Cindy McEwan, Carson City fitness trainer, knew she was starting to shape architect Darrin Berger’s dietary habits for the better when he called her from Costco one day, amazed by the calorie count of one of the wholesaler’s pizzas.
“He said, ‘Do you know how many calories are in that pizza? I’m not eating that!’ ” McEwan said. “It was just him becoming more aware. And you can have more pizza. You just have to make a choice.”
Berger’s learned to count nearly all the calories in anything he consumes now, and the effort has paid off. He turns down the occasional beer he used to enjoy. Instead of the ice cream and cookies he’d indulge in, now he partakes in a salad. Rather than drinking a double martini, he’ll grab a tuna fish sandwich instead.
Berger, 53, has lost 70 pounds of fat, gained 20 pounds in muscle and his waistline has shrunk by 8 and a half inches, a feat he originally thought he would have difficulty overcoming and a physical change that clearly shows for itself thanks to his determination and his willingness to go to McEwan as a coach.
“I’ve talked about going from a size 40 to 32, and now that I’ve hit 50, I weigh now what I weighed as a senior in high school,” Berger said. “I think that’s pretty good for a 50-year-old.”
Berger, a fourth-generation Carson City native, graduated from Carson High School. He earned his bachelor’s from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and went to get his master’s in architecture at the University of Utah and came back to Carson, where he’s been a principal architect at Berger Hannafin Architecture, working on project design and development for various community projects, local schools, businesses and institutions. He’s loved the community as a whole, he said, and has been passionate in his work, but realized he needed to make a change in his personal life.
He felt physically unwell in December 2017, had high cholesterol and would experience frequent bouts of lightheadedness.
“I was fat in places I didn’t know you could get fat,” he said. “I had tried in the past to get in shape, lose weight, do the right thing and it wasn’t working.”
Completing the simplest of tasks left him far too winded, he said.
“I was heavy breathing cutting my toenails,” he recalled.
Trying to shed the pounds on his own for a few years was unfruitful, so he turned to someone at his church, First Presbyterian in Carson City, whom he’d heard there was a personal trainer and asked what he needed to do to become healthy again. They connected, and they began meeting at McEwan’s personal studio, where she has multiple machines and weights and helps clients like Berger to keep track from day one of their weight loss journey on paper.
For Berger, it’s been eye-opening to discover where choosing a better diet has come into play into building his leaner self.
“A 31 Flavors milkshake is like 1,600 calories,” he said.
“What’s, for me and still is, the most surprising thing through all of this, because it’s common sense … is that the dieting part is enlightening … nutrition is huge,” he said.
McEwan calls Berger a “soldier” for his commitment to “doing the right thing” and taking up healthy behaviors, including exercise.
“When he called me, he was nervous because he wasn’t feeling good,” McEwan said. “He was afraid he was going to have a heart attack or pass out, so with that in mind, I said, truly, we have to start out extremely slow, and we did. He started out at 235 pounds. Now he’s at 185.”
She started him on sit-ups, which he struggled with at the beginning and often cheated on just to complete a few at a time, turning side to side to touch an elbow to the opposite knee.
“Now, I can just knock them out; I can do these,” he said.
“The transformation has been just amazing,” McEwan added.
McEwan has been a trainer in Oregon, California and Nevada for 30 years and competed in natural fitness and bodybuilding for 10 years, all of which came after she had her two daughters, now 28 and 25, one of whom also is a trainer now.
McEwan opened Silver State Fitness in Carson City in 1997 but now runs her own business, Body Fit! by Cindy.
She said she wanted to compete and demonstrate bodybuilding, done naturally, can be a healthy outlet for women.
“(I wanted) to show that muscle is beautiful and strong and can still be feminine,” she said. “I did tests to see if natural really works, and it does – just clean food and proper exercise and proper sleep.”
Berger said just recognizing he needed the help and needed to make smarter choices plays a big part in his success.
“I prayed about it a lot,” he said. “I think God has a lot to do with it. And I still think that’s a big part of it: I don’t want to say it’s not been easy, but it hasn’t been really hard. … That’s why a coach is good. There are some days I just don’t want to be there. Maybe it’s psychology, but I just do it. … I just do what she tells me.”