FirstHealth Challenges Area Residents to Get Fit
Fitness experts and dietitians have been preaching it for years: Fad diets are just quick fixes. The key to a slimmer, healthier body is through a balanced diet and regular exercise.
FirstHealth Center for Health and Fitness has recently put its money where its mouth is, issuing a "New Year, New You Weight-Loss Challenge" to Sandhills applicants from all walks of life.
FirstHealth received an overwhelming response of 88 applicants willing to take the challenge and change their lives. After careful personal interviews, five people were chosen to participate in the free, three-month program. They had to prove they were ready to commit to a lifestyle change that would bring about better overall health, not just quick weight loss.
"Of the people who entered, we looked at those who were really ready to change," explains Kari Garbark, program manager. "Sometimes it's hard to judge that by words alone, but they've identified why they needed change. They've identified what didn't work before and why this program will work for them. At a center like ours, we're really able to help different people at different ages and situations."
FirstHealth tailored a medically-based fitness program and diet for each person after a health assessment.
"Everything was measured," says Garbark. "Along with blood pressure, we measured their resting heart rates, and we can actually see that change as people become fit."
Waist-to-hip ratio was also measured, because "where you carry your weight can put you in a higher health risk for heart disease," says Garbark, referring to those people who put on weight around their mid-sections.
Participants' body fat percentage was also measured. Garbark explains that the ratio compares lean mass -- which includes bones, organs and muscles -- to fat mass.
Bicep strength was measured because, according to industry standards, research shows that can accurately determine whether the -person falls into a fit, fair or needs work rating.
Back flexibility was measured to determine participants' workout limits.
"Because people sit so much, when you're inflexible in the lower back, glutes and hamstrings, you're more prone to back injury," explains Garbark. "We want to make sure they have good muscle flex and balance. Some folks were able to do more of the test than others."
Total cholesterol and HDL (the good cholesterol) levels were measured along with participants' glucose levels, weight and circumferences.
"The neat thing will be not just the changes in the scale but the changes in how their shapes change," says Garbark.
Meet the Participants
Participants met as a group for the first time on Jan. 26. At the first session, fitness center Director John Coliri said, "It's one thing to fill out the paperwork, but it's another thing to go through the program. We've assembled a great opportunity for you with dietitians and exercise physiologists who are the best in the country. We can show the rest of Moore County what we're capable of, and in turn we'll get you to the point where you want to show what you can do, too."
The participants are:
Chris Thomas, age: 26; initial weight: 267.8; Thomas' blood pressure is normal, but his cholesterol level is borderline high.
Thomas would like to weigh 220.
Thomas, who works for Star 102.5, was approached by Garbark.
"I was hesitant at first to take the program and fail, but it was such a great opportunity I didn't want to pass it up," he says. "I met with a trainer yesterday and without a doubt it was the most intense workout I've ever had in my life. I'm 26 and not in the shape I should be. I get winded going up a flight of stairs."
Bill "Doc" Williford, age: 60; initial weight: 254. He is currently on medications for high blood pressure and cholesterol level. Williford would like to lose two or three pounds per week until he reaches 175 pounds.
Williford is concerned about his health.
"I'm a walking time bomb with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and was recently diagnosed with Type II diabetes, which is all related to lack of exercise and my lifestyle," he wrote on his application.
Williford used to run marathons when he weighed just 162 pounds.
"My resting heart rate then was 37," he says. "Now it's 66. I've literally been in eight months of pregnancy for 15 years," he says jokingly. "It'll be fun to sleep on my stomach again, or tie my shoes without losing my breath. I'm so thankful to get into the program. I really want to live. I have worked my entire life to retire in Pinehurst, and if I continued to live the life I was leading, I would drop dead."
Lisa Lally, age 44; initial weight: 229; Lally's blood pressure is normal, but her cholesterol is high. Lally would like to lose 10 pounds a month and ultimately 60 pounds.
Lally, an RN, has struggled with her weight throughout her life.
"I think about my weight all the time and I'm tired," she wrote on her application.
While she would enjoy shopping for clothes again, her real motivation is her 8-year-old daughter and her cardiac patients.
"I could be more active with her," she wrote, "and I feel like it would make me a better representative as a cardiac nurse.
"I need help!" she wrote. "I feel I can't do it alone. I want a fresh start with my appearance, and I'm willing to work harder than ever. I would like to be a good role model for my daughter and for the patients I serve."
Lally says her weight got out of control at nursing school, and "with the stress of raising a child at the same time, I ate my way through nursing school."
Jodi Carlson, age: 35; initial weight: 225. Her blood pressure and cholesterol are both normal, but she would like to lose 30 pounds during the program, and over time, 70 pounds.
Carlson, a nursing student and mother of three, views this challenge as a gift to herself.
"For me, nursing school was a huge eye opener. It really forced me to take a look at my own lifestyle. Part of being a nurse is teaching, and how can I if I'm not doing for myself what I'm telling patients to do in their own lives.
Carlson says she'd made a good start at losing weight in the past, but would always give up.
"I tend to do better when people are there helping me, telling me what to do," she says.
James Skelton, age: 23; initial weight: 356; Skelton's blood pressure and cholesterol are both normal, but he would like to weigh 250 pounds.
A student and security guard, Skelton's weight was an issue since the fifth grade. Although he was athletic in high school and college, an injury sidelined him. While his exertion level decreased dramatically as a result, his caloric intake did not. He cannot now complete the physical component of the Basic Law Enforcement Training at Sandhills Community College. He'd also like to join the Army Reserve or National Guard.
"I've tried for many years to lose weight but realize I need professional guidance to educate me in lifelong ways to keep fit and make good nutritional choices. I am engaged and would love to be a new me for my wedding in the fall," he says.
Coliri says the medical need to lose weight is an abstract idea, but feeling and looking better will give participants an immediate feeling of success and reward.
"We have a lot of hard work ahead, but we'll give you the tools to make the lifestyle change easier," he says. He adds that the changes they will have to make, the rethinking or rerouting of how they view food and exercise, will become a habit.
"But you have to learn the basics first," he says.
Mary Griffin may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 693-2482.
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