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Old Sun, Feb-01-04, 05:33
gotbeer's Avatar
gotbeer gotbeer is offline
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Default "Overweight in Marion participants reflect on year"

Overweight in Marion participants reflect on year

Published January 31. 2004 8:30AM

Staff Writers

link to article

OCALA - A year ago, 13 Marion County residents 11 adults and two children took on the task of trying to lose weight and allowing the public to follow their efforts through the Star-Banner's Overweight in Marion series.

Munroe Regional Medical Center, which is running a community-wide fitness effort dubbed Healthy Me, supported the group's efforts by offering to let each participant use its LifeTime Center facilities.

As in any endeavor, some of their efforts paid off well and some not so well. But each reported learning about themselves and the daily struggle to get healthy and stay that way.

West Port High School principal Ken Vianello got pretty close to meeting his goal of dropping his weight to 230 by September, when he and his wife, Diana, headed north for his 45th high school reunion. He even bought a new suit, in a smaller size of course, for the trip.

At 246, he'd shed 21 of the 37 pounds he hoped to lose. Since then 14 pounds have come roaring back, much of it the result of holiday partying, for a net loss in 2003 of 7 pounds.

If there was one thing he learned from the experience, it was that, "You have to have a goal," he said. "You have to have the discipline to reach that goal and you can't be discouraged if you take a step back. You need persistence. You have to be ready for the long haul."

For Vianello, 63, the goal of slimming down for his class reunion proved to be powerful incentive. But with the target behind him, it was easy to lose focus and stop losing weight.

"The hardest point for me was once I hit that plateau," he added. "I could feel myself relaxing and my persistence waning." The new suit still fits, though Vianello admits it's a bit snug.

But he's not discouraged; rather, there's a new goal now: Alaska. Shortly after he retires June 30, he and Diana jet to the great Northwest for several weeks of exploring the frontier state by land, by sea and by air.

"Boy, if I'm not in shape for that, I don't know what Alaska will do to me," he said.

Perhaps the most dramatic transformation was Dwight McDonald's. Slightly more than a year ago, McDonald weighed 400 pounds and was in danger of dying of weight-related illnesses. But he has shaved off 140 pounds and is enjoying life, something he has not done for a very long time.

"I learned there's something on the inside of me that wants something better for myself," McDonald said. "I feel my hopes and dreams are coming alive again."

Only 13 months ago, however, McDonald would sit alone in his car rather than enter a pizza shop with his grandchildren for fear strangers would stare at his large body and embarrass his family.

"Everywhere I would go, I used to feel out of place," he said. "Now I walk into places and people don't know I am there. I feel a lot more comfortable going places and being places. I feel proud. I feel happy."

On Dec. 2, 2002, at his doctor's urging, McDonald had his stomach stapled. He now can eat only small portions and he exercises regularly at LifeTime Centers. He has come to enjoy eating vegetables and fruit.

"I learned that the life Dwight had is the life Dwight built," McDonald said. "For some reason and I don't know how to put this but I learned that people respect you more when they feel you respect yourself, when they feel like you take an interest in doing something for yourself instead of lying back and saying, 'I have a problem,' but you put forth an effort to correct the problem."

After being out of the workforce for years because of his health, McDonald now plans to go back to college to learn refrigeration and air conditioning

And he has begun to enjoy activities he couldn't when he wore a size 66 pants instead of today's 44.

"I can get in the go-carts at Easy Street with my grandkids," he laughs. "My grandkids are proud of me. You don't know how much that means. That goes beyond anything I can think of."

Though she didn't herself lose the pounds she hoped to, Karrie Scroggie still became an inspiration to others at the medical clinic where she works.

"I encouraged a lot of the others here to diet," she said during a pause at ExpressCare of Belleview, where she's marketing director, a job that keeps her on the run. "A lot of them lost weight, but not me."

Still, Scroggie, 35, dropped two dress sizes, from 22 to 18, during the year. She was reluctant, however, to discuss other numbers.

She conceded much of her effort to shape up fell flat when her workout center closed during the year. "When my gym closed I lost my enthusiasm." But shortly before 2003 expired she and 12-year-old daughter, Dominique, joined a new club. Together, they get in at least three workouts a week.

"My daughter doesn't need to; she's very fit," Scroggie said. "She's very cautious about her figure, plays softball. And she complains if we miss a workout."

It was her daughter that prompted Scroggie to undertake the fitness challenge last year. Now they have a guaranteed three mornings together before one heads to work and the other to school.

Thus the lesson Scroggie learned: "You need a partner," she said. "And you need the ambition to just do it. I guess I really didn't take it that serious."

Over the course of the year, Joe-Balt Evidente has learned what most of us who try to lose weight have discovered it's not easy.

"I lost some. Of course, I wanted to lose more," Evidente said. "It got to a point where it leveled. That's where the tough job is. You have to double your discipline and double your workout."

He said that, through exercise, he replaced fat with muscle.

"You may lose inches but weight oh, my gosh, it's tough," Evidente said. "It's not just food. It's more psychological discipline."

Evidente, 46, was hoping to lose 30 pounds off his 199-pound, 5'4" frame. He did cut back on snacks, although he did not totally deprive himself. But those treats did come with a price.

"Every time you chew, you say, 'How many calories are these?' " he said.

Evidente may not have lost all the weight he wanted to shed, but his shirt size has shrunk from large to medium and his pants have gone from size 36 to 34.

