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Friday, Sep 21, 2018
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‘You need to pat yourself on the back every day’

Rita Echols-Mitchell 50, Zephyrhills HEIGHT: 5-foot-9 STARTING WEIGHT: 274 pounds
CURRENT WEIGHT: 224 pounds WHY I DID IT: I had wanted to lose weight for quite some time, but I kept procrastinating. After spending some time with my infant grandson, who exhausted me, and after the doctor informed me that I would be a candidate for diabetes if I didnít make some changes, I had to get started. My daughter kept insisting she wanted me to be healthy and be around to watch her get married one day, so that was another good reason. I want to be able to do more things with my life, to build some memories, be bolder as I get older. When I look at my old photos, I miss what I looked like. I felt if I could control my eating, I could control how I handle the challenges in my life much better. HOW I DID IT: I started participating with the Pasco County School Districtís CareHere Wellness Program, which is available to school board employees via onsite employee health and wellness centers (operated by CareHere and Crowne Consulting Group). I completed a health risk assessment that consisted of lab work and a physical. The doctor cleared me to participate, and I got on board with an online interactive program that gave me healthy lifestyle tasks to complete. The program gives these cute little tokens called ďhealthiesĒ that accumulate and are used to categorize your efforts into different levels. ďChampion statusĒ is the category Iím performing at now. There also was a monetary incentive. When the check came during the summer, I was afraid to spend it and I let it expire. When I was told it was for completing a health risk assessment, I thought: This is for real, and these people are serious about this wellness campaign. So, I got serious, too. I started walking two to three times per week for 30 minutes and I earned healthies. Then, my plan increased to walking daily and for longer periods of time, while also giving me healthy food choices to implement. Sometimes it would be to add a food; other times it was to limit and eventually omit something, such as white rice (I love rice, but I havenít had any in four months). My plan suggested stair climbing, so I tried it. It was exhausting at first, but now on Mondays and Fridays I am climbing the two-story flight of stairs at work. Some days I can run up the stairs. HURDLES: Family struggles, stressors at work and personal obligations often would interfere with my ability to accomplish healthy tasks. I would hit plateaus and not be able to lose weight for weeks, and I got depressed and reverted back to bad habits (but for no more than three to four days). Iíd just tell myself to start over again by reading the educational material in the CareHere program to clarify what I should be doing to improve my health. The CareHere program takes into account that hurdles are a part of the struggle, and it assigns tasks such as journaling thoughts for mental health or joining webinars that address particular issues that come up as a part of life (grief and loss issues, meal planning, finances, depression, caring for a loved one, time management, etc.) CareHere provides classes that are facilitated throughout the community. It really did help to have face-to-face interactions with the health coaches and other school board employees to network with and share similar struggles. There are networking groups on the CareHere program, and participants can blog about their struggles and their progress. Everyone is understanding and shares useful information on their breakthroughs and how they are staying on their journey to a healthy lifestyle. Health coaches share professional advice and help you maintain adequate progress. Wellness events challenge us to meet goals as a group. GOING THE DISTANCE: Learn all that you can about how food and physical activity affects your overall health. Keep a food journal and count those calories. Build your support system one person at a time, such as your medical team, your family members, coworkers and support groups. Be open to meeting friendly strangers on the same journey to wellness. Identify a role model (mine is my daughter) who is where you want to be with your health, and be a role model to someone else who wants to be where you are. BEST ADVICE: If you slip up ó and you will ó donít quit. If you canít be active for whatever reason, then make a healthy meal choice. Itís always best to do both, but if you canít, get one of them done each day to stay the course. You need to pat yourself on the back every day for doing something good for your body.

I Lost It is a regular feature highlighting individual weight loss success stories and does not reflect the opinions of 4you, which encourages you to work with a physician or a nutritionist before embarking on a diet. To share your story, visit TBO.com, search Lost It; or email [email protected]; or mail to 4you, The Tampa Tribune, 200 S. Parker St., Tampa FL 33606.

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