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It’s Your Time

It’s Your Time – Kim is No Longer a Bystander in Life

This post is part of a series highlighting the accomplishments of women within our community who have taken charge of their health through exercise, healthy eating, addressing mental health and through preventative care and screenings. You can see more in this series here

Kim Verdugo could be a runner or a rock climber. She is strong, slender and lithe. It’s hard to imagine her any other way, but for most of her life Kim has struggled with her weight and not just the old ten or twenty pounds. Kim’s story is one of dramatic change through dramatic measures, from morbidly obese to a healthy weight, from the brink of catastrophe back to life.

In 2009, at 45-years-old, Kim reached a breaking point. Fed up with standing on the sidelines watching life pass her by, unable to join in because of her size, Kim took a drastic measure to lose weight, surgery.

She wanted to hike with her family; to watch graduations; to attend weddings, and to live see future grandchildren. Obesity was threatening to take it all away. This wasn’t the first time Kim had tried to lose weight. She had tried everything it seemed, from diets to phen phen. She would lose the weight only to put on back on twice what she’d lost when she stopped the diet or pills. Something had to change. Kim recognized that her ‘off’ button was broken and rather than ignoring that and continuing a cycle she hadn’t been able to break for decades, she considered bariatric surgery.

  • It's Your Time - Kim is No Longer a Bystander in Life

Bariatric surgery is a drastic choice, but morbidly obese with a Body Mass Index in the upper 40’s, Kim had reached a point where drastic measures were an option. Given the medical concerns of diabetes, hypertension, cancers and heart disease that are impacted by obesity and were prevalent in Kim’s own family’s medical history she decided to investigate.

Bariatric Surgery is a broad term describing weight-loss surgeries that alter the digestive tract  to limit the amount of food you take in or the nutrients that can be absorbed. It is strictly for those that are significantly overweight (BMI greater than 40 which translates to about 100 pounds overweight for men and 80 pounds overweight for women) or obese (BMI greater than 35) and facing significant health concerns as a result of that weight. These procedures are not for everyone, typically there is an extensive screening process and the commitment to healthy choices after the surgery is stressed.

Lap-band or gastric banding is where a silicone collar is placed around the top of the stomach diminishing the size of the stomach to the size of a golf ball so that you feel full sooner.

Kim underwent lap-band surgery in August of 2009. She explains that it is now uncomfortable to eat too large a serving. She eats very small portions so that she doesn’t feel uncomfortable and chooses her foods well so that they are nutritious. “I stay away from soda…and I haven’t eaten a bacon cheeseburger in a couple of years.” The result is that Kim has lost 146 pounds, more than half her starting weight, her BMI is now in the low 20’s. The outcomes are more than just an impressive weight loss and a change in clothing size (from a size 24 to a 6-8 in Juniors). Kim is no longer on medications for the health concerns that obesity was causing. She is able to engage in life fully now, hiking with her family and participating in 5K walks. She’s even been asked to be the assistant coach for her daughter’s high school all girls wrestling team.

Her family has cheered her on and embraced the changes in her life, but when she questions her husband as to why he stayed with her through the over weight years, he lets her know in no uncertain terms that his love for her is not dependent on her size, that his love is not so shallow a feeling. Three years on, Kim is still surprised by the change in her body. Sometimes she’ll pull out something to try on only to have her daughter remind her “Mom, that’s not your size anymore.”  Kim’s self esteem has also changed,  “I can smile at that person in the mirror. Before I could hardly look at her.”

Some of the changes have been bittersweet. Kim reports that people are much nicer to her now, sales clerks talk to her, people don’t look away and doors are opening up that didn’t before. Kim celebrates these new changes in her life, but she notes the prejudice against overweight people associated with the shift in attitudes toward her. When others whisper comments about someone’s size Kim doesn’t stand for it and calls them on their prejudices.

