Measuring the outcome

Food diary program comes to an end

Food diary program comes to an end

July 15, 2007|by JULIE E. GREENE

Editor's note: This is the last part of an occasional series about three Washington County families participating in a food diary program created by The Herald-Mail and Washington County Health Department. The families are keeping track of their food consumption and exercise for about three weeks. Then they will have food and exercise plans developed for them and will continue to track their food consumption and exercise for a month.

The need for commitment to establish a healthier lifestyle was reinforced for three families participating in a food diary project as they tried - and in many cases are still trying - to work healthier eating and exercise habits into their busy schedules.

"It's difficult when you're both working and you have a child. You come home and you're tired. You have to try to eke out that time because you know you have to do it," said Kathy Sargent, 54, who lives near Funkstown.


"It is worth it because you know in the long run it's going to help your health and (help you) live longer. We want to be healthy for our child and set a good example for her," Sargent said.

In late April, the participating families, including the Michaels of Williamsport and Kellee Smith of the Hagerstown area, started tracking their food consumption and exercise. After about three weeks, they met with Tammy Thornton, nutrition/wellness services coordinator for Washington County Health Department. She gave each adult participant small steps to pursue. The participants kept a record of their eating and exercising patterns for another five weeks. Thornton then checked to see how they were doing with their goals.

She gave them one or two goals at a time so as not to overwhelm them.

They each had goals, such as losing weight, feeling more energetic and eating healthier.

By July 9, most of the adults had lost weight, when comparing body weights at the start and end of the project.

Most of the adults also lost almost 2 inches or more around their waists.

Brian Michael, 31, was ecstatic to learn he'd lost 10 1/2 pounds and lost almost 2 inches off his waistline.

He has almost entirely given up soda. He mostly drinks water and sugar-free Crystal Light. He no longer skips breakfast. Instead, he eats a breakfast bar or banana at work.

Michael said he feels a little more energetic than he did before the project.

His wife, Lisa, also has reduced the amount of soda she drinks. Instead, she drinks diet soda, Crystal Light and iced tea sweetened with a sugar substitute.

The family is eating more chicken than beef and has been working on getting more exercise.

Lisa Michael realizes she and her family are just beginning a long process and further results will take time to achieve. But it's not easy.

"With Brian losing the weight and I'm not, it's just really frustrating," said Lisa Michael, 38.

All of the participants expect to continue the healthier habits they began under the program.

The women also plan to join a new program this fall, "A New You: Health for Every Body." The program is a project of the Work & Physical Activity Coalition of Washington County that addresses pleasurable and healthy eating, physically active living and respect for body-size diversity.

A pilot group will start meeting Aug. 29 at Boonsboro Community Center, Thornton said. There is a $25 materials fee. To get information about this program, call the health department at 240-313-3300.

Kathy Sargent said her family had tracked the cost of grocery shopping and eating out, finding it cheaper to cook their own food.

Stressed? Don't eat

If asked, many people would say they want to be healthier, but developing a healthy eating and exercise routine takes commitment by making it a high priority, Dr. David H. Solberg said. Solberg is a Hagerstown-area obstetrician and gynecologist who has taken a strong interest in the issues of obesity and healthy lifestyles. He spoke about the consequences of unhealthy lifestyle choices at a June nutrition and wellness conference sponsored by Washington County Hospital.

People should realize that even with changes in diet and exercise, results are not immediate, Solberg and Thornton said.

They also should control what they can and accept what they can't control, Solberg said.

Take stress, for example.

Stress is how a person reacts to a situation, Thornton said. Some people react to stress by eating. But people can learn to change their reactions, she said.

Lisa Michael said there were times she ate because she had a craving or was stressed because the kids weren't listening to her or she couldn't keep up with the housework.

"It's not that I'm even hungry. It's just I know it's in the house, and I go find it," Michael said.

So she tries, though her husband likes to buy junk food, to reduce how much junk food is in the house, she has been leaving fruit on the table for when she or the kids get an urge to eat between meals.

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