Downey's biggest losers

Born a minute apart and the butt of jokes for most of their lives because of a weight problem, identical twins Tina Marie Konegni and Tiffany Marie Elizalde not too long ago decided they'd had enough of all the teasing and unflattering remarks uttered behind their back, and did something about it.In December of 2008, Tina Marie, the brunette and the older of the two, weighed 277 pounds, while the blonde, Tiffany, tipped the scales at 298 pounds. As it turned out, they were at their heaviest at this point. At this point, too, the twins, who were 29 at the time and confronted with heightened prospects of high blood pressure, diabetes, insulin injections, etc., and loathing the possibility of continued dependence on prescription drugs, opted, after considering other weight loss systems such as Jenny Craig and NutriSystem ("In both systems, you have to eat their food"), to enroll in a Weight Watchers program called Momentum ("Here, you can choose foods that you like"). "We were ready to win our lives back," they said, almost in unison. They each lost 30 pounds in eight months, and they never looked back. A year and a half later, through "lots of hard work and dedication," the twins shed a combined 271 pounds, and today each weighs well within the range related to their age and height (5 ft. 5 in.). Through it all, their mother Mary says her daughters have maintained their bubbly, cheerful, and fun-loving selves. And, she added, "They've remained best friends." This closeness no doubt sheltered them somewhat against the teasing which started at kindergarten and never let up. "We've been overweight our whole lives," said Tina Marie, "and getting teased as a kid hurt your feelings, but it made us stronger." Tina Marie works in the member service department at Costco in Norwalk, while Tiffany is a senior instructional assistant working with autistic children at Warren High and is married. Both are in the process of enrolling in Azusa Pacific's human development undergraduate program so they can work in special education, to, Tiffany says, "teach the kids better eating habits, help them make better choices." Often relegated to such roles in high school as Warren Bears mascots ("They were the best Bears mascots ever," Mary insists) they've now begun to hug the limelight. Last month, Weight Watchers donated 270 pounds of food (equivalent to their weight loss) to a local food bank in their name, and the twins will soon start training to become Weight Watchers leaders. "They're going to be good spokesmen for Weight Watchers," predicted Mary, beaming. The twins said that in the past, with all the weight they carried, they couldn't bend to tie their shoes. Even walking from here to there, and performing simple things, would leave them out of breath. Thanks to Momentum, they said they've eliminated these problems, not to mention the health issues associated with such a situation. Today, participating in 5K Walks is no big deal. The twins took part in the Revlon Walk at the Coliseum last May. Meanwhile, they have signed up for the Breast Cancer 5K Walk in Newport Beach at the end of the month. Mary says, "My husband and I, when we look at the [before and after] pictures, we start to cry. They've done wonders for themselves. We're just so proud of them. " "They've started a weight loss revolution among our relatives who are found [just about] across the country," she added. "Their brother Bill and his wife Robin, a second grade teacher at Price, are very proud of them." "My husband, Alex, is of course thrilled for me," said Tiffany. The Momentum program represented nothing less than a lifestyle change. Simply premised on the injunction, "Eat less, and move more," calories translate into points, requiring one to trade a food item against another. At any given moment, using a patented points finder, one must choose, for example, whether a serving of filet mignon would give more satisfaction than those extra scoops of ice cream. Thus, really, one need not give up one's favorite foods. They can all be enjoyed, albeit at different times, and within limits. The system fitted the twins' tendencies. Of German-Italian descent, the twins said, "With us Italians, everything revolves around food"). The system also called for setting small, realistic goals, in small time frames. It was easier to handle, the goal easier to attain. Another important principle is it's preferable to work in groups, or at least in tandem. This, of course, for the twins, posed no problem. What's more, they've accepted the importance played by weekly group counseling. "At the weekly meeting, if you've lost 5 pounds in the last week, it's a big deal, and you get recognized," the twins said. No matter how you look at it, the twins-and all concerned-find themselves in a win-win situation, all the way.

********** Published: September 9, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 21