How restaurateur Mark Stark lost 55 lbs.
By HOWARD SENZELL
TOWNS SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
In March, Sonoma County restaurateur Mark Stark was a coronary waiting to happen.
He was obese from eating the wrong foods and not exercising. His family and doctor were at the point of staging an intervention. Five months later, the owner of four restaurants has shed 55 pounds and is in the best shape of his life.
The secret to his success? New eating habits and an executive boxing program taught by Phil Krohn at Montecito Heights Health Club.
“I weighed 256 when I started these boxing workouts, and this week I weighed in at 201,” said Stark, who is 52 and 6 feet tall. “What’s better than losing the weight is that I have 10 times the energy as when I was carrying the excess weight.”
Stark’s business is hardly conducive to staying thin. He and his wife, Terri, own Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar in Healdsburg, and Monti’s Rotisserie & Bar, Stark’s Steakhouse and Willi’s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa.
“I was in one of the restaurants every night, eating late and then going to bed less than three hours later,” Stark explained. “The food didn’t have time to digest in my stomach. It just sat there and turned to fat.”
He now boxes three times a week, eats earlier in the evening and cut carbohydrates such as bread and potatoes from his diet, something he says made a big difference.
Krohn, who also is Montecito’s tennis pro, conducts his boxing workouts on the courts. Students start by learning a series of punching combinations wearing 14-ounce gloves. Krohn works one-on-one with them, calling for combinations and deflecting the blows with target mitts.
“For instance, the student is moving around like you would in a boxing match, and I’ll call out Trione,” he said, a combination he named for club member Victor Trione. “That means a rapid-fire combination of jabs and left hooks. I keep changing things up, and I think that’s what keeps my students interested.”
Stark said the varied routines are what got him hooked.
“I just couldn’t get motivated doing an exercise program on machines,” he said. “Terri was working with the club’s fitness director, Cheri Shoults, and mentioned that she was worried about my health.
“Cheri told her about what Phil was doing, and that sounded interesting to me. I have a little redneck in me and like to hear that pop of my glove hitting a target.”
Krohn remembers the first day he worked with Stark. “He couldn’t run 25 yards without having to stop. He put the gloves on, and I told him to move around and throw punches at me. He didn’t make it 30 seconds before he had to stop.”
After that first brief session, Krohn set the ground rules. If Stark challenged himself to lose the weight and get in shape, he would design a program to help accomplish the goal.
Over the years, Krohn has been summoned by entertainers like Cher, Bette Midler and Mariel Hemingway who want him to whip them into shape. At Montecito, he also works with nonmembers, charging them $65 a session.
“The key is to come up with workouts they enjoy,” he said. “Changing things up keeps them motivated.”
As Stark’s pounds melted and he got into better shape, his body began to crave more work. He now has one-hour sessions with Krohn three days a week, runs 12 miles a week and has a punching bag in his garage.
In January, Stark also plans to start teaching a healthy eating class called Caveman Cooking at one of his restaurants, and at Stark’s Steakhouse, he is constructing a new seafood and raw bar.
“It’s not a diet,” he said. “It’s just about making healthy eating choices. You start cutting back a little at a time and after a while, your body loses that craving.
“I am around food all the time,” he said. “If I can make healthy food choices, everyone can.”
A typical meal now means drinking two glasses of water and then eating fish, salad and fruit.
There is one downside to getting in shape and losing weight, Stark said.
“I had to buy all new clothes. The clothes I was wearing five months ago look ridiculous on me now.”