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‘My New Weigh of Life:' Class focuses on healthy eating to lose weight

March 6, 2013

BROOKVILLE — Need to shed those winter pounds? My New Weigh of Life, a weight loss and healthy eating class set to begin March 9 at the Brookville YMCA, might be just what the doctor ordered.

My New Weigh of Life is a 12-week weight loss program.

It’s central goal is to get participants to change the way they eat so that they continue with what they’ve learned after the class is over and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“It’s basically just about changing your eating behaviors and your habits,” said Sally Hall, the instructor for the class.

Hall is a registered dietician and a certified diabetes educator.

She originally began teaching the class, which was developed by Penn State University, in 2000 and taught it for four years until Penn State made the decision to revise it. Hall has been teaching the revised version for three years now.

“I found this program to be the best one to teach because it’s really up to date,” Hall said.

And while she has offered the class before in Brookville and in the surrounding area, this year marks the first time that the Brookville YMCA will play host, after Hall reached out to the staff there and asked if they would like to hold the program.

The class meets once a week, and the session will take place from 8:30 to 10 a.m. While March 9 is a Saturday, Hall said the times and days of the week that the class meets may fluctuate afterward.

A typical class session finds participants going over and learning from standard materials provided by Penn State.

There are also some activities to help put healthy eating in perspective.

For example, participants might pour cereal in a bowl in the same amount that they would normally eat and then guess at the number of calories the serving actually contains.

“They’re really surprised by the amount of calories that are in different things,” Hall said.

Participants might also use food models to learn about portions and discuss what to do when eating out. They use ChooseMyPlate.gov to learn more about portion sizes.

Classes also delve into behavior modification and cover a variety of topics, including how to change habits and how to figure out what your high-risk foods are.

It also covers what to do if you’re the sort of person who eats even though you’re not particularly hungry — find a healthy food to take the place of whatever you would normally eat, or perhaps look for an alternative activity that will take the place of eating.

The class has a physical activity component as well. However, it is not vigorous and does not require that participants be “pumping iron.”
It focuses on basic activities.

Hall said she shows participants some simple things they can do at home to stay active and help keep the weight off.

The class includes charts that people can use to track their activity levels, in addition to other things, such as matching up their eating habits with their moods.

“We just really encourage people, with their doctor’s advice, to increase their activity slowly,” Hall said.

Outside of class sessions, participants work independently.

Hall said that they will be encouraged to measure themselves to keep themselves on course, as the class focuses on both losing weight and decreasing waistlines.

“Sometimes, you find that you lose inches before you actually lose pounds,” Hall said.

Participants will also weigh in periodically to track progress.

They are also provided, at the beginning of the class, with Hall’s contact information so that they can ask questions as they arise throughout the week.

All of these things combined help keep participants accountable and focused.

The end goal of the class is that participants will lose half of a pound to two pounds each week, or, if they’re not overweight, will be able to demonstrate that they are eating healthier.

Hall said that, according to evaluation forms from Penn State that are completed at the end, participants often meet those goals.

“I’ve been very pleased over the years that people do very well,” she said.

Participants in the class should come prepared to do some basic stretching exercises and to listen well and participate.

The class is participatory, and dialogue is expected between the instructor and the students, as well as between the students themselves. Hall said it often takes on a social dimension.

“I’ve had lots of people over the years who have really enjoyed it, and they enjoyed talking to everybody in the class,” she said. “It’s sort of a community, social-type thing.”

In the past, participants sometimes helped one another by bringing in healthy recipes and food to share. Hall said she also sometimes recommends that participants start a support group to work as a team outside of class by walking together or engaging in some other type of exercise.

After the class is over, there’s usually a followup three months later to see how participants are doing.

Sometimes, it takes the form of a class reunion, if the participants are interested in having one; otherwise, the followup occurs over the phone.

Hall said the results of past classes have been encouraging and positive.

“It’s why I keep teaching it,” she said. “It’s been very positive.People have lost weight on the program. They’ve also improved their blood cholesterol levels on the program. The people who haven’t lost weight have been happy because they’ve just improved their way of eating and activity level, and they just feel better.”

She added, “I just think it’s a sensible program that teaches people how to increase their activity and improve their eating habits. So, I think it’s just a benefit to everybody, especially since there are a lot of people who are at a good weight, but maybe they just don’t know how to maintain that; maybe they ping-pong back and forth. This will give them some good guidelines on how to maintain the weight that they have or lose weight.”

Hall said she plans to teach the class more frequently in the future, in different places across the local area.

She said that, in a single location, the class would likely be conducted a few times each year. Participants are permitted to take the class again in another session, and they have done so in the past. At the moment, Hall doesn’t know when the next one will be.

“It depends on what response we get to this particular class,” she said.
To register for My New Weigh of Life, call the Jefferson County Penn State Extension Office at (814) 849-7361. There is a $95 fee, which pays for all 12 weeks of the class and goes back to Penn State to cover the costs of the class and the materials it uses, as well as the advertising for it.

Hall said the capacity is around 15 people and that she usually has about eight to 12.

Registration officially ends on today, but Hall said she will probably take new participants through the day before, which is Friday.

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