Scale Back Alabama has local success story

Published 11:13 pm Wednesday, January 7, 2009

When Scale Back Alabama was launched two years ago, Demopolis was among many cities across the state who were ready to jump on the healthy bandwagon.

Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital was among them, with Donna Pope, an Registered Nurse at the hospital, wanting to lose 20 pounds and eager to join a foursome determined to shed some pounds and get healthy.

Pope, now 49 and serving as director of surgery, said she started an exercise program, both walking and working out at the hospital’s wellness center, which is free for employees, and by the time the program ended in March she had reached her goal.

She said her group of four fellow-workers served to help her stick with her plan and it was easy to compare notes along the way.

She is not among those signing up this week for the program. Weighing a very healthy 115 pounds, Pope has maintained her weight and her healthy eating and exercising habits. Plus, nobody would allow Pope on their team, she said with a smile. She said those in this year’s program were angling for other teammates with weight to lose so they can maybe win the Scale Back contest that ends in mid-march.

Scale Back Alabama is a statewide contest held the first of each year to encourage Alabamians to get healthier by losing weight and exercising. The 2009 contest begins Jan. 10-16 with the sign up at the hospital, and with BWWM serving as the official pubic weigh-in and weigh-out site.

“I was in the first group that started here,” Pope said. “I lost the weight I had planned on losing. Being a nurse, it’s a great program, because as a group we were motivated. I started walking, then running three or four times a week. I did portion control and tried to choose healthier, adding fruits and vegetables.”

While Pope’s group didn’t win the contest, they were still winners because every person lost weight and that was the goal behind their participation. When the program ended a few weeks later Pope said she kept her program going and now feels much better and knows she is far healthier. “It’s easier to keep it off than it is to lose weight,” she said. “You work hard to get the weight off and you don’t want to go back there.”

In addition, Pope said health care providers are an example, explaining that it’s difficult to treat patients who are overweight, and that when doctors or nurses encourage patients to lose wieght it helps if they aren’t overweight themselves.

But once the weight is lost the health benefits are tremendous, Pope said. It heads off high blood pressure, heart disease, improves joints and bones and generally leads to a longer and more fulfilling life.

“I heard someone say recently that eating healthy is the best plastic surgery there is,” she said.

Weigh-out week is set for March 14-20. The final celebration of Scale Back Alabama is scheduled for April 1.