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Connie

I’ve been with the City of Saint Paul since 1999, having relocated here from California where I also worked in City government, for the Cities of Mountain View and Berkeley. I currently work in the Department of Safety & Inspections, Code Enforcement where my duties include managing the Truth-In-Sale of Housing program.
 
I was a competitive swimmer in my youth. I started playing tennis when I was in my mid-twenties, and began adult competition through the USTA a couple of years later. I’ve been competing ever since. Playing tennis is now my major recreational activity and is so much a part of the structure of my life that I get very distressed when I can’t play.
 
What was your problem? What was your motivation to change this?
I’m in my 60’s now, and I have been looking forward to continuing to play tennis long into retirement. Unfortunately my knees weren’t cooperating with my plan. I have arthritis in both which was making my time on the court very uncomfortable and limited. I looked in the mirror and saw that I was no longer trim and svelte; I didn’t look 30 anymore. Now, while I never expect to again look like I’m 30 instead of 60, I did recognize that being overweight was contributing to the problem with my knees. I knew it was something that I could actually do something about, without medical intervention, to improve my odds of spending retirement the way I planned to do.
 
So, what did you do?
Several years ago, I attended Weight Watchers. At that time, I lost about 35 pounds and kept it (mostly) off for about 5 years. Then, I got lazy and stopped paying attention to what I was eating. I gained back almost every pound I initially lost. (Ice cream and chocolate are my go-to treats!) This was frustrating. I was having trouble motivating myself to make any significant changes. – that is, until I saw the City was offering a discount to employees for participation in Weight Watchers and that meetings would, conveniently, be in City Hall, during the work day (lunch hour). I think there was no more than 3 days between when I saw the announcement and went to my first (reprise) meeting on October 3, 2013.
 
What have the results been?
I was stunned to lose 5 pounds the first week back on Weight Watchers! That result is NOT typical. What it meant to me was that I knew what to do, and I could do it. Progress since then has been slower, but still steady. The Holidays were a challenge and while I didn’t continue to lose, at least I gained only 1 pound back. It took only 9 weeks to lose 20 pounds. Amazing. That’s a little more than 2 pounds a week. I’m not yet at my goal and that goal is still a little bit of a moving target. I want to lose another 5 to 10 pounds.
 
How is your life different now?
I’m more mindful of what I’m eating. It helps that I truly like fruits and vegetables, and don’t care that much about meat. I still go to restaurants and eat out. The Weight Watchers program is one that teaches you to recognize sensible foods and portions so that you can balance out your consumption of the treats that you still can have – in moderation!
 
And, most importantly, my tennis game has improved! I’m able to play longer and more frequently, and I move better on the court. I’m really happy about that!
 
Do you have any advice for others wanting to lose weight?
What you eat is something that is totally within your control. You don’t have to deprive yourself of any of the foods you love, you just need to be mindful of your portions and make sure that your other choices are ones that are healthy for you. Attending group meetings is one way to assist you in maintaining your commitment to yourself. Weight loss is not easy and old habits are always hanging around just waiting to creep back in; banishing them to history is a constant battle that does get easier and can be won.
 
If I have any advice at all, it’s to set a goal and find help to reach it. This way works for me.

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Chris

Once I finished high school, I was always on the heavy side when it comes to my weight. About three years ago I walked up a long flight of stairs and found myself completely out of breath. That was when I knew I had to make a change.
 
The first thing I told myself was that “you did not end up like this overnight and you cannot reverse it overnight.” I established very realistic goals for myself to keep things in a healthy perspective. For example, it seems that everyone focuses on losing weight when they realize they need to make a change around being healthy. I had been there and done that numerous times and it was always a short-lived experience. I began by focusing on what it means for me to become healthy as a person, what a healthy ‘me’ looks like. Did this include weight loss? Yes, but it has never been my primary motivation or focus. This also woke me up to the fact that part of the legacy that I was leaving my family, especially my kids, was not what I really wanted it to be. I did not have a healthy image of myself and it showed. Knowing I have chosen to make this change still motivates me every day.
 