Choosing a surgical route to lose weight is not always applauded. On more than one occasion Kim has been told that she has “cheated” or taken the easy route. Kim’s response, “If this is cheating, then I’d cheat again to have my health.” Her only regret? That she didn’t make this decision earlier.

Kim with a pair of pants that she used to wear when she weighed twice as much

The attitude that bariatric surgery is somehow cheating demonstrates a lack of understanding of the preparation and  dedication involved in choosing bariatric surgery and maintaining the weight loss afterwards. As Kim talks about how her eating habits have changed she stresses that the bariatric surgery was only part of the equation, the lifestyle changes were fundamental to success. The equation for weight loss is simple, calories in must be less than the calories expended, but that does not take into consideration our often complex relationship with food. Food is not a choice. You have to eat to survive and your eating habits and relationship with food have roots in biology, your family history, societal pressures, even our evolutionary history.  It is influenced not only by physical requirement, but there is also an emotional component to our relationship with food.

Kim took the brave step of recognizing what her strengths and weaknesses were and decided her health was too important to deny what she seemed unable to control.This is not cheating, this is wisdom. Congratulations Kim.

 You can find more information about providers who offer these treatments via our Find a Doctor tool. Search for bariatric under specialities. TMC’s Health Encyclopedia provides a decision making tool where you can explore whether Bariatric Surgery is a choice you might consider. If you’re considering weight loss surgery we offer a monthly Q&A. 

Finding what works – An Action Plan for Health

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… I sneak out of the house before the children and my husband wake. The dog pulls on the leash urging me forward – today I’m part way to succeeding on my four times to get moving this week. Yesterday, I didn’t track my food, but the previous two days I did. I’m feeling successful. I haven’t given up. This isn’t futile. I have a plan. I have a goal….

We often highlight women within our community who have taken charge of their health and the message is clear, make time, find support within your friends and family, get moving, and get moving early in the morning. Yet, some of us (me) still struggle to take care of ourselves despite all the reasons to move our bodies, to eat right and to prioritize our health. Sometimes, despite knowing what we should be doing, we seem to sabotage ourselves at every turn. I sat down with Karen Ring, one of TMC’s fabulous Senior Services health coaches to seek some insights. While I might not be a senior, Karen’s advice is not bound to a particular age.

What is a health coach?

Karen and her fellow coaches provide one-on-one support to peer seniors within the community to help them attain their health goals. A free program offered by TMC Senior Services, the Health Coach program emphasizes discussing positive ways to manage health, and motivates and supports participants to move beyond a prescription for healthy living to making daily healthy choices. You can find out more information here.

Karen’s Advice

Many self-improvement plans involve some sort of action plan or goal settings. There is something about the verbalization of our intentions, especially in the written form that often makes us more accountable. I used to tell my middle school students, when they asked why science class required them to write, that the process of articulation in the written form and explaining our reasoning to another forced us to face whether we truly understood. Karen explains that for a health coach and peer, after reviewing the peer’s medical and nutritional history, the action plan is a central part of coaching. It is within the goal setting, the development of an action plan, execution and follow-up that the coach finds the place to act as a resource, an educator, an advocate, a sounding board and a cheerleader to their peers.

As we begin to discuss the action plan I start to see just how powerful this tool can be, especially in concert with the support of a health coach. This is more than a mere list of intentions for the week or the month of the sort I’ve engaged in years gone by; this is truly a tool for reflection.

The basic components of the action plan:

1. Establish your short-term and long-term goals so that they have a tangible reward as well as the loftier health goals and write those on the top of your action plan. Karen shares that while the participants are usually motivated to join by a recent medical diagnosis, like high cholesterol, the actual goals often tap into emotional and spiritual health. Her role as a health coach is to consider whole body wellness, not just physical wellness, and to consider barriers to achieving those wellness goals.

2. Make an appointment with your health and keep it.

If your plan states that you’re going to go to the gym or take the dog for a walk don’t cancel that appointment for another function because it seems less important. You have an appointment with your health, and that IS important.

