May 16, 2008

Weight loss can be a struggle for people of all ages. Recently, a University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service weight loss program for 4-H’ers and adults in Powell County educated entire families on ways to improve their eating habits and the importance of exercise.

During the 12-week program, called Powell County’s Biggest Loser, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives provided support to each other as they worked out side by side and learned proper nutrition. By the end of the program, the group lost a total of 293 pounds, nearly the equivalent of two people.

“We’ve had a lot of people who have lost weight, including two people who are right at and over 50 pounds,” said Valerie Stewart, Powell County 4H Youth development agent. “We have some people who didn’t lose weight but can tell a dramatic difference in their clothes, and their inches were phenomenal. So they’ve really changed the health of their body even though they didn’t lose weight.”

Stewart started the program because of the challenges she faced when she tried to teach healthy habits to youth.

“It does no good to teach youth how to eat properly when they go home and all they have is soda pop and chips. You have to educate the parents,” Stewart said.

She did several things to get adults interested in the program. It was a family friendly environment so adults could bring their small children and not have to worry about getting a babysitter. Door prizes and drawings were given during the weekly meetings. Participants could register for the prizes by earning tickets. They received a ticket for each pound they lost and for each day they went to the gym in the past week. Through donations and the county’s 4-H council, Stewart was able to secure a $250 prize to the person who lost the most weight at the end of the 12 weeks. The winner, Cathy Knox, lost 55 pounds and 33 inches during the program.

Stewart and her husband also participated in the program and provided encouragement and laughs to the other participants.

“As a 4-H agent, I would never ask the youth to do something that I wouldn’t do,” Stewart said.

During the meetings, participants learned about proper nutrition including portion size, calorie counting and sugar intake. They also exercised to fitness videos.

By partnering with Curves in Stanton and Powell County Fitness Center, Stewart was able to get discounted rates for the group. Participants paid $30 to join the program and had unlimited access to both gyms for the entire duration of the program.

“The biggest thing to me was counting calories,” said Bobby Drake, a participant from Stanton. “I had no idea how many calories I was eating a day.”

Drake participated in the program with his wife, Darlene, and both have changed the way they eat. After he learned how to count calories, Bobby Drake stopped drinking soda. He said that for breakfast he calculated he’d been eating over 600 calories by opting for fast-food. He has since lowered his caloric intake at breakfast to 130 calories by drinking water and eating oatmeal. Darlene also counted calories and limited herself to one soda a day.

Their changes produced significant weight loss for both. They were two of the top three people in the group that lost the largest amount of weight. He lost 48 pounds, and she lost 29 pounds.

Amber Johnson, a 16-year-old 4-H’er from Clay City, said weight issues are prevalent among her peers. She decided to conquer her own weight problems by joining the class with her mother.

“Doing it as a group helped us to know that we weren’t the only ones,” she said.

Johnson said she and her mother have learned many things about healthy living through the class. In the process, she has lost seven inches from her body.

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