In control of his weight, for the first time in years
For years, 38-year-old Ryan Friesen had been living like 65 percent of adults in the Gundersen Lutheran's service area-overweight or obese.
For much of my adult life, I'd been overweight and hadn't done much about it,” Ryan says. When his physician advised him to lose 100 pounds in preparation for surgery to treat achalasia (or swallowing troubles), he knew it was time to make some changes.
Ryan met with Gundersen Lutheran registered dietitian Marisa Pruitt. There, he learned about customizable weight-loss options through Gundersen Lutheran's Comprehensive Weight Management System, including the meal replacement program.
"The meal replacement program is a great way to build structure into your diet and maximize your metabolism. Over the course of 10 months, you'll taper off from four supplements and one well-balanced meal to three solid, nutritious meals and one to two snacks. The final phase is enrollment in Gundersen Lutheran's Winning Weighs® program," explains Marisa.
Coupled with regular exercise, Ryan lost a remarkable 145 pounds in 2012! "The weight loss proved to be easier than I expected, because the program addressed exactly what I could eat and when I could eat it."
From the beginning, Ryan saw consistent progress, including a decrease in his clothes sizes and the number on the scale. "I liked seeing those concrete changes. That's what motivated me to continue with the program," he says.
Unlike other programs of its kind, Gundersen Lutheran's meal replacement program is medically supervised, meaning that patients work with a registered dietitian and a physician to ensure they're doing what is best for their body. "Marisa provided me with practical advice, such as specific caloric and nutritional requirements. When I met those parameters, I had to convince myself-time and time again-that I didn't need more food. That's been very helpful."
For the first time in years, Ryan feels in control of his weight. "Previously, I never felt like my weight responded to what I was eating. Now, it's fluctuating based on my actions," he says. What was also striking to Ryan was the way food smelled when his body truly needed it. "I'd been overweight for so long that I forgot what it felt like to be hungry," he adds.
And what's even better is that everyday activities are easier to accomplish. "I no longer have to mentally think about how much work it is to simply stand up. I do things today with new energy and confidence. This is the only program that has changed my life in the way it needed to be changed. I hope others seek out the Comprehensive Weight Management System earlier than I did," he concludes.
Sometimes, you just need to slow down
By Quentin Lamers, age 44, took Winning Weighs in 2008
See Quentin tell his story
As a flight nurse, flight crew supervisor, and now the clinical manager for MedLink AIR, Specialty Care Transport Team, and Gundersen Lutheran Dispatch Center, my life is all about doing things fast. That included eating. I would eat on the run and eat things that weren’t very good for me. So for years, my weight had been going up. I finally decided it was time to do something about it, but I wanted to do it safely, without fads. That’s why I tried Winning Weighs®.
The 12 weekly classes were great. One of my biggest revelations was learning to eat more slowly…putting the fork down between bites and carefully chewing my food. By making this simple change, I better enjoy food, feel more satisfied and know when I’m full. Identifying the signs of when I am truly hungry, portion size and getting a healthy balance from the food groups were also things I took away from the classes.
The one-on-one sessions with my dietitian gave me the opportunity to look at my individual progress and challenges. For me, weekends were the hardest times to stay focused. But I got a lot of support and different ideas from the dietitian to deal with these challenges.
I appreciate all the things Gundersen Lutheran does to help me live a healthier lifestyle. In addition to Winning Weighs they offer 500 Club meals in the dining room which are convenient on days that I work. I also appreciate the 25 cent fruits and healthier snacks in the vending machines. And, the annual health risk assessment not only qualified me for a MyHealth reward, it keeps me motivated to continue the good things I learned through Winning Weighs.
A journey to better health
By David Amborn, age 56, took Winning Weighs in 2007, Winning Weighs Superstar
See David tell his story
Becoming a healthier person has been a process for me. On Dec. 25, 2003, my 51st birthday, I gave up smoking after 33 years. I vowed to give up smoking as part of the 2003 community health initiative and was motivated by a fear of public humiliation. Although I needed a public “push,” I’m happy to report, I did stop smoking.