The action plan asks you to identify when and how much of something you plan to do. Are you more likely to get up in the morning and walk? If you put off the exercise until the evening will it never happen?

3. Be specific about how much time and energy will go into meeting your weekly goal. A concrete example – you set a goal to eat a more balanced diet, but then don’t actual turn that intention into action. Karen suggests being very detailed in the action plan. Write into the plan a dedicated time to plan meals and snacks, to shop for fresh produce and to prepare the produce in one sitting so that you can use it for those planned healthy meals.

I think about the fruit salad in a little lemon juice my own mother always seems to have in the fridge ready to go, or my friend Trish who keeps salad fixings chopped and cleaned ready in separate clear storage containers to be tossed together at a moment’s notice for a healthy meal. Karen points out that addressing what will appeal or work for the individual is key. For me, those fresh veggies and fruits already prepared and ready to eat means they’re less likely to end up rotting in the veggie draw and then making their way to the compost.

4. Be realistic and flexible about your action plan. Allow wriggle room to be successful.

A crucial part of the action plan is reflecting on the steps you plan to take and being realistic about whether you’re going to attain that. I know that week after week I say I’m going to track what and how much I eat. I know this is a successful strategy for many, yet week after week I fail. Karen suggests I reassess my action plan.

What is my confidence level that I could track for one day out of seven on a scale of one to 10?

Ten, I respond. I know I can do that.

Good. What about two days?

An eight or nine.

What about three days of tracking?

ActionPlan1I have a confidence level of between seven or eight.

Right there at a confidence level of no less than seven, Karen suggests, that is your goal.

“Once your confidence level dips below a seven rethink your goals.”

The emphasis is on being successful and that success breeds success. If I can be successful for three days this week maybe next week or the week after my confidence will be higher so that I can accomplish four days of tracking.

This morning I remember Lorraine’s dedication, Mary’s insistence that we can all find 30 minutes in the day, Rachel’s passion for renewal, Patty’s commitment and Jessie’s energy. I sneak out of the house before the children and my husband wake. The dog pulls on the leash urging me forward – today I’m part way to succeeding on my four times to get moving this week. Yesterday, I didn’t track my food, but the previous two days I did. I’m feeling successful. I haven’t given up. This isn’t futile. I have a plan. I have a goal.

Your TMC for Women Action Plan for Health template is here.

It’s Your Time – Crush the excuses

Hypertension – it sounds almost harmless. Yet, when Lorraine Glazar, at the age of 39, was diagnosed with benign essential hypertension her physician explained that hypertension was by no means benign. Hypertension, also referred to as high blood pressure damages the blood vessels, heart, and kidneys. Hypertension is called a “silent killer,” because you typically don’t see symptoms while it is causing damage. The good news, for many exercise and changes in diet, lowering sodium intake, and reducing alcohol intake can substantially reduce hypertension. Lorraine is committed to taking control of her hypertension.

Lorraine takes on the track

At the time of diagnosis, Lorraine was recently widowed, raising her two sons (ages 6 and 10) by herself, working full-time and adjusting to one income instead of two. Lorraine faced substantial challenges to making time to take care of herself, but the alternative wasn’t an option.”I found a used treadmill and began by walking at home early in the morning before they woke up. As the boys became old enough to be trained in what to do in case of emergency, I was able to begin walking outside.”

14 years later at 53 years old, Lorraine continues to make exercise a priority. She still steps out with her dog Sabra first thing in the morning when the temperatures are coolest. “She (Sabra) accompanies me on my walks and makes sure I don’t miss a day.” Lorraine has added weight lifting and a water aerobics class at the Lighthouse YMCA to her routine. Incorporating bicycling into errands like a trip to the Farmers’ Market makes exercise a natural part of Lorraine’s week.

“I started my morning walks because of concerns about my body and physical health. This daily time has benefited me mentally and spiritually as well. I often find answers to current problems or get brainstorms during my morning walk.”

