Teaming-Up to Lose

These women called for backup to beat their weight problems.Teaming-Up to Lose

Petika Tave was 23 years old when she got her wake-up call. She had just graduated from Florida A&M University and watched a video of herself accepting the diploma on stage.

At the time, the Tallahassee native weighed 427 pounds. She cried when she saw herself, because she knew that she had to take action or her son would grow up without his mother. That was more than two years ago.

Tave joined Weight Watchers in January 2004 and learned to make healthier food choices and set goals. The Weight Watchers program teaches portion control and healthy eating.

Today, about 200 pounds lighter, Tave is a new woman. She feels happy, healthy and invigorated.

“My life has improved drastically,” she says. “I love myself, I am in excellent health, and the likelihood that I will die due to morbid obesity is slim to none.”

Tave said she joined the program because “you’re not restricted from anything, you just learn how to treat food differently and enjoy it without overindulging.”


The ‘Freshman 35’

Then there’s actress Kirstie Alley and her nationally advertised campaign to lose weight with the Jenny Craig Weight Loss program. But behind the actress are hundreds of real people and their success stories.
You probably have heard of the “Freshman 15,” the weight a college freshman is said to gain during that first year away from home. Tallahassee resident Judi Taylor said she turned it into the “Freshman 35.”

“I gained 35 pounds on a 98-pound frame,” Taylor explained – an addition of close to 36 percent of her body weight. “I will never forget the difference it made in me. My energy level was lowered, my confidence took a hit, and my wardrobe even became quite depressing.

“My biggest problem was that I was eating too many starches and fatty foods,” Taylor said. “Casseroles were easy to prepare and went a long way. And candy bars were a quick and easy source of energy.”

So she decided to do something about it. Taylor said her eating habits were mostly to blame. But it’s not just about food. Instead, she and Jenny Craig have “become partners in a lifestyle change.”

The Jenny Craig program takes a comprehensive approach to weight management that includes three success factors. The first is building a healthy relationship with food. Second, the body must be in motion: The person must have an active lifestyle. And third, there has to be a balanced approach to living.

“I started trying to make healthier food choices and definitely got a handle on portion control,” Taylor said. “I also took up jogging, which has turned out to be something I’ve loved ever since. I lost the weight and developed a healthy lifestyle that I’ve been committed to ever since.”


A structure for success

What the Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and other commercial weight-loss programs offer is a support system that encourages adherence to the principles of a healthy lifestyle. Because many Americans do not follow these principles, Tave said, it’s really no surprise that so many waistlines are growing.

“When you see Thickburgers with a pound of beef and 99-cent value menus with fries and double cheeseburgers versus a healthy sub for $5, you can see why Americans who are already plagued by sedentary jobs that make them too tired to cook at home end up eating out and thus plumping out at an alarming rate,” she said.

Taylor said she sees the solution to that problem as the idea behind Jenny Craig, which is to eliminate the need to worry about having to prepare a healthy meal.

“No counting calories or worrying about nutrition,” Taylor said. “It’s all done for you. The client is essentially getting a personal cheerleader and motivator, a personal dietician to plan their menu, a personal chef to prepare their food, and a personal shopper.”

Taylor said she believes in the program so much that she and her husband actually bought a Jenny Craig Weight Loss Centre of their own.

For those seeking to help in their journey to better health, there are a variety of programs available in Tallahassee, each with a different philosophies and methods for weight loss.

Tallahassee’s home-grown Winner’s Weight Loss centers focus on “health and permanent weight loss,” according to manager Ruth Bowen. In their weight loss program, participants meet monthly with nutritionists/dieticians and other professionals to create a “real food” eating plan that works for their tastes, habits and health-related concerns, supplemented by vitamins and educational classes. Many clients are referred for health reasons. “Diabetes is our No. 1,” reason for referral, Bowen said, followed by high cholesterol and weight loss before surgery.

“Everybody is going for the quick fix,” she said. But using Winner’s guarantees losses of two to three pounds a week with a balanced diet and “no shots or drugs or anything crazy.”

At L.A. Weight Loss, their goal is to teach lifestyle changes – teaching you to choose proper foods when you go grocery shopping or eating out – as well as products to help aid in losing weight. With one-on-one counseling, they tailor a program based on three main phases: lose weight, stabilize weight and maintain weight in the future.

“The program is about eating well-balanced meals and eating in moderation,” said Carrie Smidt, one of the owners of L.A. Weight Loss. “Our job and our commitment is helping our clients change their lives.”

Now that Tave has tackled her weight problem, she has become particularly concerned about the growing obesity problem in children – and is especially worried about teenage girls. 

“Studies show that teens who are obese are more likely to become obese adults,” she said.


‘Make small changes now’

So what does it take to make a person say, “Enough is enough”?

Is it when a woman can’t play with her son because she’s too fatigued? Is it when she is too embarrassed to dance in public? 

Tave’s story was so moving that she recently received a grand prize from Weight Watchers in its Most Inspiring Stories Contest for the best weight-loss story in the nation during the past year.

But she isn’t done. She plans to run a marathon this year and hopes to become a motivational speaker, helping people reach their health and fitness goals.

“Don’t start your diet tomorrow – make small changes right now,” Tave said. “Realize that you will encounter bumps in the road. Just hang in there.”

Taylor also said she hopes to help people in the community who are struggling with their weight – not only because of her own history with weight gain, but because she has seen the consequences.

“While weight gain in itself may not be so bad, it seems to foster many other health problems,” Taylor said. “My mom died much too early, and I miss her dearly. It’s too late for her, but I’m trying my best to make a difference in someone else’s mom’s life. That’s what my Jenny Craig story is all about.”

For Tave, weight loss already may have saved a life – her own.

“I am just learning the lessons and making the changes that will result in sustained weight loss forever,” she said. “So take it slow, don’t expect miracles, and start now. Learn to love yourself. Decide to start being alive and enjoying life. Challenge yourself to achieve and believe that you will succeed.”


5 Tips For Healthier Eating 

1. Serving savvy: Do you know what a serving is of your favorite food? Try looking at the nutrition label on the container and compare how much you usually eat to the serving listed. You may be suprised.

2. It’s easy to fit physical activities into your daily routine: Walk, bike or jog to see friends. Take a 10-minute activity break every hour while you read, do homework or watch TV. Climb stairs instead of taking an escalator or elevator. Try to do these things for a total of 30 minutes every day.

3. Serving savvy II: A standard serving of most foods is about the size of the palm of your hand. Studies show that most people eat less when they are served smaller portions. Starting with a smaller portion of a high-calorie food can help you eat less while still enjoying your favorites.

4. Add fiber to your diet: Breakfast cereals (hot or cold) can be important sources for fiber. Check labels to find good choices that are low in sugar. Top with fruit for more fiber. Lowfat or nonfat milk will complete the meal for a great start to the day.

5. Eat less fat: Skim milk, nonfat or lowfat yogurts and cheeses are a great way to cut the fat and eat healthy foods. Avoid whole milk, all natural cheeses and cream cheese.

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