This article is part of EBN's year-long BeneFIT Success series, which chronicles employers and employees in their individual and organizational wellness triumphs. All articles in the series are available at ebn.benefitnews.com, keywords "benefit success series." Learn more about how to submit your company as a candidate for the series at the end of this article.

Turning 50 dramatically affects some people. Couple the big 5-0 with a new diagnosis of diabetes, and what do you get? How about a more-than-90-pound weight loss in 10 months? Meet Alex Whitacre, an employee with George Koch Sons in Evansville, Ind.

Back in 1982, Alex, then in the Air Force, had a 29-inch waist. Over the next few years, as he packed on pounds, Alex did his fair share of yo-yo dieting. Somehow, the weight would always reappear. Then, six years ago, after badly breaking his ankle, Alex gained almost 50 pounds over a short period of time.

At his physical in 2010, Alex's fasting blood sugar was 240. He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. While attending a high school graduation ceremony, Alex worried that he wouldn't be able to see his future grandchildren graduate.

Alex decided it was time to act and he took charge of his own health. His physician referred Alex to a dietitian who prescribed a 1,900 calorie diet, with 60 grams of carbohydrate at each meal, plus two 15 grams carbohydrate snacks. (Read more about the keys to counting carbs in the sidebar.)

To help track his daily intake, Alex found a free program on the Internet, MyFitnessPal. He used the website, coupled with its companion iPhone app, to log in his daily food intake. He also uses a couple of free restaurant guides when he eats out to make wise choices and stay within his caloric and carbohydrate range. Alex now tries to eat 1,800 calories and keeps his carbohydrate intake at around 240 grams (960 calories).

 

Setting goals and staying on course

Alex set a personal goal to lose 100 pounds and, at presstime, had fewer than 10 pounds to go. A big part of Alex's success has been incorporating exercise into his daily life. He and his wife bought bikes and plan to bike in the warmer weather, and Alex has started an exercise program with his Civil Air Patrol Cadets.

Being Squadron Commander of a cadet squadron in the Civil Air Patrol (U.S. Air Force Auxiliary) was added incentive to lose weight. Promoting physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle is a cornerstone of the cadet program. It is hard for the Unit Commander to lead top-notch cadets in the program while setting a bad example in one of the key elements of the program. The encouragement he has received from the cadets has been a strong incentive to stay on course.

If you look at Alex's entries in his MyFitnessPal logs, the downward slope of his weight is steady. He has averaged about 1.5 lbs loss per week for almost a year now. The other entry of his daily calorie intake has only one day missing in 10 months. Now that's impressive.

The proud father of four children, Alex has given not only himself but his family the gift of his improved health.

 

Carolyn Hendrickson, R.N., is a health care advocate for Welborn Health Plans and the wellness nurse for George Koch Sons LLC in Evansville, Ind. Submit your company's wellness success story to EBN Editor-in-Chief Kelley M. Butler at kelley.butler@sourcemedia.com, subject line "BeneFIT Success series."

 

 


 

Concerns about carbs

What's all this about carb counting? Carbohydates (carbs, for short) are one of the three main energy sources in food, along with protein and fat. Carbs have the biggest effect on blood sugars level. Proteins and fats can also supply energy, but carbohydrates are our body's natural choice to meet energy needs.

Carb counting focuses on the total amount of carbohydrates consumed rather than the source or type of carbohydrate. Consistency is the key in carb counting. This means consistency in the amount of carbs consumed at each meal and consistency in the timing of meals throughout the day.

A registered dietitian can determine your daily calorie requirements as well as an appropriate range for your carbohydrate intake. If you have diabetes, a consult with an R.D. is imperative.

If you are monitoring your carbs for weight control and have no related medical conditions, the best approach is to focus on replacing refined "white" carbs with the healthier whole grain varieties. By replacing the refined breads, pastas, rice, and other starches with high fiber, whole grain choices you will not only reduce your calories and increase your fiber intake but improve your overall health as well. The American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association are great resources for acquiring charts on carbohydrate contents of foods.

Be cautious of any diet or weight loss program that recommends eliminating or drastically reducing carbs or any other entire food category. Not only can this can leave you prone to nutritional deficiencies, but diets that are too restrictive are generally not sustainable for the long term. Focus on making lifestyle changes.

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