Lorraine takes advantage of the TMC Walking Club and uses the new campus walking paths to extend her walk in the morning from where she parks to her office. “Seeing the TMC volunteers on campus reminds me that if I age wisely I can continue to contribute in my later years.”

Lorraine’s example is stunning. Amid a challenging time in her life she was able to prioritize and take care of herself, critical to both her and her family. Her example makes us reexamine our excuses that prevent us taking care of ourselves and highlights the reasons to take care of ourselves. She offers these three pieces of advice to those of us struggling to make changes toward a healthy lifestyle:
  • This is a subject in which you SHOULD put yourself first! You can’t take care of others if you are not healthy and calm.
  • Make it social. I walk by myself six days a week, but on Saturdays with a group of neighborhood friends.
  • Find other ways of working activity into your life. I ride my bike to the Farmer’s Market on Sundays.

It’s Your Time – Mary’s gift to herself and to her family

The week of May 13th is National Women’s Health Week and we’d like to address this by highlighting the accomplishments of women within our community who have taken charge of their health through exercise, healthy eating, addressing mental health and through preventative care and screenings.

Mary Atkinson, a registered dietician and director of Food & Nutrition at TMC, recognizes that exercise is “her time,” a break from the seemingly endless responsibilities of everyday life. Running, in addition to biking, hiking, swimming and weight-training, is a treat, not an ordeal.

Atkinson has no major health concerns, saying that her priority is “just staying sane and healthy.” Working toward mental, emotional and physical wellness is often seen as a luxury, something we can afford to do only once we’ve spent time taking care of everyone else. In fact, making our overall health a non-negotiable part of our week is not just essential to our well-being, but makes everything else a little bit easier. “My barrier was stress and feeling run down by life, even though I knew that exercising and making better food choices would make me feel better.”

Even if we know how to improve our health, it can be hard to overcome the exhaustion that settles upon us like a heavy coat at the end of a long day. Atkinson found a way to “just do it.” She told herself that a little bit was better than nothing at all. After having what she refers to as an “off” day, she overcame her guilt by looking ahead, not back. “I told myself that 20 or 30 minutes was better than nothing, or that even if I just walked it was still better than sitting on the couch. Once you get into a routine and you realize how much better you feel, the barriers dissolve and you don’t have to ‘make time’.” Moving our bodies and making healthy food choices becomes a reward in itself, not yet another thing to add to our list of “shoulds.”

And once we start to view that half hour as pleasurable, as a time of self-care, it’s much easier to make it a priority. As a bonus, Atkinson notes that “with increased activity and improved fitness levels comes more energy.” So it’s a cycle that, once we begin, becomes its own gift.

While Atkinson notes that she has “been active and focused on nutrition most of my life,” she concedes that working at Tucson Medical Center makes it that much more likely that she’ll maintain her good habits for life. “It is essential for everyone working in a health care facility to lead by example and make good lifestyle choices.”

Thanks, Mary, for being an excellent role model, and for reminding us that living a healthy lifestyle is not just a smart thing to do, but a true gift for ourselves and our families.

It’s Your Time for Change – Rachel digs deep and finds strength

The week of May 13th is National Women’s Health Week and we’d like to address this by highlighting the accomplishments of women within our community who have taken charge of their health through exercise, healthy eating, addressing mental health and through preventative care and screenings. You can check out the stories of other women making a commitment to their health and more information about National Women’s Health Week here.

“I don’t have time. Between work and the kids I barely have time to catch a breath.”

“I’m sabotaged by my family at every turn. They’re always bringing candy, chips and cookies into the house. I can’t seem to escape it.”

Rachel doing what she loves: working out with kettlebells at Evolution. The bell weighs 106 pounds, and Rachel normally swings it before her work out as a warm up!

