BRIGHTON — The Seminole Pathways V 30-day challenge ended in success Oct. 30, when 37 participants and the Health Department gathered at the Elder Services building in Brighton to celebrate their collective loss of a whopping 288.4 pounds.
“This program was statistically the most successful of any weight loss program we have ever been involved with,” said Suzanne Davis, Allied Health program manager.
Pathways has been implemented throughout the Tribal communities for five years, but this year, the program took a more structured direction.
Starting Oct. 1, participants met every day at the Elder Services building to weigh in and eat calorie-portioned, vegetable-based meals three times a day. A typical meal included spinach, asparagus, salmon and a small potato for dinner. They were also provided healthy snacks throughout the day.
“I always set goals with my weight, but I never could do it,” said participant Stacy Jones. “This is the first time I set a goal and met it. I wanted to lose 10 pounds; that was my goal and I barely made it.”
In the past, participants handled meals on their own. But meals organized by Health Department staff this time around helped participants stay in control of portion sizes and calories.
Chairman James E. Billie had the idea of implementing structured diet plans using the resources of the Tribe, such as nutritionist Lance Vaz, cooking staff and facilities, for a more affordable weight loss program for Tribal members. He said he participated in a similar program years ago in North Carolina called Structure House, but it was expensive.
“It was a conglomeration of things that inspired the idea,” Chairman Billie said. “Instead of sending people up there to that costly situation, we could do it here and save money. Hopefully we can continue the program with all the reservations, and instead of going far off, we can do it right here.”
During the ceremony, each participant was recognized for completing the program. Some said the experience helped them make healthier choices, while others recognized the staff who made the program possible.
“For me, I put exercise and running off in 2012 when I got injured. From that point until about 30 days ago, I kept trying and trying, but by having this 30-day program, I got back into it,” Norman Bowers said.
“This is one of the most positive things I’ve seen that has come through our community,” added Willie Johns.
Vaz organized the program with the support of the Elder Services staff, professional chef Asif Rasheed and the Health Department.
Davis said she hopes participants gained “a better working knowledge about making healthier choices and the understanding that losing weight does not mean starving yourself.”