"I don't get tired easy," Evidente said. "I think the more physical exercise, you get a better attitude. I notice if you exercise less, you tend to sit and slouch and do nothing. You think about food. You eat."

For all his struggles, Evidente is sticking with his weight-loss program, even though he knows it will not be easy.

"Healthwise, it's a win-win situation," he said. "I love it. I will keep on. One year is not enough for my objectives. I will keep on going. No problem."

Anytime Ken Skoff wants to remember where his waist has been, he can pull out an old pair of pants with the 44-inch waistline. Today they fall off his slimmer midsection, now 4 inches smaller.

"I'm afraid we were kind of bad the last couple of months," he said. "We went up North and ate and ate and ate. But all our friends thought we were undernourished."

His wife, Cathy, also regarded the year's effort as a success, even though she's only a pound or two below her starting weight of 174 last January. "I'm excited I could make such a difference inside, even if it's not on the outside," she said. Her cholesterol level dropped, as did her percentage of body fat "my body is reshaping itself."

"And I feel better," she added. "My entire outlook is brighter."

The chief lessons the Skoffs learned were about exercise and nutrition. "Exercise made a difference," said Mrs. Skoff, 62, "not only in my appearance but in my blood." Ken Skoff, 72, agreed, adding, "You just have to keep doing it."

For the Summerfield couple, getting to workouts is now a bit easier. Del Webb's Spruce Creek, where they live, not long ago opened a new fitness center. "It's got everything they have up at the Lifetime Center," Skoff said. "And it's right around the corner."

Tony Lopez had a very special reason to lose weight and, it worked. He weighed close to 280 pounds and was 41 years old when his daughter, Anelisse Maria Lopez, was born on Jan. 11, 2003.

"I have been doing good," Lopez said. "I used to be 46. I am now 38," he said about his pants size.

Like Evidente, Lopez found that when he exercised he lost fat and gained muscle, so he is focusing more on inches than pounds.

"What I really learned from the program not only getting on a diet exercise is the key thing," Lopez said.

Lopez said he has been following the Atkins' diet and exercising three times a week most weeks. It seems to be working. His blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels are all low.

What he didn't realize, however, was that his weight loss was having an effect on fellow employees at Munroe Regional Medical Center, where he works as a cook.

"I didn't know that. My wife told me," Lopez said. "They are so concerned and they watch me at the hospital. It makes them feel, if I can do it, they want to get involved."

He also learned that there is no "quick fix" when it comes to losing weight.

"It's a long process," Lopez said. "I am not at 180, though. That's my goal. Don't ever give up."

Lopez's attitude may have helped him stay on track.

"Enjoy the process when you are doing it," he advises. "I see it positive. Some things you want to do it right. The right way is to go slow and enjoy it when you are doing it. You will reach your goal."

Besides the people at work, Lopez has influenced his son, Nathaniel. Nathaniel now plays soccer and, like his father, also has lost weight.

The challenge came at dinnertime for the Allen household: How to rustle up a nutritious, yet satisfying, meal that encouraged a healthier profile for multiple generations? It wasn't always easy and wasn't always successful, either.

"We were the typical 21st-Century family," said Rick Allen, the Star-Banner dining editor. "On the go a lot with precious little time to fix meals. And not everybody liked everything when we did fix a meal. We ended up eating out a lot or things we probably shouldn't have."

Often easy-to-fix meals ended up being served. But there also was a lot of broiled fish and smaller portions on the table.

"Still, I'm surprised we all did as well as we did," said Allen, 52.

Susan Allen, 45, took the most significant steps during the year, shedding 22 pounds to "just under 133" and dropping from a size 18 to a "comfortable 10." Her husband, Rick, yo-yoed. After reaching a low of 188, he ended the year at 196 5 pounds down from his starting weight, although he did drop from a 40-inch waist to a 36-ish. And his cholesterol level is nearly half what it was a year ago and his blood pressure falls into a generally accepted normal range.

The boys Derek, 9, and Brandon, 7 actually gained weight, but it was within normal ranges for their ages and it was what their parents wanted anyway. Rosalie Hurford, 75 and a lifelong diabetic, early on encountered a disc problem while trying to exercise. In August she underwent spinal surgery to repair several vertebrae and spent much of the end of the year recovering. Nonetheless, she still lost 5 pounds and cut her insulin use to 14 units from 20 twice a day.

Lessons learned? "Be sensible," Allen said. "Watch how much you're eating, particularly portion sizes. And do something to work some of it off, even if it's just a walk around the block."

Kristin Sanford's success this year cannot be gauged just by pounds. Instead, it came in the form of self-discovery in understanding herself better and accepting herself. And she became more educated about food.

"For me, I have learned to pay attention to what I am eating," Sanford said. "I read labels constantly. I can't go into a grocery store without reading labels now."

There is a downside to that, she joked. It now takes her hours to shop.

"Mainly, I have learned to accept who I am and be confident that I can make the right decisions for myself and not worry about being a thin little Barbie," she said. "Just be happy with who I am."

Sanford, the Star-Banner copy desk chief, did not reach her goal of losing 100 pounds during 2003, a goal she now says may have been unrealistic.

Instead, she is watching what she eats. She has found ways to cut back without feeling deprived. When she goes to Sonny's, for instance, she will have the diet plate.

"I am trying to do the right thing and I am eating right," Sanford said. "If I had any advice don't go on a diet when you are miserable. You are going to stay on it two weeks, break it, and cycle into your depression. One thing I have learned is I have to be happy being Kristin and then I can start trying to improve myself."
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