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Program on healthier lifestyle is in its sixth series

Posted: Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Betty English had only one question for Columbia County Roads and Bridges employees Aug. 30.


Columbia County Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent Betty English explains portion sizes to Roads and Bridges workers as part of the University of Georgia's Walk-A-Weigh program. The county has fitness requirements in place for its employees.

Photo by Valerie Rowell

"Can we eat out and still eat healthy?" asked English, who is the Columbia County Family and Consumer Sciences extension agent. "You can eat out and eat healthy, but you have got to know what you are doing."

Nearly 20 Roads and Bridges employees show up every Tuesday morning to participate in the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service's Walk-A-Weigh program.

English has been teaching the classes since last year, when the county implemented weight fitness requirements for all its employees.

"We started off with Ron Cross, Steve Szablewski and all of the department heads," English said. "Now this is our sixth series with county employees."

English said the program, which can range from six weeks to eight weeks, promotes physical activity and healthy dietary choices to control weight in adults.

Bill Manders, a Roads and Bridges supervisor, was in the Aug. 30 class, which focused on how to eat healthy at restaurants.

About a year ago, he began his own weight loss regimen, which included as much regular exercise as would fit into his busy schedule and staying away from starch, sugar and other processed white carbohydrates. He said he also avoids eating after 7 p.m. and makes sure to eat breakfast to keep his blood sugar constant.

Manders said he's taking some of the tips from the classes and meshing them into his weight loss plan.

"I take a little bit of this and a little bit of that and see what works," he said, adding that he has lost 100 pounds in the last year.

The class, which requires participants to keep track of their weight and fill out a food diary, covers health and food-related topics such as eating out, labels and fats, sodium and sugar, food safety and changing recipes to make them healthier.

"It's all part of a healthier lifestyle," English said, adding that she hopes to provide information that will help participants change their eating and activity behaviors to healthier options.

Eating out is tough for the hardworking men in Roads and Bridges. English suggested making healthier choices while at restaurants, for instance, leaving off the bacon and sausage and sugary syrup at the International House of Pancakes.

"You've got to have the sausage and bacon," said Mike Coleman, a self-described carnivore, at the meeting. "I've got to have my meat."

English suggested that the breakfast meat be a special treat as a compromise.

Before the meeting, she passed out pedometers to each participant to encourage activity.

"The pedometers are just an incentive to help you with the walking and exercising," English said. "These will help you know how much you are moving."

After class, members were outside exchanging recipes and diet tips and calibrating their new pedometers.

The class is voluntary, English said, adding that the department requested she teach the class.

And the word has spread. The Department of Family and Children Services has requested she bring the program to them.

"It's offered to anybody that wants to have it," English said. "As a county agent, I work for the people of Columbia County."

English said the program can be presented to any group including churches, schools and civic and neighborhood groups.

"It's offered to anybody and I can gear it to meet the needs of my audience," she said.

For more information on the program or to schedule a class, call English at 821-2356.


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