After indulging during the holiday season, community members tribalwide have resolved to lose weight and shape up for the new year. Allied Health helps with an array of programs to suit multiple needs.
Hollywood trainer Jay Garland, who gained 23 pounds during the holidays, asked individuals to help motivate him, and themselves, to get fit again with a 30-day Get It Back Challenge. Fifty-five people accepted the task and signed up for the program.
Fitness specialists conducted complete evaluations of participants’ body composition, upper and lower body strength, endurance, flexibility and aerobic fitness. After 30 days, another evaluation was done to track progress. The challenge was to outscore Garland’s results and gauge improvement.
“Everyone gains weight during the holidays,” said Garland, Hollywood Health Department assistant site supervisor. “It happens to the best of us. I want to show people that if you can change something in 30 days, imagine what you can do in a lifetime.”
Fitness operations manager Jeffrey Dolgan believes fitness isn’t just for the fit. With a background working with at-risk populations, he has seen people regain fitness and good health through exercise.
“Exercise is medicine,” he said. “It’s a proven fact that strength and aerobic fitness reduces disease.”
In 2008, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, developed a list of physical activity guidelines based on studies proving physical activity lowers the risk of early death, heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, adverse blood lipid profile, metabolic syndrome, and colon and breast cancers.
Exercise also prevents weight gain, promotes weight loss when combined with proper diet, improves cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, reduces depression and improves cognitive function, according to the ODPHP.
It only takes two hours and 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic activity per week plus muscle strengthening activities, on all major muscle groups, twice a week to improve health, according to the ODPHP.
“Exercise is the best medication for this population,” Dolgan said. “Pre-diabetic people should get in here as soon as possible; it’s a reversible disease. Nutrition is a big part of it, too.”
In Brighton, the Seminole Pathways VII 21 Day Weight Loss Challenge is focused on nutrition. Participants received an evaluation by Health Department staff and three nutritious meals a day plus snacks. Breakfast and lunch are served at the senior center; dinner is picked up to eat at home.
“The program takes a little bit of dedication and sacrifice,” said Lance Vaz, health nutritionist. “It’s not an extreme diet, but we don’t permit sugary beverages, sweets or junk food. Last year, everyone lost weight.”
Portion sizes are based on caloric needs determined by age, gender and activity level to ensure weight loss. For weekends, participants are given snacks, recipes and local restaurant menu suggestions.
“I did it last year and lost 30 pounds,” said Norman “Skeeter” Bowers, who wants to lose another 10 pounds. “The hard part is trying to maintain the eating and workout routine; sometimes life gets in the way. I’m trying to find that balance.”
Chairman James E. Billie came up with the original idea for the challenge. After attending a weight loss retreat, he wanted to offer the same type of program to the community. The program is in its seventh year and has evolved to include educational components, such as cooking classes, weekly diet summaries and tips on how to plan for the weekend.
Bowers believes when Tribal members are healthier, the Tribe’s health care costs will come down.
“From the Chairman’s point of view, the costs are related to obesity and diabetes,” Bowers said. “He’s a big supporter of the program.”
“People have a lot of questions and are really interested in learning,” Vaz said. “Even seniors who don’t participate ask questions.”
The low-sodium diet is based on fresh, minimally processed foods. There is no fitness component, but Vaz and others on the staff encourage exercise and make sure everyone has the fitness class calendar.
“It exposes us to new foods that I didn’t grow up with, like quinoa,” Michele Thomas said. “And it’s fun. I like the camaraderie of the community.”
When the 21-day program concludes Feb. 3, members will receive a cookbook with all the recipes for the meals they ate and more.
Follow-up sessions throughout the year are part of the Pathways Challenge to ensure participants stay on track. Last year, after about seven months, Vaz said a majority of participants had kept off the weight and felt better.
“Their behavior changed for the better and they were eating smaller portion sizes,” he said. “Some also increased their amount of exercise.”
The Pathways program will continue throughout the spring.
The next challenge is the H2Only Challenge, which will lead to the Pathways Pedometer Challenge.
For more information contact Vaz at the Brighton Health Department.
A healthy diet plus fitness equals good health, and Dolgan wants to see community members use the fitness facilities.
“We can get you where you need to be,” he said. “We want folks who aren’t confident enough to come here. Everyone can lose and regain their fitness. I want to do this tribalwide.”