Starting Point - On to the next point

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Three weeks are over and 16 remain for a group of about 10 area residents who hope to improve their health and lifestyles through the medically supervised weight loss program Starting Point.

Participants have shed pounds, and insulin medications have been reduced for the diabetic patients during the first few weeks of the program. The average weight loss for each participant is about 12 pounds.

Raina Childers, a dietitian at Southeast Missouri Hospital's HealthPoint Plaza who serves as the "coach" for the Starting Point participants, said it's been a "challenging few weeks."

"The biggest change participants have gone through include the new meal plan, drinking more water and writing down everything they consume," she said.

The first phase of the program lasts 20 weeks, and participants are required to supplement grocery store foods with at least five low-calorie meal replacements a day. Five meal replacements provide 800 calories, 75 grams of protein and 125 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals.

Childers said participants in the program have been taught about calorie accountability and how many calories they burn during physical activity.

"One thing we want people to see is there are two sides to the energy balance equation," she said. "You can't hide your head in the sand about what you do daily to support your weight. Most people find out that it is easy to take in many calories and really hard to burn them off."

Participants have also been asked to find a support system to help with their commitment to the 20-week program.

"The first three weeks are the hardest, but this program doesn't turn easy," Childers said. "In the next few weeks, people often start to feel better and get more energy."

Childers will emphasize how important daily physical activity is for maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the next few weeks of Starting Point.

"These are some of the toughest weeks ahead," she said. "One of the great things about this program is how it encourages folks to be honest with themselves about what have been barriers to success in the past."

Childers said participants will learn how the internal and external environment can play a role in affecting our health. "We'll discuss how we talk to ourselves and about the places we go like restaurants, break rooms and movie theaters, all come into play when we try to change our lives," she said.

The average weight loss during the remainder of the program is about 2 to 6 pounds per week, but it can slow down as people near their maintenance weight goals, Childers said.

HealthPoint Plaza will offer an informational meeting at 7 p.m. April 25 about the Starting Point program that begins in May.

Diane Runnels, 59, of Jackson

Jenn's Health Story Volunteer Diane Runnels.

After thyroid surgery, the onset of middle age and enduring stressful situations like the F3 tornado that ripped through Jackson and destroyed her home in 2003, Runnels has put on weight over the years.

Weight loss to date: 12 pounds

What's been the most difficult part of the program?

Taking the time for intentional exercise and attending the weekly meetings. I am a stress eater, so learning to deal with stressful situations without eating my "comfort foods" has been hard. Since the tornado, springtime and its accompanying storms continues to be a stressful time for me.

What's been the easiest part about the program?

Fixing the meal replacement packets and watching the weight come off.

Now that you've lost weight, what are you noticing about yourself?

My pants are starting to bag as well as my shirts. I've already gone "shopping" in storage boxes of my clothes.

5.) What do you want to accomplish in the next few weeks?

I absolutely have to take time to get in more intentional activity and exercise. This will be accomplished in part by the fact that it is now yard work time. With almost two acres of land, I've got a lot of mowing and weed eating that has to be done.

6.) How do you feel?

I feel fine. I haven't had a significant loss of energy. The increased intake of water resulted in more trips to the bathroom, but nothing that was not manageable. The whole thing I have to keep telling myself is that the program will get the weight off but it is up to me to keep it off.

George Landre, 65, of Cape Girardeau

Jenn's Health Story Volunteer George Landre

After a visit with his physician, Landre was told he's close to becoming diabetic but doesn't want to let his health get to that point.

Weight loss to date: 11 pounds

What's been the most difficult part of the program?

Setting a routine for exercising.

What's been the easiest part about the program?

Not sure there is an easy part, but what has helped is the support I've been getting from my wife.

What did you think about the first three weeks of the program?

I've got the feeling that I can actually do this with a sense of confidence.

Now that you've lost weight, what are you noticing about yourself?

I'm thinking if I feel better with just 11 pounds lost, I know I am going to feel even better when I lose the next 11 pounds.

What do you want to accomplish in the next few weeks?

Change my view on exercising -- by that I mean set the time aside for walking and do it every day.

6.) How do you feel?

I have a fear of failing -- it's sort of the feeling of been there, done that. I do feel better for attempting to do something about my well-being.

Jennifer Freeze, 26, of Cape Girardeau

After graduating from college, moving out on her own and a decrease in the amount of physical activity, Freeze gained weight over the years.

Weight loss to date: 14 pounds

How do you feel?

I feel great! With all the exercise I've been getting and the better diet I've been following, how could you not feel good about yourself -- both mentally and physically?

What's been the easiest part about the program?

I stay incredibly busy that I don't have time to sit and think about what I could be eating. Since I'm not much of a cook, the recipes for the different items you can bake using the meal replacements are easy to follow. For instance, using the potato soup meal replacement, I've been making a pizza crust and adding pizza sauce, fat-free mozzarella cheese and green peppers and mushrooms to the top. A lot of people have asked if the Starting Point program is a "liquid diet." It can be if you choose to drink the meal replacements, but you can also bake "real food" with them.

3.) What did you think about the first three weeks of the program?

It's actually been a lot easier than I thought it would be. Now that I've got a set schedule to follow, with exercising and eating, I've been able to stick with it.

5.) What do you want to accomplish in the next few weeks?

I hope I can continue the routine I've fallen in. Every morning, I get up at 5:30 a.m. to workout at the gym. Some days I even hit the gym when I get off work. In fact, I've worked out every single day since I started this program three weeks ago -- which I think contributes to the significant amount of weight I've lost.

335-6611, extension 246

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