Personal trainer Steven Kates stood outside his Montana Avenue fitness studio on Jan. 24 in between appointments to field some text messages. Two clients sent pictures of their take-out meals, seeking his opinion on the portions they chose.
"To get portioning, I ask them to put the food in some form of reference," he said. "I can see exactly the sizing on the plate."
Kates, along with business partner Myles Berkowitz, are in the midst of a major public outreach effort to promote the prototype for their new portion-control diet system, Lifesize. Both men reside in Brentwood.
The basic kit contains plastic measuring vessels marked for meats, dairy, baked goods, carbs and other categories. The patented product first focuses simply on judging how much food you consume with the emphasis to lose weight, and then after that, it's about keeping the weight off.
The inventors say people shouldn't change what they eat - but how much - when seriously approaching dieting.
Trainer meets filmmaker
Although excelling in Los Angeles' fitness world for 30 years, including training actress Bo Derek for the film 10, Kates has always been more interested in food and peoples' relationship to it, studying the eating habits of his consistently thin clients. He also has a biology degree from UCLA, and over time he developed the Lifesize portion concept around his expertise in exercise and nutrition.
"I'm the food guy," Kates said. "Clients spin it to core and exercise. I spin it back to food."
At a client's party in Brentwood several years ago, Kates was introduced to Berkowitz, a neighbor, who described his angst in failed weight loss attempts. Kates, naturally, told Berkowitz to not cut out his favorite foods, but to limit how much. Berkowitz was not convinced.
"I had always been on a low-fat or low calorie diet," said Berkowitz, a graduate of Wharton School in Pennsylvania and filmmaker. "Not formally, [I] just ate all low fat and tried to skip meals to hold down calories."
The day after the party, Berkowitz said he and his wife made clay bowls to create their own portions, and started eating that way. Ultimately, Berkowitz lost 45 pounds and his wife shed 21 pounds. Both say they have kept that weight off for five years using Lifesize.
"My wife was losing weight along with me," Berkowitz said. "So we knew something was up. Steven introduced me to a few of his clients who had lost weight just doing portion control and with his portions."
The intrigue of Kates' system made Berkowitz seek out some friends to try it.
"They lost weight," he said. "One friend of mine actually didn't need to lose weight but had always eaten low fat and low calorie all her life to maintain her weight. Really bland, tasteless stuff. She started to eat whatever she wanted in these portions and was thrilled. She didn’t gain any weight and she was eating like a normal person for the first time in 20 years."
Making the investment
In 2011 the two decided to invest in Lifesize, which they say is unlike extreme diets like Atkins or The Zone, advocating removing "fattening" and "unhealthy" foods while boosting metabolic rates or lowering the glycemic index. Kates and Berkowitz say those diets focus on what people eat and that's why they don't work.
"When I ate a piece of cake for dessert, I thought I would explode in weight the next day," Berkowitz said. "Same with pizza. It took me a while to calmly believe the math – 3500 calories for 1 pound."
He said all those years of avoiding high calorie or high fat foods really made him scared to actually start to eat them and enjoy myself on a daily basis, even his favorite food, ribs.
One thing about the Lifesize system, and its formula to calculate how many portions to eat in a day in a meal, is that all fruits, vegetables and most low-fat dairy are considered "free foods," meaning you can eat as much of them as you want.
Once someone gets into the portions routine and starts seeing results, Kates said that's when exercise seriously gets included into the routine, to keep it off.
Kates and Berkowitz most recently got a study completed of Lifesize at Colorado State University, concluding that the unique portions do create weightloss. Similar to Weight Watchers, participants lost up to 15 pounds a day in three months and using Lifesize reduced caloric intake by 500 calories a day. Prior to taking the test, participants reported a 1,800 daily caloric intake, and after, most said they will stick to Lifesize.
The two have already begun marketing and selling kits across the country, and you can find Kates at his personal fitness training studio, Hyperspace, at 1615 Montana Ave. in Santa Monica working with clients and promoting food portions.
Although now, he has the proof of Lifesize to make the claims it does lead to weight loss.
For more information on Lifesize, its formula and a video introduction with Berkowitz and Kates, visit the website here.