Nine months later, in June 2004, I was having chest pain. A trip to the Cath Lab at Gundersen Lutheran revealed I had a 95 percent block in my left coronary artery…sometimes referred to as the “widow maker” since blockage here often leads to a massive heart attack. I had triple bypass surgery.
While doing cardiac rehab I noticed that my fellow classmates with diabetes and other health problems were much delayed in their recovery. I had put on about 30 pounds since I quit smoking and knew the extra weight could lead to other problems for me down the road. So now I was on a mission to lose weight.
It took me a while, but in 2007 I finally realized I needed help to lose the weight. I signed up for Winning Weighs. One big lifestyle change for me was recognizing the importance of eating a good breakfast. Without that fuel in the morning, my metabolism slows down. I had been skipping breakfast and often lunch, too. I’d then go home and binge until bedtime. I was not fueling my body when it needed it most.
I now eat a good breakfast, a small meal at noon and sensible portions in the evening. I also learned through Winning Weighs that I don’t have to clean up all the leftovers. In addition, I now try to carve out time to walk every day (never easy with my busy schedule).
In 2009, I started on Superstars, the Winning Weighs maintenance program. I meet regularly with a registered dietitian. She helps me set goals and offers tips and encouragement about staying active. The program helps to keep me accountable.
With a little help from my friends
By Pat Frechette, 60 years old, took Winning Weighs in 2006 and 2008
See Pat tell her story
I talked so much about what I learned in Winning Weighs after I took it in 2006, that my friends wanted to take it, too. So in 2008, we took the 12-week program together. While it was the second time around for me, it was a good refresher. My friends and I still get together every Wednesday to support each other as we build on what we learned in class.
I signed up for Winning Weighs originally because I had read a lot about how people struggle with weight gain as they got older. I was 57 years old and was carrying an extra 40-45 pounds. I was determined to be at a healthy weight by the time I turned 60. I also knew I was the only one who could do anything about it, but I also knew I could use some help.
In Winning Weighs I learned to eat what my body needs—more fruit, vegetables, good protein and dairy—and eat smaller portions. I felt full and I felt better. I still struggle to not overeat, but since I’m more aware of the problem, I can better balance what I eat. When I slip up, I challenge my body and I get back on track. I lost about 30 pounds on Winning Weighs and I’m working at losing that last 10-15 pounds before my 60th birthday later this year.
Now I eat better, I’m more active, I don’t ache as much, and my skin and hair look better. It is a great feeling to lose the weight and keep it off.
Even small victories make a big impact
By Don Harkness, 62 years old, Winning Weighs graduate
See Don tell his story
I have a job that can be stressful and, on top of that, I sit at a desk most of the day. The result of stress eating and lack of exercise was that I was over 60 and overweight. I was concerned because I knew that being overweight put me at greater risk for diabetes, heart disease and other health problems. So, I signed up for the 12-week Winning Weighs® program at Gundersen Lutheran.
One of the most important things I learned in Winning Weighs was portion control, particularly when I go out to eat. But I discovered that many restaurants will serve a half portion if you ask. I also look for 500 Club restaurants where I know the portions, calories and fat are better for me. With less food on the plate, I’m less tempted to overeat. I also learned through Winning Weighs, there are no “good” or “bad” foods. I can enjoy all my favorite foods…even chocolate…but in moderation. Exercise is also important. So now, whenever I can, I walk or bike to work.
I view my weight loss as a long-term process; after all, I didn’t put my extra weight on in just 12 weeks…it took years. My weight loss during the program was modest, but if I can continue to achieve even modest weight loss each year without gaining it back like in the past, I consider that a positive adventure. I also consider the program a success because now I’m more active, I eat better and I look and feel better, too.
