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Learning to walk off weight with healthy diet
Class combines exercise and food education
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J.K. Devine walks on a track at a Gainesville church after getting off work recently. - photo by NAT GURLEY

“How many of you woke up and said ‘Oh my goodness! I gained 10 pounds overnight?’”

That is the question family and consumer science agent Michele Melton of the Forsyth County Extension Office posed to 30 people attending the Walk-A-Weigh program Feb. 4 at the Fowler Park Recreation Center in Cumming.

I attended recently since it was my turn to take an exercise class.

However, this eight-week class combines exercise and education. For the first 45 minutes, Melton will share information about nutritional values, sodium, fruits and vegetables, calcium, fiber and weight maintenance. Next, the class will walk for 45 minutes.

While I have tried water aerobics, spinning and low-impact aerobic classes in the past several months, I figured it was time to pair exercise with healthier eating habits. And I think after the class, I realized I needed to rethink the exercise and weight-loss program.

First, I needed to be reminded I did not gain weight overnight. Therefore, losing it will not happen fast and quickly, she said.

“Safe weight loss is 2 pounds a week,” she said, adding a slow, steady decline will keep it off.

As Melton said the words “slow and steady,” I immediately thought of the childhood story, “The Tortoise and the Hare.”

In the Aesop fable, the Hare brags he can run fast. Tired of hearing the Hare, the Tortoise challenges him to a race. The Hare starts out fast, but decides to rest and falls asleep. The tortoise, however, keeps his slow and steady pace to win the race.

I realized if I think of myself as a tortoise in the story, then I could possibly achieve a healthier weight and improve my eating habits.

When I have tried exercising before, I set out to do it every day. After about a week, I got tired and stopped. I was the Hare.

But if I promised to start out slow — like exercise at least one day a week for 30 minutes — the task wasn’t so daunting. I could be the Tortoise.

So, I walked with my fellow classmates in the Walk-A-Weigh group for 30 minutes. (Plus, asking them questions for this story.) And time flew by.

“Hey, I can exercise one day a week for 30 minutes,” I thought.

Now, my doctor has recommended I exercise at least 30 minutes a day three days a week. Plus, Melton suggested exercise at least 30 minutes a day for five days a week to lose weight.

With my mind on being a tortoise though, I figured my goal this week was to exercise for 30 minutes. With the class, I reached it.

Of course, class member Ted Miller knows what it is like to be the Hare. A blood clot caused him to lose 27 pounds quickly.

“Then I gained it all back,” the 62-year-old Cumming man said, while walking on the track at the Fowler Park Recreation Center.

Therefore, he joined the class this time to lose weight and keep it off. Plus, he had extra incentive. His wife took the class last year and may join him on his walks.

“She could do it and hopefully she can do it with me,” he said.

However, the class does not target only exercise. It also focuses on the food, which starts with knowing what people eat.

To gauge our food consumption, Melton challenged the class to keep a food journal. That meant detailing everything class members, including myself, put in their mouths.

“The biggest part to doing a food journal is doing it regularly and accurately,” she said. “And be precise.”

To accomplish the goal, Melton suggested using measuring cups to track food consumption.

“Don’t count every calorie,” she said. “It’s over-reaching. I’m just asking you to measure.”

That proved a bit difficult for me at first since I was used to pouring cereal and milk in a bowl without thinking about how much it is. But after a couple of days, I was able to eyeball part of it.

Melton also encouraged us to write items down before we consume them and “be honest” about it.

“If you gained 3 pounds and wrote down all you had was carrot sticks, then we will both know that’s not true,” she said. “So be honest.”

So, I was honest. I wrote down the fact that I had three cups of Coca Puffs for breakfast Saturday. And admitted to eating a 15-ounce can of chili for lunch Thursday.

But I also wrote down my 6-inch Subway sandwich with turkey, cheddar cheese and lettuce for Friday lunch. It is one of the healthiest choices on the menu. Of course, I added a bag of Doritos. But I was honest.

With the food knowledge and reasonable weekly goals, I think I am on my way to losing some weight. And other Walk-A-Weigh class members seem to agree since they keep an eye on each other.

“Accountability is very good,” Miller said.

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