July is Weight Management Month. Eat to live, don’t live to eat.
July is Weight Management month and we’re celebrating by sharing some stories of individuals who have made a healthy change in their lifestyle! This is our third and final success story coming to you from Catherine Vera-Burgos.
Cathy is the Provider Communications Manager at Blue Care Network and has been with the blues for over 12 years. Cathy and her husband have five children ranging in age from 15 up to 26 and, when college is not in session, they all still live at home. Since they have a large family, she stays organized by keeping a white board on one wall of their kitchen to keep track of weekly schedules. Since most of her kids drive now, their driveway is always filled with cars and, she often has the large task of feeding seven grown people in the evenings. She enjoys leading a busy life and, while hitting a rocking chair sounds good some days, she knows she’s happier multitasking.
Niccole LaDue: What was your health like before you changed your lifestyle and what is it like now?
Catherine Vera-Burgos: When I had each of my kids, I kept roughly 10 pounds for myself. With five kids, that added up. With my sedentary job, home, and volunteer responsibilities, I hadn’t left much time for taking care of myself. For many years, there was little exercising and lots of eating on the go – meaning pizzas, pasta, and drive thru goodies that pack on the pounds.
NL: What made you decide to take that first step towards a healthier lifestyle?
CVB: My youngest son, Brian, was getting ready to enter high school last year and he was concerned about his weight. One of our neighbors had talked about the Dukan Diet and Brian wanted to give it a try. It involves eating specific types of foods (lean meats and nonfat dairy) and staying away from carbohydrates, fats and sugar. Since I would be buying and cooking the foods, I decided to join him in the diet.
This was a good diet for me because there is no calorie (or points) counting. If you stick to the admittedly slim list of foods available on the diet, you can eat as much as you want whenever you want. I did this at the start and was able to lose 35 pounds in about four months on the plan. I have kept it off for about a year and am now in the maintenance stage.
It’s always easier to make a diet or exercise change if you have support. Brian and I encouraged each other to stick with the plan during the first few weeks and months, when the diet is more restrictive. Note: weight falls off of teenagers MUCH faster than it does from adults. I had to keep at it much longer than Brian to achieve the same results.
NL: What is your most important motivating factor?
CVB: I like being thinner. I feel better. I look better. I’m healthier. I get to wear new, smaller-sized clothes. What’s not to like?
NL: What was the most challenging obstacle you faced during your weight loss journey?
CVB: Some members of my family kept eating the same old foods we used to eat and kept offering them to me. It takes a lot of motivation to pass up a pizza after a long day at work and cook healthy fare instead. (Now that I’m in the maintenance stage, I can give in once in a while.)
NL: Where did you find you had the most support during your journey?
CVB: The walking program promoted by Blue Care Network, was a great boost. Last summer we had a team challenge of walking 10,000 steps a day. I joined the challenge and built time into every day to walk, either outside, at a local gym or at my home treadmill. I also joined Weight Watchers® and would walk three miles to the meeting every Saturday and three miles back home. While I didn’t follow the Weight Watchers points counting, it was helpful to hear people talk about their struggles and their successes.
NL: Did your family as a whole become healthier as a result of your lifestyle change?
CVB: I make better choices at the supermarket now and I look at the fat, carbs and calories in packaged foods to select better options. So, when family members eat at home, they are eating healthier meals.
NL: What is your current goal?
CVB: My current goal is to maintain my weight and not put the old pounds back on. I’m trying to mix healthy eating with a plan I can live with and still fit into the new clothes I bought last year. To that end, I recently signed up for a class on nutrition.
NL: Do you have a new favorite exercise or healthy recipe you’d like to share with us?
CVB: Walking is fabulous! It’s easy on your body and good for you. I like to go out for five mile hikes while listening to music. I carry a backpack so I have a jacket, cell phone, water bottle, money, etc. with me. It’s my new “me” time. When the weather isn’t great, or it’s too late at night, I get on my treadmill, put on wireless headphones and watch a movie on my TV. I have a deal with myself, that I can only watch the movie while on the treadmill. So, if it’s a good movie, I’ll keep going through to the end.
I bring a lunch to work most days so I am not tempted by high-fat and carb-loaded foods in a restaurant or cafeteria. I have grown to love Dannon Light & Fit® yogurt (which is totally fat free) and I mix oat bran into it to add fiber and make it more filling.
I also eat a lot of eggs, which are high protein – and my cholesterol dropped after a year on this diet. My favorite egg recipe is egg and cheese muffins. Mix a dozen eggs in a 4-cup measuring cup with a wire whisk. Add an 8 ounce package of fat-free shredded cheddar cheese. Spray a muffin pan with olive oil cooking spray. Pour the egg mixture into the muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Voilà, I have a healthy, filling food that I can package into bags in the refrigerator and take to work each day.
NL: What is your best piece of advice for anyone out there trying to live a healthier lifestyle?
CVB: Keep at it! It’s not easy. Make good food choices when you can, fit in some exercise, celebrate your successes (with something other than food) and cut yourself some slack. It’s okay to have pizza or chocolate (or whatever you really love) every once in a while. Every day and every meal presents a new opportunity to live healthier.
One of my favorite sayings is, “Eat to Live, Don’t Live to Eat.” You need to eat to nourish your body, but if every part of your life is built around food, you need to find some non-food interests.
Photo credit: Catherine Vera-Burgos