‘Life changing’: Nevada County couple commits to healthier living, wins national contest | TheUnion.com

‘Life changing’: Nevada County couple commits to healthier living, wins national contest

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Special to The Union

Like many, Craig and Denise Johnson spent much of their life overweight. Like many, they promised they would begin a plan “on Monday,” repeatedly, for decades.

Like many, they had tried several weight loss programs, with varying degrees of success.

But, unlike many, the Johnsons found a plan that worked for them, losing a combined 275 pounds over 12 months.

In September, Craig, husband and father of two grown daughters, was named a “Optifast 2019 New You Winner,” honoring his transformation from 420 to 235 pounds.

“We had never done anything like this together. It was a really nice moment to be in an environment where we were doing the same thing.”— Denise Johnson

It was a fear of developing diabetes and his wife’s concerned prodding that finally convinced him to attend a workshop to discuss his health options, Craig said.

“My doctor referred me to a class and my wife kept hounding me, so we went and found there were three ways to lose the weight – with surgery, with medicine or with this program called, Optifast, which is a meal replacement plan,” he said.

Denise went with her husband and was there primarily for support, but said she also knew she had some weight to lose.

“I was thinking Craig really needs this, not realizing I could do it with him,” Denise said. “We had never done anything like this together. It was a really nice moment to be in an environment where we were doing the same thing.”


“With my wife there to support me,” Craig said, “we decided to try the Optifast program, which is soups, shakes and bars.”

In addition to the meals, they attended weekly group classes to learn how to eat well and to support one another. The intensive medical monitoring included regular bloodwork and EKGs.

“Having a partner was huge,” Craig said. “It was our date night every Wednesday night for a year.”

The couple took part in the program through the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Sutter Roseville Medical Center.

“We went to our hour-long class and picked up our product and listened to people’s successes and complaints and jumped on the scale if we wanted,” Craig said.

Both Craig and Denise say the accountability of the program and evaluation even before starting, helped them succeed. Craig went on a guy’s trip after just one week on the program.

“I had nothing but good support from everybody,” he said. “I was a big guy. Everybody said, ‘Good for you Craig. Keep it up.’ They kept partying and I just stood back, but it was OK.”

The couple went on vacation with friends and stayed committed there as well.

“I just said we are doing this thing and I don’t want people to make a big deal about it and they didn’t,” he said. “It was our choice. ”

Craig added that he never cheated.


And the couple believes they now have the tool kit to keep the weight off. The yearlong classes also helped the couple reintroduce healthy food. Several months before the program ended, they weaned off the replacement products. Craig said now they are simply living their life, but now know how to eat, even during the holidays.

“Instead of a cup of stuffing, I will have half a cup,” he said. “Instead of six slices of turkey, I’ll have two, and I will be satisfied, because I will be full. I know when to stop eating now. My body has been recalibrated.”

After the program ended, Denise said she learned about a contest Optifast was holding and persuaded Craig to enter it. They each made a short video about the success they enjoyed by following the program.

“And I’ll be darned if we didn’t win,” Craig said.

He was one of three winners chosen from hundreds of applicants and Denise was included on an advisory panel. The couple was flown to New York and treated to a weekend that included a spa day, a photo shoot in Times Square and Craig shot a video as an Optifast spokesperson. There was also a monetary prize.

Denise said, they lost a lot of weight and got their life back.

“I feel free of the weight that had a hold on me,” she said. “I conquer something every day that makes me feel like it was all worth it. I understand moderation now. I am very comfortable making another good choice. Now I understand the relationship of when you eat something and how it makes you feel, and I am not willing to feel bad anymore.”

“It is life changing,” Craig said. “I have more energy in the evening. It lengthened by life. My doctor’s happy. I’m happy, my wife is happy. Everybody is happy for me. “

The couple will make one more trip to the group in Roseville, this time speaking to a new class about all the couple gained, from all they lost.

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@gmail.com.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User