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Seminoles shrink 150 pounds during weight-loss challenge

Pathways02BRIGHTON — Thirty Tribal members celebrated a collective weight loss of 150 pounds during a community luncheon held Feb. 3 at the Brighton Senior Center.

Participants of the Seminole Pathways VII 21 Day Weight Loss Challenge planned to continue their newfound healthy eating habits right after the luncheon, which included treats they hadn’t eaten in three weeks: steak, potatoes and strawberry shortcake.

Chairman James E. Billie, who had the idea for Pathways after he lost weight at a health retreat, congratulated the dieters for their success.

“Years ago I went to a fat farm and lost 22 pounds,” he said. “I thought we could bring something like that here. We need to maintain our weight; one of our problems is obesity.”

The program provided participants with three nutritious meals a day plus snacks that were served at the senior center or were available to take home. Portion sizes were based on caloric need determined by age, gender and activity level. Nutritionist Lance Vaz said each participant lost weight during the program, with an average weight loss of 5.6 pounds.

“I learned to eat the right food,” said Onnie Osceola, who was recognized for losing nine pounds, more than any other senior. “Even my blood pressure and blood sugar went down. I feel better; it’s easier to get up, walk around and do things.”

Osceola and Duane Jones, who lost 19.2 pounds, were rewarded with new food processors for losing the most weight.

“It was hard in the beginning, but it got easier,” Jones said. “I learned some good eating habits and will try to stick with it.”

Alice Sweat said she joined the program to learn to eat healthier.

“At first I didn’t care for it, but once I realized it was for my betterment, I started to like it. Now when I go out to eat, I’ll make wiser choices,” she said.

To help continue their weight-loss journey, participants received cookbooks containing recipes for the meals served during the program.

The low-sodium diet was based on fresh, minimally processed foods, and although the program had no fitness component, Health Department staff promoted exercise.

“I would like to take this farther,” said Connie Whidden, Health Department director. “We need to encourage family members to come out and walk with us. I started walking with my sister and didn’t realize I walked so slowly. But she slowed down and stayed with me, she didn’t leave me behind. If she wouldn’t have done that, I wouldn’t have kept walking. Let’s stay with those that are slower and not leave them behind.”

The next Pathways program is the pedometer challenge, which is underway and runs through March 31. The goal is for seniors to reach 24,000 steps per week and adults to record 40,000 steps. The Health Department leads organized walks every Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the Fred Smith Rodeo Arena horseshoe, about a 1-mile loop. Pedometers are checked to tally steps walked during the previous week.

“The benefits of walking include a better mental state because endorphins are released,” Vaz said. “It is also good for bone density, heart health, blood sugar levels and weight loss.”


Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at