Monday, February 17, 2003

Dropping weight leads to 'Glamour' shot

Former fries fanatic gains magazine's attention after shedding extra pounds and her parents' unhealthful legacy

By Joy Kraft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Amy Clay walks more than three miles a day with her dog.
(Patrick Reddy photos)
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It was New Year's Eve 2001 and Amy Clay, on the lip of her 30th year, was eating sauced-up ribs, fried shrimp and a "big, fat mashed potato" at Montgomery Inn Boathouse with an out-of-town friend.

By the meal's conclusion, their resolution was to lose weight ... but first the two "decided on something chocolate."

"We decided to go out with a bang and start (dieting) the next day," says the public relations counselor from Burlington who had never been able to stick to a diet or exercise plan.

Her goal was to drop 15 pounds; her friend's goal was 20 pounds. The strategy was that the two would e-mail daily about what they ate and how they exercised, then reward themselves with a trip.

"It kept us honest. I couldn't do it for myself. But I could do it for someone else. If I cheated and didn't lose the weight there would be no trip for her. That would make me feel bad."

She had more inspiration as well: "I said to myself, `Omigod, I'm going to be 30 this year,' and I thought about both my parents who had heart attacks. My dad had a mild attack when he was 43 and my mother didn't get out of her 40s ... not a good history."

[photo] Amy uses weights and exercise videos to keep in shape.
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Clay and her friend met their weight-loss goals, but the trip she ended up taking was to New York - with her husband, Jeff, instead - as part of a getting-in-shape story that's in the March issue of Glamour.

In November, Clay heard that Glamour was looking for women and their stories about losing weight. She wrote the magazine, was one of the women chosen for the article, and on Dec. 14 she and her husband, a pilot, flew to New York.

The story that piqued Glamour's interest began when Clay's dad had a heart attack when she was a ninth-grader in Paintsville, Ky.

"It was a wake-up call," she says. "We were a country Southern family and we cooked like a Southern family."

The family soon made dining and lifestyle changes. "We ate less gravy and less fried foods," she says.

Clay remembers her dad walking for exercise - he is in better shape than ever at age 60, she says. But she lost her mother to a heart attack in 1992, at age 49. Before her parents' attacks, there had been no history of heart problems in the family.

Knowing and doing

Though Clay knew how to eat smart, she didn't as she grew older.

How Amy Clay lost the weight:
• Set a goal of losing 15 pounds gradually. "I wanted my body to adjust."
• Quit eating lunch out and stayed away from fattening foods - like fries topped with cheese. She ate Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine meals instead.
• Started walking. Clay was walking 3 1/2 miles four to five times a week four months after beginning her diet.
• Clay got up at 5:45 a.m. six days a week to work out with an exercise and body-sculpting video.
• Amy Clay's green eyes tilt down, so brown eyeliner was applied just below the upper lashes instead of above the upper lash line.
• No eyeliner under the bottom lashes.
• Tweeze - don't wax - brows.
• Keep the inside of eyebrows, nearest to the nose, thicker, then thin out toward the ends to open up eyes.
• Use eye shadow as just a shimmer on the lids.
• Always use blush, but keep it subtle.
• Stop using waterproof mascara because it requires more rubbing for removal and that causes wrinkles and stress on the delicate skin around eyes.
• Use concealer, especially around eyes, and on blemishes or uneven skin tones.
"My metabolism had changed. When you're in college you can eat anything. But I'd gone from 135 when I married two years earlier up to 148."

After making the pact with her friend, the daily e-mails - and temptations - began.

"The first thing I did was quit eating lunch out. I loved Penn Station and the fries with cheese on top. It's a great part of Cincinnati," she says.

So she toted Lean Cuisines and Healthy Choice meals, bought a scale and said goodbye to Pop Tarts and hello to Smart Start cereal and dry English muffins.

Exercise came later.

Her "lazy" nature and dark evenings kept her in the house. "And gyms were not worth it. I just wouldn't go," she says.

But in April 2002, a puppy, Cordelia, entered the picture and Clay began walking 31/2 miles at a park four or five times a week.

Then she discovered a series of fitness videos - "with real women, not skinny models, doing exercises in real classes" - from the Firm in Columbia, S.C. She ordered a three-tape set and a fanny-lifter for a regimen combining cardio and weight training.

"I announced that I'd start the next morning."

Her husband laughed and said she'd never do it.

"So I had to," she says. "Now it's a habit and if I don't do it, I don't feel well."

Five months after she started her diet, Clay was down to 130 pounds. But the weight training added three pounds.

Telling her story

When the Clays arrived in New York for the magazine shoot, they were met by a driver who delivered them to their midtown Manhattan hotel near Times Square and Rockefeller Center.

After a night on the town, she was picked up by her driver and delivered at 10 a.m. to a very "nondescript place in an alley" that turned out to be a photo studio. There she was put in the hands of a makeup artist and hair designer for two hours.

The staring and directives began.

"Your eyebrows are all wrong," they said - a surprise since she had had them waxed.

"Wash your face." The makeup artist handed her a bottle of Armani facial cleanser.

"You wear waterproof mascara don't you?" They disapproved.

"You haven't had a hair cut in a while have you?"

"I finally said, `Hey, you're hurting my feelings,' and they apologized right away."

"I got the impression they were used to working with some pretty fancy people. I was just a Southerner to them," Clay says, laughing.

The hair stylist circled her, spritzing and snipping (without shampooing), while the makeup artist worked on her face.

After two hours of combing, cutting and coloring, they ordered up a blue American Eagle top for Clay to wear over her jeans and sat her down at a table covered with blocks of cheddar cheese and a giant bowl of mashed potatoes, a detail they'd taken from her story about the New Year's Eve dinner.

After the photo shoot and a lunch, she met her husband at the hotel with her new hair and face for some shopping before flying back to Cincinnati.

"He walked right by me," she says. "I looked 10 years younger."

And though she won't soon forget the mass of mashed potatoes and the smell of the cheese warming in the photographer's lights, she says, "that bite of mashed potatoes was a revelation. But my parents were my real motivation."

And her friend and their trip?

"She went to Europe ... on a singles trip."


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