After ten years of looking after her ailing mom, Mary Kmak’s own health had slid. Pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, spinal issues, and significant weight gain as a result of extended steroid treatments, Mary, a devout catholic, was unable even to help at mass anymore.
“I took care of my dying Mom, and those last years were devastating watching her suffer…I put her before my health, which I would still do over and over again if I could. It was my honor and pleasure, but in her final days she asked if I would promise her one thing, to lose the weight. Of course, I said yes. ”
After her mom passed away, Mary knew she needed support to keep her promise and so she reached out. A chance viewing of Rachel Tineo’s story on television inspired Mary to ask her physician whether the program Rachel had participated in was available to the public. Her physician put her in contact with a TMC Dietitian.
“I talked to one of the TMC Dietitians. At the time the program wasn’t available to the community, it was only available to TMC employees.” But within weeks of asking, Mary received a phone call from Laurie Ledford RD (aka the Nutritionista) inviting her to take part in a new program called Live Well Tucson for the community.
What is Live Well Tucson?
Live Well is a 10-week program that meets once a week for 2 hours. During the 2-hour sessions participants hear from an expert the topic of the week (exercise physiologist, dietitian, physician, etc). The topics covered are preventative care, nutrition, exercise, stress management, happiness, social networks, and sleep. Participants work with experts to set goals, and how to maintain change. In addition to the lectures, participants also have the opportunity to participate in a weekly exercise class.
The Lessons Mary took from Live Well Tucson
1. It’s not enough to hear the advice you have to take the advice
Mary took the lectures to heart, “I followed every single tip that Laurie gave, every single tip that Mary gave and every single tip Maria Luisa gave. For example, Mary Atkinson said ‘Get out and take a walk every day. 5 minutes is a great start.’ I started walk the parking lot. It started as just 5 minutes. Today, I walk 45 minutes every day. “
2. Make realistic, achievable goals
Live Well Tucson Intern Maria Luisa suggested making a smart goal. Mary’s response “I have an Exercycle. My smart goal started out as biking 12 minutes 4 times a week on my Exercycle. Now it’s 45 minutes six times a week along with the walking.”
3. Remind yourself daily what your motivation is.
Write what your motivation is on a 3 by 5 card and posting it somewhere you will see every day. Initially, Mary thought, ‘That’s not going to make a difference’ but she did it anyway. Her motivation? A single word – Promise.
“I’ve had set backs. I feel better when I exercise. I push myself. I see my promise card everyday and that pushes me.
4. Be conscious in what you eat, plan & track
“I track what I eat, I itemize my carbs, my calories, my fats. I used to eat out every day. I might get something thinking it was healthy, not counting the carbs or calories. Now, I make everything a head of time. I do all my shopping on the weekend and get everything prepared. I take breakfast and lunch to work. … It’s a big lifestyle change.”
5. Slow and Steady wins the Race
It took time to put it on, it’ll take time to take it off.
Since January Mary has lost 44 lbs, but the success isn’t just measured by weight loss as Mary explains, “My blood pressure has dropped and I’ve been able to cut my blood pressure medication. Within 3 months my sugar level dropped…I appreciate food more. Instead of grabbing a candy bar I get a piece of fruit. I love frozen fruit.”
Mary’s enthusiasm for the program and life is infectious. Her friends and family have noticed an attitude change and greater energy. “She’s more bubbly. She’s coming out of her cocoon.” friend Mary L. shares.
Mary’s sister, Imelda says that Mary is much happier, that the pain Mary was in led her to be cranky on occasion. Imelda has also been in the program and has lost 12 pounds, reduced her blood pressure, and her blood sugar has declined enough that she no longer needs insulin.
The next phase of the program starts August 22nd and Mary is raring to go, “The continued support from TMC has been helpful. I want to lose another 20 pounds before Phase 2 starts.”
Mary’s advice to other women:
“Put yourself first for one time and don’t quit. I had every reason to quit. I had no coordination, no strength, no endurance. Now, I walk that straight line. As a devout catholic, I attend mass. For years I couldn’t help, I was afraid I would drop the wafer and wine during communion. The church aisle is now my red carpet. I have the energy of a 34 year old. “
Update – May 5th, 2015
Mary has now lost a grand total of seventy pounds and it is not only reflected in the clothes she wears and her energy level, but also at the doctors office. She’ll be sharing her journey and experience on the Live Well program June 2nd at The Core at La Encantada.