What is it that finally clicks in a person that makes him or her want to change and lose weight?
Two people are now on their way to the best health of their lives after finding out what makes weight loss work long term.
Those two, of different ages and at different stages in their lives, one day said enough is enough. So each took the courageous first step through a gym door and into the care of a stranger.
"I was looking for a way out and I ran into a friend whose sons were very large and I happened to see him and I said, 'How did your son lose all this weight?' and they said, 'A guy named David Ales,' " said Joe Relf, a business owner from Marrero.
For Relf, 56, the motivation to reach out for help was family and future.
"What actually motivated me is I have a granddaughter and I want to be here for her,” he emphasized. “My parents are 85 and 84 and they are still living and they are healthy and I want to reach that age."
For Anjelle Bianchini, 28, of Harvey, it was health, family and future as well.
"I looked in the mirror and I said, ‘You know what you have to do better, you have to make this a lifestyle.’ I just realized that I just, I didn't want to, I didn't want to be like my family and stuff. I didn't want to have heart attacks and I just wanted to be healthy," said Bianchini, whose mother had a heart attack in her early 40's.
That's when both Joe and Anjelle did something proven to make a difference. They found professional help. Both wound up at Exclusive Fitness at Fountain Park in Harvey. From there, they met the manager and 1987 Mr. USA title holder, Don Ditta.
"It's a lifestyle. Listen, I've been doing this since I was 14 years old in my mama's shed. That's where I started and it's (one day I) just got up and I'm in my 60's," said Ditta.
He introduced them to trainers who would coach them, encourage them to health. For Joe, who's down 160 pounds from his high of 450 pounds, it was certified personal trainer and nutritional coach David Ales who teaches a program called Transitions.
"Diets do things to people that they might lose weight initially, but in the long run, when I'm off this diet what am I going to do now?” said Ales. “Where Transitions is different is we take you step by step on how to create meal plans on your own.”
For Anjelle, down nearly 100 pounds from her high at almost 300 pounds in just eight months, it was certified personal trainer Tony Rodriguez.
"They do, they become friends of mine, absolutely become friends of mine," Rodriguez said talking about his clients. "I get close with them. Everyone who's close to them, their family, their moms, boyfriends, husbands, whatever it is, it will be a team effort. It's not just me. They have to be supported by a team effort."
Doctors say when it comes to change, you're more likely to be successful with the help of professionals. Studies show our brains go through stages of readiness. These two people were in the action stage.
"Anyone who seeks out a personal trainer is probably ready to change. That's a very select population that will just finally tell themselves, 'I've had enough, I can't do this on my own, I've tried, who can help me,'" explained Dr. Melinda Sothern a professor and clinical exercise physiologist at the LSU Health Sciences Center's School of Public Health.
The motivation for Joe and Anjelle was external, but they internalized it and made it something with personal, emotional meaning. Dr. Henri Roca says sometimes people have a hard time getting started because of brain chemistry.
"Very often when I find people who have the resources, have the time, have the knowledge, they know what they should be doing, they just can't get around to doing it, very often it's just sort of a low grade kind of depression. It's not a major depression, it's just a little bit of a low mood,"
said Dr. Henri Roca, in the department of Family-Integrative Medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center.
He says there are even urine tests that can check your biochemistry to see if your neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that help brain cells "talk" to each other) need some supplemental support. But in the meantime, experts say being accountable to another person makes a difference.
"If you believe in the authority of the person working with you, you're more likely to continue to do that type of activity," added Dr. Sothern.
And doctors say what Joe and Anjelle are doing, will change their futures.
"Research has shown no matter how old you are when you start doing something like that, you will live longer. You will add life to your years," said Dr. Kim Edward LeBlanc, the Head of the Department of Family Medicine and expert in nutrition, exercise and sports medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center.
When Joe was asked what can he do now that he could not do when he weighed 450 pounds, he responded this way.
"Awe, there's so many things, go to Disney World and not get an electric wheelchair you know," he laughed. "Because I had trouble walking a lot you know, that's important to me."
"Oh man, I feel like so energetic and just so more upbeat and I've noticed that I'm not as tired and I can get through the day with just energy," said Anjelle when asked how her life has changed.
Joe wants to lose another 100 pounds and Anjelle wants to lose another 80 pounds.
The doctors say that the more fit their muscles become from working out, the more calories they will burn even when resting.