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"We Look Better Now Than We Did 10 Years Ago!"

Karen Cardone, 28, and her BFF, Kellyann Dilgen, 27, needed to shed weight and tone up for their high school reunion. FITNESS helped them ace their looks.

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Peter Ardito
Karen and Kellyann Before
Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito
Chris Gallo
Jody Kivort
Marianne Rafter
Peter Ardito
Alexa Miller
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Karen and Kellyann's Success Story

Our Goal

There was no way Kellyann and I were going to skip our 10-year reunion at Longwood High School on Long Island next month. I'm the former student-government president, and Kellyann is the onetime prom committee director, and we're in charge of planning the event. But when we began organizing it last year, Kellyann and I were looking at high school photos and realized just how flabby we'd become. I'd gained 15 pounds, which is a lot when you're 4 foot 11, and Kellyann, who had always been the skinny one, had put on about 10 pounds. When we failed at sticking to our exercise and diet pacts for the 20th time, we reached out for professional help from FITNESS.

Our Moment of Success

Ten weeks after revamping our diets and working with a trainer who took our elliptical sessions off auto­pilot, Kellyann and I shed a combined 25 pounds. And we can't believe what tiny waists we've achieved; I lost 8 1/2 inches, and Kellyann, 4 1/2. Before, exercise felt like a dead-end job at which nothing we did got us any results. Now our workouts have become the fun, new way that Kellyann and I stay connected.

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Karen and Kellyann by the Numbers

Karen Start Now Kellyann Start Now
Weight 131 lb 114 lb   134 lb 126 lb
Height 4'11" 4'11"   5'5" 5'5"
Waist 35" 26.5"   32" 27.5"
Hips 41.5" 36"   40" 37"
Body Fat 32% 24%   25% 19%

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What Worked for Us

Rethink Your Grains

Both Kellyann and I love eating carbs, a fact our nutritionist, Stephanie, quickly picked up on from our food diaries. She gave us healthy, complex carbs to substitute for the simple ones we ate too often.


Swap Pecan Sticky Bun Granola Cereal
For 1/2 cup cooked steel-cut oats with fruit, flaxseeds, and cinnamon


Swap Turkey-and-Swiss sandwich with mayo on Italian bread
For 1/2 sandwich of 4 ounces turkey, lettuce, tomato, and mustard on Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Sesame Bread with a side of fruit or a mixed green salad


Swap Penne with vodka sauce
For 1 cup cooked red quinoa with 5 grilled shrimp

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Get Real About Portions

Stephanie showed us these quickie cues to rein us in from going overboard with calories at mealtime: Have an iPhone-size piece of grilled chicken or fish for protein and a fist-size scoop of healthy grains, like quinoa or whole wheat pasta. The remaining half of a plate belongs to vegetables, not dinner rolls.

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Eat Diet-Friendly for P.M. Workouts

Most weekdays we would make it to the gym at dinnertime. Stephanie recommended we have protein with a piece of fruit, such as 2 percent Greek yogurt with some berries and a teaspoon of honey, two hours before­hand to give us energy and tide us over until our 500-calorie dinner.

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Add Resistance

Tristan De Simone, a trainer for New York Sports Clubs in Port Jefferson, New York, refocused our typical cardio-and-go routine with twice-weekly one-hour total-body strength-training sessions, which included kettlebell moves interspersed with one-minute bursts of mountain climbers or high knees.

Figure Eight

Holding a kettlebell in right hand, stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Squat, then swing kettlebell back between legs and behind left leg to grab it with left hand. Staying in squat throughout, swing kettlebell back between legs and pass it behind right leg to right hand. Do 10 reps. Switch directions, repeat. Do 3 sets.


Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, right arm extended upward, holding a kettlebell in right hand, palm facing forward and kettlebell resting on back of wrist. Keeping right arm pointing up throughout, bend at waist to left to touch left hand to left foot. Return to start. Do 5 reps, switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.

Half Turkish Get-Up

Lie faceup on floor with right arm near side, left arm extended toward ceiling, holding a kettlebell in left hand, palm facing forward and kettlebell on back of wrist; bend left knee 90 degrees, foot flat on floor. Curl torso off floor; press into right palm and left heel, squeezing glutes to lift hips and right leg off floor. Reverse motion to start. Do 5 reps, switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.

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Make Playdates

Tristan gave Kellyann and me homework: four cardio workouts a week. Exercising together kept us accountable, and with Kellyann at my side, I loved trying new things. Instead of dreading doing the elliptical alone, we became hooked on Spinning with each other.

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Snack Right

Skim late-night calories. "Aim to go two nights without dessert or an after-dinner snack," says Stephanie Middleberg, RD, a sports nutritionist and the founder of Middleberg Nutrition in New York City. "If you need something to eat, keep it to less than 150 calories."

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Try Something New

Expand your exercise horizons. "To break through plateaus, try new classes and activities," says Tristan. "It was everyone's first day at some point, so take a spot in the back row and follow along."

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, May 2012.

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