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Lifestyle changes help woman achieve weight-loss goal

"I was hardly doing anything; hardly even walking to the mailbox."

That was over six months and 86 pounds ago, before Trudy Conklin of Central Point walked through the doors of a Medford wellness clinic and discovered what she calls "a new way of living."

Entering the lobby of Healthy U Ltd. wasn't easy for Conklin, who had just attended a meeting about bariatric surgery — a weight loss surgical procedure that seals off most of the stomach to reduce the amount of food a person can consume. When she learned her insurance company wouldn't cover the surgery, she felt desperate.

"That's when I called Healthy U," recalls the 55-year-old mother and grandmother. "My heart wasn't in it, but they said it was a free consultation and I told myself I needed to do it."

Conklin says she found was a solution that had evaded her for decades — decades filled with trendy, yo-yo and starvation diets that just resulted in more weight gain. The solution? A set of doable lifestyle changes supported by a team that's helping Conklin achieve her goals.

"I have part of my life back again," she says. "Now I go to the grocery store, walk across the street without feeling self-conscious; things most people take for granted like getting out of a chair — gosh, it's so easy now."

Conklin's struggle with weight isn't unusual in Jackson County, where studies estimate 60 percent of the population is overweight and half of those folks are obese. What is unusual about her story is that she did something about it — for herself and for her family.

Although it's the number on the scale that drives most people through Healthy U's doors, underlying reasons are often much different, says director Kia Sanford, a certified nurse.

"Generally speaking, we find that really what people are looking for is to feel physically better — they want a vibrant, energetic life and to not feel fatigued all the time," she says. "They want to chase their kids around."

Because each body responds differently to various weight loss and fitness techniques, Healthy U founder Rich Bodager and Sanford developed an easily customized program based on nutrition, fitness, life coaching and education.

Each 13-week "semester" starts with a visit to a bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) machine that specifies the makeup and location of unwanted, unhealthy and extra pounds.

"It's a scale that runs three very small electrical currents throughout the body that determines body fat, body water, lean body mass and even where water is being held — if it's inside or outside the cells," explains Sanford.

The machine spits out a report that specifies a goal weight based on a healthy amount of fat for that person's frame. It also sets the pace of weight loss by reading the individual's basal metabolic rate (BMR), which determines how fast their body burns fuel.

The BMR is monitored throughout the program to assure clients are losing weight from fat and not from lean body mass.

Keeping the BMR on high is key to losing fat, says Sanford, and that means stoking the body's furnace with good food in frequent, small portions.

Each client is matched with one of three "tracks," with nutrition counselors helping to create custom eating plans that promote weight loss, combat plateaus and are designed for long-term adherence.

Since no weight-loss program is complete without exercise, Healthy U works in partnership with Avamere Health and Fitness Club in Medford where Director Bill Macy tailors workable and likable fitness routines for clients.

"It's not the typical gym atmosphere where it's the 'drop and give me 20' attitude or work on the treadmill even if you hate walking," says Macy.

"We want to show people they can actually get this done, feel better and develop habits to keep them that way."

Each client fills out two extensive health history questionnaires to help identify their past and current fitness habits, attitudes, goals and physical and medical limitations.

From there, Macy works in tandem with the client and his or her Healthy U team.

Clients should be prepared to face some emotional and psychological issues as their body changes, says Sanford. One-on-one lifestyle coaching and counseling sessions with trained professionals are part of Healthy U's program, offering clients a secure and caring place to voice difficult personal issues.

"Nearly everybody has reasons why the weight comes on and most of those are emotional issues," Sanford says matter-of-factly.

"If those aren't dealt with, you won't keep the weight off because you've only dealt with the symptom and not the problems."

Often, the reasons are based in fear of many things, from the possible regaining of weight to deeper issues such as a lifelong fear of failure or a fear of attracting attention from others, possibly caused by an emotional or physical trauma.

The sessions are also used to create realistic and safe goals and new habits to help incorporate them into a healthier lifestyle, Sanford says.

"The whole approach is very holistic," says the program director.

"Each person is an intriguing and challenging puzzle and it's fun figuring them out and helping them learn to pay more attention to feeding and caring for their bodies."

Jennifer Strange is a freelance writer living in Central Point. Reach her at jlstrange@hotmail.com.

Healthy U Ltd. director Kia Sanford works with Trudy Conklin of Central Point on the bioelectrical impedence analysis machine, which measures the makeup and location of unwanted, unhealthy and extra pounds. Jim Craven 3/6/2007