Taking baby steps

By Tova Fruchtman: CNJ staff writer

Walking was a problem. Fried foods were a holiday staple. And spending time with the grandchildren meant sitting and reading a book.

Maryjo Jones was too heavy to do anything else.
“I couldn’t breath,” said Jones, who lost 90 pounds after joining a Taking Off Pounds Sensibly club in Clovis four years ago.

Jones’ mother had been ill, and the doctor said she also had to lose weight. When Jones saw an ad for TOPS in the paper she thought it would be a good place for them to start.

“I know that if I didn’t go to TOPS I would gain back all of the weight I lost,” said Jones, who is working now on losing 30 pounds she has gained back. “We are a support group … We meet, and we weigh in, and we try and inspire each other, and encourage each other to reach our goals.”

The weight loss has made an impact on Jones’ family, as well.

Jones said she remembers when her son came home from the military just after she lost her weight. She said he hugged and patted her and asked “Where’s my mom? Where’s my mom?”

“I have eight grandchildren, and I keep em often.” Jones said. “If I hadn’t lost all that weight I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them.”

In a 2001 a General Nutrition Center poll found 55 percent of those polled made a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier, 50 percent resolved to exercise more and 38 percent wanted to lose weight.

Judy Cox, a registered dietitian at La Casa Family Health Center, said the key to losing weight is taking “baby steps.”
Cox suggested adding vegetables to your diet, then get portion controls right. If your not used to exercising, start with 10 minutes and add 10 more each week.

“If you incorporate lifestyle changes, they’re going to last longer than New Year’s resolutions,” she said.

Cox gave CNJ readers some tips on how people of all ages can begin make healthier choices this year:

Cut out junk food: Replace potato chips, cookies, candies and cokes with diet soda, flavored waters (which are even better because they contain no caffeine), vanilla wafers, graham crackers and Teddy Grahams (all cookies that are low in calories).

Have smaller portions of starches: Replace white bread, pasta, potatoes, corn and rice with vegetables and fiber foods like raw vegetables, nuts and whole-wheat bread.

Eat your veggies: Snack on vegetables instead of junk food. “I tell my patients vegetables are your friends,” Cox said. Have two to three portions of vegetables per half plate of food. If you are still hungry after you finish your meal — eat more vegetables. Certain vegetables are too starchy — potatoes, corn, peas and beans — and should be avoided.

Have a healthy home: “You should make healthy food for your whole family.” Have fruits and vegetables available to snack on when the children get home.

Make good choices when you eat out: Choose salad or a baked potato instead of fries. Choose grilled rather than fried. Get dressing, gravy, butter and sour cream on the side to control how much you use. Don’t get pre-made salads on buffets: They usually have more fat. Order items marked as healthy choices or smaller portions.

Control every portion: The American Diabetes Association portion sizes are proven guides. Keeping a food diary for about 10 days can get you used to what portion sizes to eat.
Talk to a professional. Diets can affect other organs or ailments people may not be aware of. Nutritionists and doctors can help people choose foods that are right for their specific body and lifestyle.

Exercise: To stay healthy, a person should exercise 30 to 40 minutes, four times a week. The 30 to 40 minutes can be spread out throughout a day.

Indulge: “If you’re dieting, once a week have your favorite meal and then go back on your diet.” This well help you not feel limited on your food choices.

For Jones, the beginning stages of her diet were the toughest. Exercising on land was more difficult, so Jones and her mother began going to water aerobics courses.
Then she got her beagle Bailey and started walking him.
Now, walking the dog is a daily ritual.

A vegetable plate has become a holiday staple.

And spending time with grandchildren means taking walks, playing hide-and-go-seek and going to the park.

“It makes life so much more worth while,” Jones said. “I’m working at being healthy, and it’s definitely added to the quality of my life.”