My goal is really simple and it applies to more than just my physical health: Be a Healthy Person. To do this takes more than just focusing on one aspect of my physical health. For me, I not only had to learn how to make healthy choices for my physical health (specifically around how food and what I ate), but I also needed to make changes in areas that affected my mental and spiritual health as well. The good news about this approach is that when you do one healthy thing, it helps you do the next healthy thing. If I make a good decision around food choices, I tend to make good choices around my activity levels, etc.
 
I use a “FitBit” that I won through the Healthy Saint Paul program and use it to track my activity, what I eat and how I sleep. I love it! You need to find the tools that help you stay focused and on track and for me, this device works great. I also have involved my family to help keep me focused on what my goals are. It’s an amazing feeling when you see the good choices reflected in the choices your kids make. I have learned to celebrate my successes, but NOT with food! I have donated the clothes that no longer fit-I tell myself “you are NOT going back, this is a one-way street!” This helps me to keep my focus moving forward. I also have what I would consider some very audacious things I want to do. These are long term goals that I believe will contribute to me being a healthy person for the rest of my life.
 
I love to cook and I love to eat, I still do! Because of this, I have learned how to cook different things and found there are a lot of foods that I did not know I liked which are much better for me than what I used to eat all the time. I also share meals with my wife when we go out rather than having each of us order our own. For me it was not just the type of foods I was eating, but the amount as well. I have learned through this process that I really don’t need as much food as what I thought I did. Even though I try to focus on being a healthy person, it’s hard at times not to just focus on just losing weight. You might say WOW if I told you that I have lost 49 pounds, it is a great accomplishment. But it has taken me the better part of 3 years to do it and what makes me say WOW is that I have kept it off.
 
My advice for someone who wants to make a change is simple: Do it! You are worth it! You have the ability to change whatever is necessary for you to be the healthy person you want to be. Use the tools available to you, like the healthy Saint Paul program. I did not start my journey to be healthy because of it, but I am thankful that good tools are available for me to use. Find what keeps you motivated-if it helps, take a piece of paper and make a list of names of every person you know. Start with those who mean the most to you and list all the reasons you make a difference in their life. When you struggle and you will, take the list out and read it, you will find it to be great encouragement. For those who mean the most to me, I want to be here for a very long time and being a healthy person enables me to do just that!

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Lisa

In 2011 and 2012, I struggled with low back pain and weight gain. I visited with chiropractors, physical therapists and eventually Physicians Neck and Back Clinic (PNBC). PNBC helped me alleviate the pain as I strengthened my core muscles over a 13-week program. I committed to PNBC and to myself to maintain my core strength. After PNBC, I needed to continue with my conditioning and I didn’t trust myself with home workouts, so I worked with a trainer at Fitness 19. After 6 months there, I felt I needed something more so I joined The Body Project.
 
I committed to doing The Body Project boot camp (interval training) three times per week at a set time. The workouts were tough but gave me increased energy. I liked the way I was feeling and actually looked forward to working out. I prioritized my workouts and scheduled them in my calendar to ensure I left work on time. After two months, I did not lose any weight but I supposedly gained muscle.
 
In January 2013, I participated in and won The Body Project’s 21-day weight loss challenge. I followed the whole food/organic/lean meat diet fairly closely for 21 days then transitioned to eating healthy. I believe in eating healthy 80-90% of the time and “cheating” the rest of the time. I still eat ice cream, chocolate and chips – but only in moderation. I eat very few breads and processed foods and do not drink pop. Taking bread out of my diet was difficult initially and now makes me a bit ill if I eat too much. I soon found a good replacement for bread with veggies like sweet potatoes and almonds because they give me a full feeling like I had with bread. Since January, I have lost over 40 pounds and I feel great. Plus, my overall cholesterol has been reduced by 30. I am proud of my accomplishment and want to continue on this path.