‘6 weeks’ program focused on changing lifestyles, not just losing weight

  • Tuesday, May 29, 2012 7:59pm

LYNNWOOD — Susan Rubio was looking to learn more about how to incorporate healthy eating habits into her lifestyle.

The Lynnwood resident works out five times per week, usually during her lunch break, and wanted to improve her fitness regime.

At work on the Edmonds Community College campus, Rubio learned about the “6 Weeks to a Healthier You” program, which the college co-sponsored. The program started April 17 and was open to anyone in Snohomish County.

“They really promote health and healthy living,” she said.

She enlisted her sisters, Ana Rubio and Lilia Smith.

Six weeks later, the sisters felt better and realized getting healthy covers more than losing weight.

Susan Rubio realized coping with stress, diet, exercise and maintaining recommended cholesterol levels all intertwine to improve her health. She learned to see and feel an overall change.

“You can’t just change one thing; it all works together,” she said.

For her sisters, committing to the program meant breaking bad habits.

“I wanted to adopt healthier habits,” said Ana Rubio, of Edmonds.

Smith finished with a better understanding of how to read nutrition labels and how fat and carbohydrates play roles in her diet.

“I’ve had a lot of health issues and wanted to take the opportunity to make healthier choices,” she said.

The program wrapped up May 22 at the Lynnwood Convention Center. The program was facilitated by Joe Piscatella, president of the Institute for Fitness and Health in Gig Harbor, and local health experts.

“I want people to understand that they are in control, that their actions have consequences – good or bad,” Piscatella wrote in an email.

He wants people to understand that good health is a daily choice.

“You don’t have to go to extremes,” he wrote. “Make small, positive choices daily. Good health is evolutionary, not revolutionary.”

The program was sponsored by local agencies including Verdant Health Commission, Swedish/Edmonds and the Edmonds School District.

Participants had pre- and post-program screenings, including for cholesterol and blood pressure, and met weekly to learn how to improve cooking habits, reduce stress and exercise smarter.

Participants exceeded organizers’ expectations; 480 signed up for the program and of those, 392 participants attended at least four out of the six sessions.

The program recommends focusing on establishing lifelong healthy habits instead of focusing solely on losing weight, said Marilyn Hofmann-Jones, charge nurse of preventative care at Swedish/Edmonds.

“It’s all connected,” she said. “People get really focused on weight because it’s a tangible marker. But there are other measures that can give a choice about your eating.”

She advises people to change behaviors to have an overall healthier lifestyle and making sustainable changes.

“This is more about behavior changes so (that) for the rest of your life you can be healthy and do the activities you want to do,” she said.

During the final session, Piscatella focused on improving children’s health in a presentation, “Raising Fit Kids in a Fast Food World.”

About 35 million children in the United States are overweight. And 23 percent of youths ages 12 to 18 have Type 2 diabetes, up from 9 percent.

“Type 2 is linked to obesity,” Piscatella said. “A lot of us bring Type 2 diabetes onto ourselves.”

Piscatella recommended parents set a healthy example for their child. That example includes taking the stairs instead of the elevator, gardening and limiting TV and computer time.

“Involve your child,” he said.

Most children’s diet consists of sweet and salty fatty foods, despite their socioeconomic status, Piscatella said.

And what they don’t eat is just as bad as what they consume, he added. About one-quarter of American youth don’t get the recommended amount of vegetables per day.

Statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered a sobering glimpse into the future.

“The CDC says this is the first generation of children in the U.S. to not outlive their parents,” he said. “That’s your kids, that’s your grandchildren.”