May 12, 2016
Carolyn Daniels has dropped 57 pounds, but she’s gained a healthier lifestyle and a new outlook on life.
“I am alive,” Daniels said. “I have more energy and can move around and play with my grandchildren. If I had not changed the way I was eating, I probably would be dead.”
Daniels is one of 20 participants in the Healthy Women Building Healthy Families weight loss program in the Department of Family Medicine at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine.
Spearheaded by dietitian Kay Craven, classes are held weekly at the ECU Family Medicine Center and cull staff and students from multiple disciplines across the campus. Topics such as weight and behavioral management, nutrition, and physical activity are included to help attendees achieve and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.
“Health insurance often does not cover nutrition services for weight management,” Craven said. “Since weight can affect so many other health conditions, we saw the need and importance of providing these services.”
Participants are women referred by their ECU family physician or invited by another participant. Supported by the Department of Family Medicine and a local organization called Women for Women, the program is free to attendees.
The program aims to reach women responsible for food purchasing and preparation for their families while addressing obesity, a public health concern.
From October 2014 to June 2015, 35 participants attended the class regularly and touted a total weight loss of 204 pounds.
“These classes are working, and the women are feeling empowered to participate in their own health care. They are extending it to their families,” Craven said.
Through a partnership with the Department of Kinesiology in ECU’s College of Health and Human Performance, attendees are paired with exercise physiology graduate students who serve as health coaches. The students provide the women with sustainable exercise prescriptions tailored to meet their individual needs and preferences.
The students coach participants over the course of a semester and receive credit in the graduate advanced exercise prescription class taught by kinesiology professor Kandy Houmard. “I am always looking for opportunities to help students gain patient contact,” Houmard said. “Students are given the chance to tap in and work with patients that may have other ancillary diagnoses.”
Daniels, 63 and now retired, began the program in November 2014 and credits her first health coach, Chris Moody, with part of her success. “Having someone here to see my progress and be concerned about me made me feel good,” Daniels said.
Moody said the experience helped him become effective at motivating clients to reach their individual goals and break barriers to achieving an active lifestyle.
“Health coaches use a lot of tools,” Moody said. “If a client has physical limitations, it is important to recommend things they can do such as sitting down and doing leg extensions. This experience was about tying in what we learn in class with the real-world setting. It is awesome to see that tangible change in someone’s life.”
Moody graduated in May and hopes to secure employment working with cardiac and pulmonary patients.
Daniels was invited to speak at the Power of the Purse luncheon, a fundraising event that supports Women for Women, in Greenville on May 4 to share her success.