Eight people in Alexis Creek are heading toward the new year quite proud to be losers. Losers of pounds that is.
In August, they embarked on a weight loss program, dubbing it the Chilcotin Challenge, and since then have collectively shed 200.5 pounds.
Remote certified nurse Heather Peterson, who participated in and led the program, says they were a small, but dynamic group.
“We did this 12-week program and stuck it through,” Peterson says, explaining it began with two people needing to make some changes.
Some posters were put up, word went around the village, and by Aug. 22, eight people had signed up.
It was about losing weight. Some people were overweight and others obese, but ultimately it was about health, Peterson says.
“We all experienced changes. We did blood work at the beginning, and every week we met and had an education/information session to share what was happening to our bodies.”
There are key things people had to agree to when they started the program because confidentiality comes into the picture when people are sharing stories about their weight loss.
“It wasn’t secret,” she says. “It’s not because we didn’t want people to say anything, but we wanted people to understand that part of the process was the psycho social part of it to support one another and we were learning.”
Using an eating program developed by Dr. Stefan DuToit of Valemount in Jan. 2010, called Eat for Life, participants learned to eat real food. Processed foods were not allowed.
Du Toit says he’s lost count of how many people have lost weight on the diet, but 150 people from his community of 750 went on the diet, and a third to half of them have lost weight permanently.
He explains a sample meal plan for someone on the diet is yogurt and fruit for breakfast, a chicken salad for lunch, steak and low glycaemic vegetables, such as cauliflower and broccoli, for dinner, and no snacks in between.
When people are on the lose-weight program they are not allowed to exercise, he admits.
“I reintroduce exercise after people have lost weight and that’s controversial. I had a phone call from the Olympic Committee on that, thinking I was against exercise. I’m not anti-exercise. It’s just that if you do exercise you put your body metabolically in a build-up phase and when you do a diet you go into a break-down phase metabolically,” he says, explaining when people do both at the same time the efforts cancel each other out and it becomes much more difficult to lose the weight quickly.
“When people are at a good weight then they can go on an exercise program to help keep the weight down.”
After the weight loss goal is achieved then people switch to a maintenance plan where fats are introduced so their bodies can burn fat for energy and keep them in a fat-burning mode.
“We put them back on bacon and eggs for breakfast, without the hash browns and the toast, and it seems to work really well. Give them the fat content and they don’t become so hungry in the day. And that’s why it makes it so easy to stick to this plan,” he says.
Peterson says her group also noticed how carbohydrates were affecting their mental and physical health, and it was a great learning opportunity.
“We’re going to continue meeting and another group is going to start in the new year,” she says.
“We’re feeling great and looking great. We’ve all seen changes. One of us saw our blood pressure drop really quickly who didn’t realize how high their blood pressure.”
In addition to everyone experiencing lower cholesterol, a few people have also seen their need for medication reduced for things like joint pain.
“Heart and stroke disease is the number one killer in Canada and if we can prevent something like that just by knowledge and people seeing that once they’ve done with their diet makes a difference, they’re going to continue to make those changes and carry on with it.”
The group made it through Thanksgiving and as they approached Christmas, Peterson knew there would be times when feasting would be a reality.
“But then we’ll just have to get back to it,” she says.
Peterson has been stationed at the Alexis Creek nursing station since April 2010 and says she loves her post.
“I provide all types of health care, but community health is part of our mandate so if I can see a program like this work and help prevent poor health that’s awesome,” she says.