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As with all Cinderella stories, most of us handily forget about the coal-hauling and chimney-sweeping before Ms.'Rella got swept off her feet

The internet is all abuzz with stories about glorious Joan MacDonald, who is now a major sensation. Okay, fine.

This morning I saw another Medium writer go bonkers over this gramma's story, and now she's all hot to trot.

‘How I Lost Over 5 Stone and Transformed My Health in My 70s’
‘If I can do it, you can do it’

Kindly. Let's put on the brakes and have a sane thought here.

First, a disclaimer. I am all for, and I mean ALL FOR anyone who motivates folks to get in better shape. Whatever gives us hope and gets us moving.



I recommend caution when I see certain language, hype and lots and LOTS of promotion. That's when I get a little wary, because folks really want those results without stopping to seriously consider how hard she had to work to get there, how long it took her, and how hard she has to work to maintain it. That is the reality check. Let's please talk.

I cannot say this enough, none of this is in any way a critique of Joan. She rocks. What I am recommending is that we understand what we're getting excited about, and take into account what it takes to get those results.

First, how easily people skip over the five years part. Above all, we look at before and after. The heated imagination does not compute FIVE YEARS and EVERY DAY and NO MORE DONUTS FOREVER. The immense dedication, which I have lived through and maintained now for seven times five years, doesn't compute until the first hard wall. There are hundreds of thousands of hard walls in thirty- five years. Ask anyone who has dropped and kept off 80-85 lbs. In this regard, Ms. MacDonald is a rookie. An impressive one, but talk to us in another ten years, gramma.

Second, her daughter is a fitness trainer. Sure helps to have it in the family. It's also cheaper. Trainers are pricey, and some can't afford their $50-60 an hour fee. Every workout, week after week, from now on. Joan works out seven days a week. Lemme do the math for you: at $60 an hour, that is just shy of $22,000 a year.

If you pay as much as $200 an hour, which you can back East, that bill skyrockets to $73,0000?

You got that in the bank?

Third, she is now what we would call a fitness influencer. This is her job, she has tons of followers, and now she can't slide back. There is a massive motivation to keep going when it's your life purpose. Fitness trainers make money for being fit. That sure as hell makes the job easier.

Fourth, if you look at the story above and see her workout schedule, I challenge anyone with a full-time job (again, hers is fitness, point made) to do the same. It's not impossible, but that's if you are retired, can afford the food and supplements she's on, a fitness trainer and all the rest. Many of us can't.

Fifth, those of us in the lifting business might gently question what MacDonald did with all that excess skin that was left after the weight loss. I am only addressing her flat tummy here, nothing else.

THIS IS NOT A SLAM. You go backstage at any bodybuilding competition and there will be at least one plastic surgeon touting his wares. It's part of the industry. I have fake boobs, as do most of us in this world.  Our pairs of overly-perky melons will accompany us to our graves. Our chests will look one helluva lot better than the rest of us. It's patently obvious, and I don't mind one bit making fun of mine. They cost me enough money, dammit, I can mock them all I like.

And like nearly every other woman I know who lifts very seriously, I've had a little liposuction here and there where fat pads would not retreat, those genetic gifts from Dad's side. They're gone. No amount of so-called (fake) "spot training" could get rid of them. I will not try to mislead you. Got work done. And here's the key: it's not permanent. If you do not do the work to maintain those results, it all comes back, and often in very awkward places. So lipo is not the answer. All that is for most of us is a final touch, not the work itself.

My first trainer, an Amazon beauty, had my surgeon remove a bit for her, too. It's as common as it can get. But to not come clean about it is, for me, fundamentally dishonest. I cannot know, but you can't look at her belly on the left and then on the right and not ask that question. She likely had great wads of loose flesh. Most folks who lose that kind of weight do, and it has to be surgically removed. People somehow believe that all they gotta do is lose and that skin snaps right back.

No, honey, it doesn't.

