In short order, here's what she tried next:

Hydroxycut: "The worst. I took this one day and my heart would not stop beating a mile per minute. I thought I was about to have a heart attack and couldn't sleep for 24 hours straight." (The FDA last month banned Hydroxycut supplements after it was linked to liver problems.)

Stacker 2 & Stacker 3: "I took it [the Stacker Web site describes them as 'fat burners' and 'energizers'] a few times to lose some weight, but it ended up giving me way too much energy and kept me from sleeping."

Ripped Fuel: "I started taking it [another 'fat burner'] when I tried the Body-for-Life Challenge, by Bill Phillips. My oldest sister did the challenge and went down from a size 16 to a size 9/10 in 12 weeks by taking this pill, following the program and diet to the T and working out twice a day. So I tried it while working out. After a while it just stopped working for me, as if my body got immune to the pill."

DetoxaTrim: "Did absolutely nothing. No side effects, no weight loss, no energy, no detox effects."

Alli: "After seeing the commercials I had to try this one. It was guaranteed to help you lose weight and backed by the FDA, so I said what the heck. Reading the directions, it said that you must not eat fatty foods at all, just healthy [foods]. If you ate something high in fat or sugar, the side effect would be 'anal leakage of an oily residue.' They weren't joking! I ate a muffin after being on Alli for a few days, and thank goodness I was close to a rest-room, that's all I gotta say about that!"

NutriSystem: "After researching different weight-loss centers and methods, I wanted to try to cut out taking diet pills all together, since I continued to hear how bad they were for me. So I tried Weight Watchers. Felt it was a waste of time - I can weigh myself on my scale at home. I looked at Jenny Craig and LA Weight Loss and didn't want to talk to a 'skinny' counselor.

"So I chose to go with NutriSystem. I thought that it was affordable and could be shipped to my house. The one thing NutriSystem doesn't tell you is that with every meal you must add your own food, a protein and a vegetable. I might as well have just eaten the protein and a vegetable and called it a day. But I did the program for about 6 to 8 months; I lost weight and learned portion control. Side effect was the food made me sick from time to time, and I always had to go to the bathroom. I guess that's how I was shedding the pounds."

Seeing the light

Finally Janice came to her senses when a quick run up the subway steps left her winded and she suddenly realized just how out of shape she was.

That was a pivotal moment: She decided to ditch her unhealthy ways and get to the gym. She's worked with several personal trainers, including myself. I counseled her to get off all the supplements. The only two things that work are exercise and eating smart.

These days, she said, "I have never felt so great. I've learned how to eat healthier, what the right portion sizes are, and [I'm] exercising regularly. I have already lost 20 pounds, a couple dress sizes, gained some muscle and am now toned and confident. I have some more to go, but every day and every way I get better and better." *

Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (www.1on1 E-mail her at Her column appears each Thursday in Yo!