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Health Center Today, May 13, 2010

Ready to Lose Weight? Health Center Program Helps Employee Shed Pounds

By Chris Kaminski

Spring's arrival brings with it not just the warmer weather and daffodils, but a reminder to those who resolved to lose weight in the beginning of the year and have put it off - to get started. For some individuals it means buckling down and beginning a weight loss program, but which one?

Actress Kirstie Alley followed the Jenny Craig plan and lost approximately 75 pounds. Two years later after losing the weight, Alley fell off the wagon and put the pounds back on. During the same time period, Valerie Bertinelli, an actress known for her role as Barbara Cooper Royer on the 1970s and 1980s hit show “One Day at a Time,” lost weight on the Jenny Craig plan and has kept the weight off.

There are many well-known programs such as Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem®, and Atkins™ that work for some individuals and not for others. All the plans have their pros and cons and for most individuals it’s a matter of finding something that can be incorporated into their lifestyle.

Elise Kabela-Cormier had lost hope in losing weight after the birth of her son. She had tried many programs before turning to the UConn Health Center’s Ready to Lose Weight Management Program. Kabela-Cormier, a clinical psychologist at the Health Center, read about the program in an internal announcement and decided to sign-up. It was being held at a convenient time; and so she decided to give it a try.

She was pleasantly surprised at her first session. It was completely different than the other weight loss plans she had tried. The class was facilitated by a registered dietitian which is not the case with other plans. “The fact that a registered dietitian was leading the session gave the program credibility,” says Kabela-Cormier. She learned about different foods and food groups, serving sizes, and the Plate Method.

The Plate Method is an easy way to set up healthy meals without expensive or “special foods,” says dietitian Linda York, Ready to Lose Weight Management Program facilitator. York uses a plate to demonstrate the method to individuals. “When preparing each meal, think of a plate that has three divided sections,” she says. “Fill half the plate with vegetables, one quarter with starches or grains, and the remaining quarter with lean protein limiting fats, sugars and processed foods. The Plate Method, based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, helps individuals develop lifelong, healthy eating habits, lose weight and keep it off.”

The program is very flexible and encourages individuals to lose weight at their own pace. Participants are provided with an individualized healthy meal plan, tips for eating out and grocery shopping, exercise information and much more. “The weekly sessions include a weigh-in, nutritional topic and a trip to the Health Center’s Food Court to look at what’s cooking and to learn how to read labels,” says York. Exercise is an integral part of the program. Kabela-Cormier says she couldn’t have lost weight without exercise. She currently exercises at least five times a week.

Although a weekly weigh-in is encouraged, it is not absolutely necessary. “It’s wonderful that you can lose weight at your own pace and the program gives you the tools to do it. It doesn’t focus as much on the amount of weight you lose per week but more on your successes and challenges. It’s very individualized and motivational,” says Kabela-Cormier.

Since starting the program, Kabela-Cormier has lost 33 pounds and has achieved her weight loss goals. She continues to follow the program on her own. “It’s a matter of finding something that works for you and following it for the rest of your life. This program is simple and it works for me,” she says.

The Ready to Lose Weight Management Program is held at the UConn Health Center every Tuesday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. The program is available to Health Center employees as well as the public. For more information or to register for the Ready to Lose Weight Management Program, call 800-535-6232.