Tummy tucks begin at about four grand and shoots skyward. You got that lying around? I don't, not after this damned house I don't. But you see my point. Influencers with sponsors can afford that kind of thing, as do all top fitness professionals. Joan, god bless her, is selling beauty at 75. I admire the hell out of that. AND I seriously doubt she got that flat tummy without a tuck. But I don't know. And again this is not a slam.

It's precisely what I would have done had I had excess skin.

Here's a way to understand this, although kindly keep in mind these folks had gastric bypass, and lost twice as much. Still, the point stands:

After Huge Weight Loss, Sagging Skin Remains
<p>After massive weight loss, many people are still unhappy. The fat is gone, but all that skin that held it in place is still there. What happens next?</p>

I lost 85 lbs, but never had kids, which makes a difference. Also, I lost the weight in my thirties, which also makes a huge difference. I didn't need a tummy tuck. However, at this age, you can see where the skin is loose where I used to carry that weight. I don't CARE. But I am also not followed by more than a million people. I might care a lot more if I were.

The best in the business have work done. We all have. But I will not lie about it nor will I tell you that ALL my results, and they are considerable, are exclusively the result of diet and exercise. Looking at Joan's, I question that hers are, either. That is not a criticism. It's someone with fifty years in this business who has a sane, sober eye. And if asked, I wonder if Ms. MacDonald would be honest, for now she has millions of followers all begging her for her secrets.

Like all influencers, because of sponsors, there is terrible pressure to keep up appearances. Joan is all over the news. TV. Internet. Blah. Blah. Blah. I salute her in every way, shape and form. She deserves the attention. I just really respect full disclosure, because that allows the rest of the world to understand the real costs involved.

But now she is a product. Products have to be managed by PR firms, and images matter more than authenticity.

Sixth: Joan is short. A great many of the world's top body builders are short, because it is vastly easier to build bulk on a shorter frame. VASTLY easier. Arnold's best friend for years, Franco Columbu, was 5'5". That is very common in the industry. Taller folks like Arnold often use steroids to increase size as it takes years and years and YEARS to get any kind of bulk on a long, tall frame.

This tribute to Columbu is a perfect way to understand height challenges. Next to Arnold he is tiny. But his muscles are incredible. YES steroids. But Arnold had to put in a whole different kind of effort to achieve his results, which on much shorter athletes are far easier:

Joan's gorgeous triceps are in part a gift of having shorter muscles. Again, that is a fact, not a slam. At 5'8.5" mine will never look like that without a little help from a friend, which I won't use.

She is now saying if she can do it, you can do it. Well, ahem.

Her packing needs a warning label needs to read in twelve-foot letters:


Ya think so, Sparky?

While I am very pleased for Joan, I gotta wonder why the inimitable Ernestine Shepherd, who beat her to it years ago, wasn't the same kind of HUGE sensation:

Ernestine Shepherd at 85: A Day In The Life Of World’s Oldest Female Bodybuilder - - Where Wellness & Culture Connect
“I really don’t need an alarm clock to awaken me. I wake up at 2:30 every morning. I get up. I say my devotions. Then I’ll eat. I will eat ten egg whites. They’re scrambled, sixteen ounces of water, and a handful of walnuts. I have a certain song that I sing every morning…’Oh I […]

Because I write about diversity in sports, you can imagine my feelings about how Ms. Shepherd, who owns a Guiness World Record, doesn't get the same kind of OOOOH AAAAHHH that Joan does. I know. So do you. But she is my shero. She first picked up a weight just around sixty-ish. TWENTY FIVE YEARS LATER here she still is.

That is what makes her a champ in my book. She has sustained this for decades.

Here is what influences me, because I am far more interested in folks getting it done without the glitz and promos and ads and glamor. Saga Supporter Penny Nelson began her fitness journey late last year, with a trainer, doing it right.