A real solution after a lifetime of yo-yo dieting
By Laura Kaufmann, 53 years old, took Winning Weighs in 2006, Winning Weighs Teammates
See Laura tell her story
I can control my eating in a healthy, holistic way now. I don’t have to be a victim of my eating. This is the knowledge I gained from taking Winning Weighs at Gundersen Lutheran.
Like a lot of women, I had been dieting all my life. I was tired of seeing myself gain the weight back after each diet. Winning Weighs taught me that it is really a lifestyle change.
I still struggle with stress eating on occasion, but I also know I have to keep working at it. That’s why I have continued with Teammates, the Winning Weighs follow-up support group. I can share my successes and challenges with others in the group who understand what I’m going through. The ongoing support has made a difference in working through and integrating what I learned in Winning Weighs. Thanks to Teammates I’ve continued to lose weight, especially in the last nine months.
I’m the biggest fan of the dietitians—they are patient, supportive and caring. I value their wisdom and support. With their help, I now know I need to make time for myself. It’s important for me to take the time to plan and make meals, for example, and I’ve learned to use the weekend to make meals for the week. Winning Weighs taught me that eating healthy is a lifestyle that I can make work for me.
I feel good about what I learned
By Suanne Kraft, age 51, took Winning Weighs in 2009, continues with Winning Weighs Superstars
See Suanne tell her story
Although taking Winning Weighs® helped me get a discount on my insurance premiums, I signed up because I had a desire to lead a better overall lifestyle. I needed to start with the basics. When I told my daughter I was taking the classes she said, “Why, you already knew how to eat right.” I told her, “I’m overweight, so I guess I haven’t learned enough yet.” And I was right.
During the 12-week Winning Weighs program I learned a lot, especially about the importance of fiber in my diet to help control my appetite and water to keep me hydrated. I have to work to balance my “triangle” which includes nutrition/hydration, rest and exercise.
While taking the Winning Weighs classes I found it easy to follow the program. Each week I’d learn something new to put into practice. I must confess, however, I’ve had some ups and downs since then. Personal challenges in my life sometimes make it difficult to stick to the program.
When I have a relapse, I just go back to the fundamentals. In addition, I see a nutritionist, Rebecca Cripe, about every 6 weeks as part of the Winning Weighs Superstar maintenance program. She’s great. She gives me new ideas for fitting exercise into my busy schedule and she always has a new recipe for me to try. And the accountability helps me stay on track.
Winning Weighs is such an awesome program. I’d recommend it for everyone whether they have a weight problem or not.
Changing habits for a lifetime
By Mike McKee, age 42, took Winning Weighs in 2007
See Mike tell his story
I had been slowly adding on about five pounds a year for the past five years. I wasn’t paying attention to portions…if you put food in front of me, I ate it. After the holidays, I weighed in at 223 pounds.
Finally, a health risk assessment through work showed me that I needed to make some changes, starting with my eating habits. So, I signed up for Gundersen Lutheran’s Winning Weighs® weight management program in January 2007. Through the 12-week program I learned that calorie counting, portion control and exercise were all changes I needed to make in my life.
Following the plan, in 12 weeks I dropped 14 pounds—26 pounds over 6 months. Two years later I am maintaining at about 200 pounds. I had to look at this as an opportunity to change habits for a lifetime—not just a diet—in order to sustain it and not fall back into old habits.
Sure, I struggle sometimes. Like a lot of people, I find it difficult to carve out time for exercise. But I’m a fairly active person so I look for ways to incorporate things that I have to accomplish into exercise…like shoveling in the winter. The weight loss and exercise had another benefit. It reduced recovery time from a chronic disk problem in my back and improved my condition to where I am nearly 100 percent recovered.
I have three teenage daughters, and I used Winning Weighs to help them also understand the importance of good eating and exercise. We’ve even talked about signing them up for Winning Weighs® for Teens.