BY COSHANDRA DILLARD
Accountability and the camaraderie among co-workers may prove to be what 13 women at Trinity Clinic-Manhatton needed to achieve their weight-loss goals.
Christened the Manhatton Mommas, the women accepted the challenge put down by Lighten Up East Texas, a regional weight-loss contest that kicked off this month.
They all plan to shed the weight slowly through healthy lifestyle changes and encouragement within the group.
With the group's biggest cheerleader, medical assistant Donna Brooks, at the helm, it hasn't taken much time to integrate those changes into their routines.
Each Friday, the women weigh-in, and last week, they cheered as group members received good news about this week's results — a collective 28 pounds lost in two weeks.
Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics had already provided an internal health initiative for employees but with the regional weight-loss challenge, the “Mommas” said it provided even more incentive to get the weight off for good.
The clinic, on Manhatton Drive, is situated in a quiet residential and business district that's ideal for midday walks. In addition, there is a gym within walking distance, and the women have contemplated joining.
This is the time
Over the years Ms. Brooks, 49, has tried many programs, including Weight Watchers.
“The thing that helped with Weight Watchers was being accountable, weighing once a week,” she said. “So we have that here.”
As a group, they've cut down on sugar, breads and soda.
“Everyone knows what their weaknesses are,” Ms. Brooks said. “They figure out what that is and we try to make goals for that.”
Ms. Brooks is a breast cancer survivor. She had a double mastectomy two years ago and completed chemotherapy soon after. She not only wants to improve her health but prevent cancer from coming back.
According to a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, extra pounds are linked to a higher risk of reoccurrence of the most common type of breast cancer.
“That was my motivation,” she said.
Making those lifestyle changes can be difficult, some women said.
“Once you tell yourself you can't have it, the temptation is stronger,” said Karen Armstrong, and office assistant. “The more support you have the easier it is on everybody.”
Ms. Armstrong has attempted weight loss for many years. She's more encouraged now because she has type 2 diabetes.
“I'm almost 50 and I'm a diabetic so I want to get the weight off,” she said, noting she wants to shed about 15 pounds. “Everybody needs to be in better health, especially when you're an older age.”
Tackling weight loss with others increases chances for success, the group said, as busy lives and discouragement become reasons many fail.
The women encourage each other to bring healthy lunches to work and take quick walks around the clinic.
“You get set in your ways and you get comfortable,” said LaDreena Williams, a nurse at the clinic.
“You get busy and don't have time to exercise and you're tired when you get home. But once you get into the groove of doing it and into a routine of changing then it comes a little easier. It just takes time to break those old habits.”
Ms. Williams, 27, and the mother of a 6-year-old, is using the contest as motivation to shed at least 15 pounds by her wedding day, slated for Jan. 5.
“I've really been trying to go back to my pre-baby weight, and now this is an extra jump kick,” she said. “Hopefully, I'll get to the goal.”
Working in a medical facility, Ms. Brooks said it was important that they can be an example of good health for their patients. She also pointed out that even with a steady stream of encouragement, the individual has to want to do it.
“No one can lose weight for you,” she said. “You can have cosmetic surgery and get wrinkles fixed but when it comes to losing weight, even with surgery, you still have to watch what you eat.”
Nurse Gayla Robinson, 43, had a sleeve gastrectomy — a procedure that reduces the size of the stomach — one year ago.
At her heaviest, she was about 383 pounds. With 113 pounds lost, she has nearly 100 more to go to reach her ideal weight.
“The first 60 come off real fast, then after that, you have to work at it,” she said. “I've been stuck in a plateau pretty much for a month or so now. I needed some motivation to keep going.”
In the past, her weight caused much pain in her back, she could barely walk and she was on medications. Today, she is no longer taking medicine for high blood pressure and diabetes.
“When (the doctor) could actually remove that from my problem list, from my medical record, that it had resolved, it was a great feeling,” she said. “I feel great.”
With the support of her three children, two of whom are college-age, she continues with healthy-eating habits including watching portion sizes.
By the end if the challenge in May, she hopes to be 30 pounds lighter and have all of the weight off within two years.
During weigh-ins, only Ms. Brooks knows everyone's weight. When they have a setback, there are still smiles and words of encouragement.
“You know, you've still got until May to get the weight off,” Ms. Brooks recalled saying to team members.
Ultimately, the women are sure their tight-knit group will not let them down.
“I think we're going to meet our goals,” Ms. Williams said. “We are because we all are going to push each other. It will be a good end result.”