ISHPEMING - Participants in this year's Healthy Weight Journal started the program this week by learning that the recipe for success is a balanced approach to diet and exercise tailored specifically to their needs and body types.
Participants met each other for the first time Monday in the Cardiac Rehabilitation gymnasium on the sixth floor of the Robert C. Neldberg Building, where they had their first exercise session of the week as well as their monthly education session.
At this month's session, Marquette General Hospital staff from the Nutrition and Wellness/Diabetes Education Department went over the basics - what are calories, carbohydrates, proteins, fats - and encouraged participants to be more conscious of when they eat throughout the day and why.
From left, Chris Kovala and Dave Finegan ride the bike machines while Tim Derwin works out on a recumbent bike in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Gym on the sixth floor of Marquette General Hospital’s Neldberg Building, as part of a Healthy Weight Journal exercise session on Thursday. (Marquette General Hospital photo)
"(We) tried to get them to see if they could think about ... reasons why they eat and then try to get them to think about eating if they're a little bit hungry versus waiting too long until they are starving," said Mary Charlebois, registered dietitian in the MGH Nutrition and Wellness/Diabetes Education Department. "We're trying to get them to listen to their bodies a little bit better, because when we asked them why they ate, there was other reasons besides hunger that they were eating."
Charlebois said boredom, down time and long commutes were some of the reasons participants were eating when they weren't actually hungry. She said if they can start to identify the reasons they eat, they're more likely to change their behavior.
Charlebois also previously met with participants individually and helped created a nutrition plan tailored to each person.
"I want each of them to know that their nutrition needs are different or individual for each of them," she said. "I want them to know how many calories they need, how much protein, how much fat, so when they're reading nutrition labels they know if something is too high or too low, and if they can work it into their eating plan or if they really shouldn't."
Overall Charlebois said the Healthy Weight Journal program aims to provide "a more broad look at the whole picture with diet and exercise than some of (the participants) have done before." She said several of the women at Monday's education session said that they had tried dieting but hadn't really focused on exercise, while the men said exercise had been their main focus without paying much attention to their diets.
"We're trying to teach them that both are very important, and you'll gain the most benefit if you do both," Charlebois said. She said she and other members of staff have been trying to clear up participants' misconceptions about exercise, some of whom thought they had to have an "all or nothing" approach to exercising. "Even 20 to 30 minutes of activity every day - it doesn't have to be running a marathon or running on the treadmill for an hour - it's not necessary to do that to gain a benefit," she said. "We're trying to teach them the more safe way."
Participants' safety and individual needs also dictate how their exercise session is spent. Charlebois said the exercise physiologist and the specialist will help each person "look ... at what their limitations are as far as their body - what they can and can't do, basically - and then they see which machines ... in the gym are appropriate for them to use."
The gym offers participants the use of treadmills, arc trainers, recumbent and Airdyne bikes and machines that concentrate on the arms. Participants are monitored by their blood pressure, heart rate and perceived exertion in order to ensure their safety.
"One of our main goals is keeping everybody safe in the gym and making sure they're working hard enough but not too hard," Charlebois said. "We want them to get the most benefit out of spending their time exercising."
And again, Charlebois said, listening to your body and your own individual needs is key.
"Everybody's different, and that's what we want them to realize," she said. "They shouldn't compare themselves to the person on the machine next to them."
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.