July 1, 2008
DeRuyter competitors go pound for pound
Contest to lose greatest percentage of weight teaches participants value of diet, exercise
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Family nurse practitioner Kathleen Fitzgerald, left, gets Michelle Wood of DeRuyter acquainted with a new treadclimber in the DeRuyter office. Wood is participating in the Family Health Network of Central New York’s “Take The Plunge” weight loss challenge.
DeRUYTER — Michelle Wood has struggled with her weight since her teens, when she moved in with her grandparents.
“What grandma doesn’t have that cookie cupboard?” asked Wood, 39. “What felt good to you then shows up on your body now.”
But over the course of the last 11 weeks, through healthy eating and exercise, Wood has lost about 20 pounds.
She and 20 other Cortland area residents are losing weight through the “Take the Plunge Weight Loss Challenge” sponsored by the Family Health Network of Central New York.
The contest to lose the greatest percentage of weight will come to an end with the announcement of a winner July 14.
The competition was conceived by Kathleen Fitzgerald, a certified family nurse practitioner at Family Health Network’s DeRuyter Health Center.
Fitzgerald realized something new had to be done for her patients and others who were overweight or obese.
It is one thing to tell them they should lose weight, but another to provide them with a supportive framework in which they can do so, she said.
“It’s changing talk over to action,” Fitzgerald said.
A weight-losing contest similar to NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” in concept seemed like the perfect idea, she said.
Tricia Lyman, diabetes care manager for Family Health Network’s DeRuyter and Moravia health centers, agreed, and the two began looking for grant funding for the project last fall.
The health center received an approximately $200,000 grant from the New York State Health Foundation, which covers administrative expenses such as salaries. The grant covers a two-year period.
They women also gathered $4,000 between pharmaceutical companies LifeScan and Sanofi Aventis, the Cortland Community Foundation, the Ralph R. Wilkins Foundation, Economy Paving and Seven Valleys Health Coalition.
That money went toward prizes, including three iPods and an above-ground 24-foot pool for the first-place winner.
Each contestant received a backpack, a water bottle, a pedometer, a T-shirt, shorts, an exercise band and a portion-control plate.
“You can tell people, but if you don’t have something to offer them it’s hard,” Fitzgerald said of the weight loss program.
Contestants received details about the nearest gyms and information showing how many calories different chores burn. Additionally, they gained more knowledge from guest speakers who attended the group’s once-a-month meetings at the Cortland Regional Medical Center.
About 50 slots were open for the contest and 43 people initially signed up. Of those, 22 have dropped out for various reasons.
The participants, who mainly learned about the contest through fliers in businesses and word-of-mouth communication, all had to write a letter explaining why they wanted to lose weight.
Some of the letters were very emotional, Fitzgerald and Lyman said, with people explaining how being overweight has significantly affected their quality of life.
Some have developed type II diabetes, and many are at risk for hypertension and heart trouble.
Lyman and Fitzgerald said they hope they can make the weight loss challenge an annual event.
Since the contest started 11 weeks ago, contestants have been weighed once a week at the participating Family Health Network health center closest to them.
Five participants were weighed in DeRuyter, 13 in Cortland, two in Moravia and one in Marathon. So far the 21 participants have lost a total of 265 pounds, Lyman said. Of those, 10 have lost more than 15 pounds, including Wood.
Wood said her secret to losing weight is walking a mile every morning, using her exercise band for 15 to 30 minutes afterward, and limiting her daily food intake to 1,500 calories, 179 grams of carbohydrates, 74 grams of protein and 54 grams of fat.
She plans healthy meals ahead of time, and jots down everything she eats in a journal.
“Every bit, lick and taste,” Wood said.
Her husband, Lloyd, is supportive, she said.
Fitzgerald says different approaches to weight-loss work for different people. Instead of keeping a journal, others make an effort to take 30 minutes to eat their meals.
“People tend to overeat before they realize they’ve had too much food,” Fitzgerald said.
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