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The final straw for Jennifer Gruber came five years ago, at 227 pounds and after a health crisis, when she saw a doctor’s note in her medical records that described her as a “pleasant, obese female.”

That didn’t sit well with Gruber. She joined the Buffalo Athletic Club and began working out with a personal trainer, then amped up her routine again about two years ago, when she started training with Dwayne Brinson.

“When I started, I was walking 10 minutes on the treadmill and I said to him, ‘Now let me off,’ ” said Gruber, 45, a Buffalo General Medical Center pharmacist who lives in Pendleton.

Today, she said, she can alternate between sprints and walking during training sessions that can last more than two hours, and include weight training. She recently started running, as well.

Quite a feat for a woman with Type 1 diabetes who learned at age 18 that she also has Addison’s disease, a condition the prevents her adrenal glands from producing cortisol and saps her body of needed salt.

“I don’t necessarily want to be a bodybuilder, but I wanted that look,” Gruber said. “I wanted to build muscle. I’ve learned the key was a combination of my eating habits, the number of times I ate … and the workouts.”

Gruber has lost 63 pounds in the last five years – three-quarters of it since she started working out with Brinson. She wears a size 6 dress, compared to a size 14 a few years back.

Gone are the days when a trainer pressed 5-pound weights into her hands. Brinson pushes her to use 20- to 25-pound weights for bicep and tricep curls: four sets, 15 reps. He helps her when she can’t quite do it, she said, “and when he see it’s getting easy for me, that’s when he ups the weight.”

He accepts no excuses for a lack of effort and looks to make Gruber accountable. “Her self-esteem has shot through the roof,” said Brinson, who’s also coached Gruber nutritionally.

“If I just ate crap everyday,” she said, “I wouldn’t look like this. I have learned from my training with Dwayne that I must always eat to ‘rev’ my metabolism,” Gruber said. “Keeping your metabolism running burns calories. The other thing that burns calories is muscle. That is why I am determined to build muscle from my workouts. Muscle burns fat. The more muscle I burn, the more fat I lose.”

You don’t get a body like Brinson, and Gruber, without a willingness to make change – and work for it.

“Even now,” said Gruber, “I’m asked what I’m doing differently.”

– Scott Scanlon