By Phil Leslie, senior information specialist, University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group
The season of good will, happiness and cheer is here once again. So too is the season of overindulgence, frequent snacking and high calorie intake.
As a counterpoint to this high-consumption regimen, a special group of people in Sedalia has dedicated the past year to fighting a common affliction: excess weight. At the same time, they want to serve as inspirational examples of healthy lifestyle changes for fellow community members facing the same problem.
To overcome long-held habits of excessive eating and infrequent exercise, this dedicated dozen joined a new 12-month program last January—Healthy U—designed by the Pettis County Healthy Living Action Group, a local network concerned with promoting healthy lifestyles. HLAG includes Bothwell Regional Health Center, University of Missouri Extension, Katy Trail Community Health and several other Pettis County groups.
Healthy U encourages participants to adopt balanced diets and reverse sedentary habits, said Megan Webb, MU Extension nutrition and health education specialist. It also requires them to share their experiences—challenges, triumphs and revelations—with the community through news media interviews, blogs, civic club talks and community events.
“The idea is not just to impact the 12 students, but for them to influence the community,” said Webb, who also serves as a counselor and coach for Healthy U students. “It’s inspiring for the community to see the progress they’re making.”
In addition to its ultimate health benefits, the program also is designed as a competition, with a prize valued at $1,200 going to the Healthy U student losing the highest percentage of weight, according to Sarah Nail, HLAG chair and Healthy U program developer. Healthy U selected the 12 participants a year ago from a pool of more than 142 Pettis County applicants. Another group of community participants is competing separately for a similar prize.
“One of the things we’re really looking for with our 12 Healthy U students is that they are representative of our community so that everybody can potentially identify with one of them,” said Nail, who also serves as community outreach coordinator for BRHC.
After nearly a year of weekly meetings and continual dedication to improving eating habits and increasing exercise, the Healthy U dozen is seeing goals become reality. All have dropped weight, some approaching losses of nearly 100 pounds.
“I just got tired of being tired, and tired of watching life go by while I was just sitting,” said Healthy U student Bob Satnan, editor of the Sedalia Democrat. “My daughter is a senior this year and my son is in eighth grade. It dawned on me that if I didn’t do something I might not see either one of them graduate.
“It’s a lifestyle change. This about getting myself to a weight that’s manageable.”
Another Healthy U student, high school teacher Alicia Maggert, is proud that she and her comrades serve as examples for others: “I can stand up here and tell you all the right things…how many calories to eat, how many pounds to lose every week, what exercises to do…but at the end of the day it’s not a matter of what you say. It’s what you do.”
Members of the Healthy U class of 2012 graduate Jan. 3, 2013. “They plan to continue healthy eating habits and lifestyle practices,” said MU Extension’s Webb. “That same day a new group of 12 starts its yearlong trek to improved health.”
A video of this story is available online at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-MMmPbK5rM