Here is what she just wrote me today, months into this:

Now that I am working out on a regular basis - for the first time in my entire life - I find that I am also walking more. I have a Kawasaki mule that I run around the ranch in, haul hay with and use to carry feed in twice a day when I feed the livestock. Since I take one dog or the other with me when I feed, I usually run the mule all the way to the top of the property and back down to give the dogs a better run. The irony of this is not lost on me. I'm driving a wheeled vehicle to give my dogs more of the exercise they need. When I started at the gym I was still using the mule most days. Then somehow without noticing I stopped using the mule except when I need to carry bales of hay to various pastures. I looked up one day and realized I hadn't driven it in a week. Huh. Now that's interesting. I'm not giving up the weight training. I love it. I should probably add swimming back into the routine although I haven't been to the pool since I started going to the gym nearly 8 months ago. But I am walking more. And it's more spritely, more easy, more comfortable walking, too. The weight training has made the walking much more fun. (author bolded)

You will forgive me if I point out that nobody is following Penny around with a camera. Her dogs are following her around, and she is following herself.

This is how you slowly but surely make incremental changes, watch the body, appreciate the body, enjoy how the body says HOWDY I'M STRONGER, and enjoy the small payoffs. That is how we do it for life. Not for likes, if you will pardon the play on words.

For my fitness dollar, that is what winning the fit challenge looks like. Start slowly, simply, get professional help. DO NOT buy into influencers, no matter how GREAT their before and after photos may be.

Can I do the same here? Okay, lemme brag then.

Me just before I gained another 15 to get to 205, age 34, in Australia Julia Hubbel

This is my BEFORE, back around 1987.

These are my AFTERS, thirty plus years later:

Julia and friend at my Denver gym Julia Hubbel

Julia Hubbel

This took me YEARS. YEARS. I will  never ever tell you that this was easy. The weight loss was. Maintenance, and getting these guns then losing them after surgery and now working to get them back?


So will I tell you that if I can do it, you can too?

BULLSHIT. Unadulterated, pure bullshit.

That word should also be on the fitness influencer packaging along with the warning label.

Because each of us has a unique body, each of us has limitations and psychological idiosyncrasies, each of us has a particular bucket we have to carry forward. Not all of us makes it. Some do. Most don't. But again, keep in mind. Like Joan, I have to be in shape. Not because I'm an  influencer (OH PLEASE), but because I do adventure travel.

If I'm not fit, I die. It's just that simple.

Nobody understands this until you begin. Penny is very honest about those days she doesn't wanna go to the gym. So am I. As I am honest about those days that I have to have a chocolate bar. Those days when I am so effing sore that I really do NOT want to do my PT.

Those days, like today, when my left hand hurts so much when I am at the gym I am SOOOO tempted to say fuggit and go home and cry. Nope. Did it anyway. My shoulder hurts like a mofo too, but I do not get my guns back by sitting all day. I have to work through the pain, and train.

Most people quit because it's too damned hard. They reach that Instagram moment and then they find out that you injure, and lose your strength and size. Or that you can get ill, and you get sidetracked. Then you gotta work twice as hard to get it all back. That takes character. It's effing brutal.

Most of the time I do it anyway, because I can handle brutal. Okay, yeah, the chocolate AND the PT.

I love Joan's story. And boy do I applaud her, you betcha. But I do not applaud the belief that yeah, we can all do that.

No. We can't all be Joan. You and Penny and I, each of us with a particular body type, bone structure, being mesomorph or endomorph or ectomorph, with our dietary challenges and preferences and home challenges and all that, each of us has to find our inner champion. That is going to likely look much different from Joan.

Maybe better, for all that.

So depending on you, the final part of the warning label might well read:


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Dear Reader: if you like this story, feel free to peruse any of the more 2000 published so far on Medium. However, fair warning: I am moving my best material, such as this kind of article, to,because I flat refuse to pimp Dear Reader to join Medium and then they have to tolerate endless articles on getting rich and manufactured outrage.

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If not, thank you for reading my writing, and I sincerely wish you the best.