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April 12, 2011 > Reaching a Healthy Weight the 'Right Weigh'

Reaching a Healthy Weight the 'Right Weigh'

Program Geared Toward Women Focuses on Whole Foods, Realistic Approach

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is easier said than done, isn't it? And it seems like today, as a society, we're always on the hunt for a quick fix. But for those serious about reaching a healthy weight-and staying there-it's time for a reality check. And that's exactly what the Right Weigh program at the Washington Women's Center offers: a realistic way to get to a healthy weight and stay there. No tricks, no fads and no shortcuts.

"I think that our program is a little more broad and based more on reality eating than it is about figuring out points or counting calories, and the latest research is pointing to going in that direction-away from counting," according to Kathy Hesser, R.N., clinical coordinator at the Women's Center.

But if you're not counting calories, then what exactly are you doing to lose weight? According to Hesser, the Right Weigh program focuses more on what you're eating-to help you feel satisfied, to meet your nutritional requirements and feel better overall.

"There's more of a focus on whole foods-which means foods that are not man-made," she explains. "If you're eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, portion-sized protein (not all from animal sources), then you're probably going to lose weight without thinking about the calories, because you're eating foods that are less calorie dense, higher in fiber and higher in vitamins and minerals.

"The more whole foods we eat, the better it is for us. The Right Weigh program is based on that concept."

It also helps that the program looks at each person as an individual, not an equation, according to Anna Mazzei, R.D., C.D.E., the Washington Hospital registered dietitian who instructs the program.

"The programs offers a comprehensive look at weight management, but participants also get an individualized hour to discuss their main problems areas that contribute to their weight issues," Mazzei explains. "Everyone comes from a different place, and they're going to need different skills to achieve their weight loss goals."

Mazzei says women typically have one or two specific problem habits-such as ingesting too many empty calories through beverages like flavored coffees and soda or trouble determining the right portion size. Fortunately, because it's not one-size-fits-all, the Right Weigh program easily accommodates a variety of ages and lifestyles, including women who have struggled to take off the weight or have given up on quick-fix diets.

"We get a broad spectrum of ladies in the program," according to Hesser. "Some are in their mid-40s and are done having children. They might still have that 15 pounds of baby fat. Others are just saying, 'I'm getting older and I should start looking at things I can do to be healthier.' The truth is that as you get older it becomes harder to lose weight because your metabolism slows down."

Many of the women in the program also are dealing with chronic diseases and health conditions that require extra supervision.

"I like that the program is supervised by a registered dietitian," Hesser says. "Anna's expertise offers more of a safety net for people because she has the tools to consider the whole person, whether that individual has diabetes or kidney problems.

"We don't want people going on crash diets. In fact, Anna doesn't even like the word diet."

Mazzei has been a registered dietitian at Washington Hospital for more than 20 years and holds a certificate in Adult Weight Management from the American Diabetes Association. She counsels participants in the Right Weigh program to achieve a healthy weight loss of one to two pounds a week.

During the 12-week program, Hesser says participants often see other benefits to their health and emotional wellbeing.

"When I see ladies from Right Weigh in other classes like the Arthritis Foundation exercise class, they just beam and I can see their confidence is better," she says. "Our Right Weigh participants just seem so radiant when I see them, and that's neat for me."

Geared exclusively for women, the program includes eight, small-group sessions over a 12-week period. Classes include individual weight checks followed by group education sessions on pertinent topics that help the individual stay focused on her weight management goals. Each group session starts off with an interactive lecture and participants are encouraged to ask questions and provide their own perspectives.

Those enrolled in the program will also meet one-on-one with the dietitian for an hour-long session to evaluate and discuss individual goals and specific needs.

But Mazzei says the first step-even before enrolling in the Right Weigh program-is preparing mentally to make permanent changes. Once women do that, she says, Right Weigh offers them a comprehensive toolset for building a healthier lifestyle.

"I always tell people, 'You are never going to stop doing this. You can't go back to what you did before,'" she explains. "At the same time, I don't think about weight management and diet in terms of restrictions. Let's not make food a bad thing. When we say 'diet,' there are so many great foods to eat and it's about discovering new products, new ways to prepare things and trying brand new foods. No, you can't eat the entire package of Oreo cookies, but there are lots of other things you can enjoy."

The time is now

To register for the Right Weigh nutrition program beginning next month, call Kathy Hesser at (510) 608-1356. Group classes meet once a week for the first four weeks. Then sessions meet every two weeks for the next two months. The fee for the entire program is $185. Group classes and meetings will take place inside the Washington Women's Center, Suite 150, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

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