Health program a losing proposition

Esther Pankratz found what she needed in a local program to successfully lose weight.

In the past, she went on two Weight Watcher’s diets.

“The first time I lost weight, but I gained it back,” Pankratz said. “And the second time, I didn’t lose any weight.”

But this time, the new Hillsboro Health Post wellness and fitness center was advertising a weight-loss program called the 90-Day Challenge.

Pankratz recently lost 17 pounds and a combined total of 101/8 inches on a 12-week weight-loss program.

Sharing this private and personal information is difficult, Pankratz said, but she’s willing to tell her story if it will help others.

About four months ago, the 70-year-old Hillsboro resident was handed a picture a friend took of her, and the reaction to the image in the photo was immediate.

“I looked at myself and I said, ‘Things have got to change. This time, it’s got to be in earnest.'”

But the three-month challenge program at the Health Post was going to cost her $250.

“And then, I had to go through my mind whether I really wanted to spend the money-whether it was going to be worth it,” Pankratz said. “I decided, if I want to get this done, I’ll spend the money, put my effort in it and try to make it worthwhile.”

For 19 years, she worked in Hillsboro physician George Ens’ office until he retired.

Pankratz then began working as an LPN 12 years ago at Hillsboro Community Medical Center. And that’s when she began to put on the weight.

“I think it was a change in lifestyle,” she said. “There was always a break, and there was a snack at break time. But at the doctor’s office, we had no food around, ever. You just worked straight through the whole time.”

By the time the recent photo was taken, she had gained 30 pounds in 12 years.

She took on the 90-Day Challenge. The challenge is a behavior-modification program designed to establish an individual weight-loss program and set long-range goals. Clients must have a doctor’s approval to begin dieting and exercising.

The first step was for Jeanne Rziha, wellness coordinator at the Health Post, to determine Pankratz’ body composition by measuring percentage of body fat and body lean muscle, tissue and bones.

Pankratz was then given a metabolic test to determine her basic caloric needs according to the total number of calories she expended over 24 hours.

The first week, she recorded what she ate and returned to Rziha to review and plan her long-range goals.

At this point, Pankratz began recording her daily calorie intake in a diary.

“I was supposed to be on 1,142 calories a day,” Pankratz said. “And I’m staying under that most of the time.”

But counting calories alone was not enough for her-she also chose to exercise by walking and using weights.

“I have diabetes and cancer in my (family history), so I’m concerned about that,” Pankratz said. “The more you get these muscles moving that haven’t moved for awhile, the more you can build up a healthy body to resist diseases and better your life.”

Before beginning her walking program, Pankratz was concerned about a previous problem with shortness of breath. So she chose to start with 30-minute walks.

“But I started walking more and more, and now I’m walking 45 minutes six to seven days a week,” Pankratz said.

Until the heat of the summer is replaced by cooler fall days, she chooses to walk in the air-conditioned basement at HCMC Long Term Care Unit. When the outside temperatures drop, she has a neighborhood route mapped out for her weekly exercise.

She also wears a pedometer on her belt to measure how many steps she takes in a day.

“I have read several articles that a person should get in a minimum of 10,000 steps a day to keep up their energy level. Since I have been wearing this, I’m averaging about 14,000 steps a day.”

But her exercise regime also includes weight-lifting at the Health Post.

“The trainers will give you a program to work on,” Pankratz said. “And you take your card with your program on it, and you go through the whole list whenever it suits you.”

She uses dumbbells for bench lifts, bicep curls and butterfly arm exercises and also uses weights for calf raises.

She still works part time at HCMC two to three days a week. That schedule allows her to fit in about 30 minutes three times a week lifting weights at the Health Post.

Although husband Harold is supportive, Pankratz said she isn’t on a weight-loss program for him.

“You’ll never lose it if you don’t want to lose it for yourself, and you shouldn’t want to lose weight just for a special occasion,” Pankratz said. “You have to want to do this, and you have to be willing to change your lifestyle.”

Pankratz said she has changed her old eating habits to accomplish her new weight-loss goals.

“You know how many calories you can have for the day,” she said. “Well, if you eat too much for breakfast, you aren’t going to have enough for the rest of the day-so you watch what you eat.”

And when the couple goes out to dinner, she looks for a menu item that’s not fried, asks for a dry salad and asks for gravy on the side.

But she also allows herself the occasional treat.

“You have to do that,” she said, about her indulgence-tin-roof-sundae ice cream.

And does she get on the scales every day to watch her progress?

“Oh, no, don’t ever do that,” Pankratz said. “There’s too much fluctuation in daily weight.”

Instead, she checks in once a week to be weighed by Rziha and occasionally checks herself on the hospital scales once a week, too.

“One week, I only lost half a pound,” Pankratz said. “But I didn’t get discouraged. The next week, I lost two pounds.”

Her 90-day challenge is over, but she said her weight-loss goals are not finished. She has another 13 pounds left to lose the 30 pounds she gained after changing jobs. And she plans to lose that by Christmas.

“I’m going on vacation soon, and there will be lots of food available,” Pankratz said.

And how is she going to handle those temptations?

“Say no,” she said. “And I know there’s exercise facilities and swimming pools available. I plan to do water aerobics and a lot of walking.”

Two weeks after she returns from vacation, she’s scheduled to meet with Rziha and review her plan to lose more weight. And once the weight loss is complete, she also has a plan for maintenance.

“If I start gaining again, I know I have to cut back certain things,” Pankratz said. “It’s not easy, but don’t give up.”

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