For many of us, these are familiar refrains. Rachel Tineo understands the impact of those refrains on health. As she approached 40, Rachel, a senior systems analyst at TMC, found herself 75 pounds overweight. She faced diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression and obesity. With a full-time job and a family Rachel felt like there was never enough time, or enough energy, and there was no support for significant changes toward healthy eating at home.

Now 41, Rachel has lost 60 pounds and is still losing. She is 20 inches smaller around her entire body, neck, waist, thighs etc. And now, instead of squeezing into a size 14-16, Rachel fits easily into a size 6 or 8. By losing the weight and participating in vigorous exercise, the challenges of diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and high cholesterol have diminished significantly.

What changed for Rachel? How did she make time and space for her health?

“I finally hit the point when I was so tired of being tired … of being unhealthy and unfit, that I opened my mind to new possibilities.”

Rachel connected with a trainer who not only addressed exercise, but also nutrition.

“With slight tweaks in my nutrition I started to have energy to work out. I didn’t feel lazy anymore. My family noticed the change in me, and instead of fighting me on the healthy foods they started to eat them with me.”

The equation for weight loss is simple – calories consumed must be less than calories used. But the nutritional value or density of the food you eat is and when and why you eat play a role in how satiated and how much you choose to eat. It wasn’t just an issue of calorie counting for Rachel.

Rachel involved her family in addressing one of the most oft used reasons for not exercising ‑ time.

I had to sit down with my family and write up a schedule that worked for everyone. I didn’t want to neglect anyone or my household, but at the same time I wanted to no longer neglect myself. So I asked for everyone to pitch in a little more on the things that I normally do, to allow me to have more free time to work out and find time to prepare my meals. In return, I could give them more time of myself. Once I found that balance everything just fell in to place.

By prioritizing her health, Rachel gives herself and her family more time together, and models how to find that balance for her daughters. Not only are her children making healthier food choices, but they’re also bonding with their mom through Rachel’s choice of exercise, Zumba and kettlebells. While the girls can’t always join her at her Zumba class, they join her in dancing at home.

While the changes in physique are substantial, it is her newfound strength that Rachel revels in.

I have become incredibility strong; I’m able to dead lift 220 pounds and I’m getting stronger each week. By the end of the year my goal is to dead lift 250 pounds. I can do an over-the-doorway pull or two; I’m currently trying to achieve a strict dead-hang pull up, which I hope to nail by the end of the year at my gym. Two years ago I would have NEVER thought I was capable for such heavy lifting nor did a pull up cross my mind for one second. Now I do them every day. Every time I’m in my bedroom or when I think of it, I do this when I’m at home.

The benefits doesn’t just stop with Rachel’s physical health,

I noticed that my job performance got better and better as I work out more and more…I see myself now as a coworker that would like to help fellow coworkers that were just like me. I thought there was no hope for me that I was always going to be overweight and unhealthy, because that is how my parents and my grandparents were, but I broke the cycle of being unfit and unhealthy. Now it is my lifelong personal goal to stay fit and healthy and help others with that same goal.

Rachel is passionate about helping others realize their health goals. She offers this advice to women looking to improve their health:

Dig deep inside your hearts. Dig deep inside your mind. Find the commitment and dedication to yourself that you deserve. You only have one life, it’s all yours why not take it and live it, feel life, don’t just go through life wishing, hoping and wanting.

My definition of feeling alive for a woman my age is to feel like you are 20 again! To wear the same size as you were when you in your 20’s, to be stronger in your 40’s than you ever were in your 20’s, to have more energy in your 40’s than you ever did in your 20’s, to be wiser about healthy food choices in your 40’s than your 20’s; to know that you will be here for your children when they are in their 40s … that is feeling alive!

For those in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s and beyond, whether you have no children and are just struggling to lose 10 extra pounds or you have four children and you need to lose 50 extra pounds, it is not impossible, it is very achievable and attainable…without surgery, or special pills, or fancy food. Anyone can do it. You just HAVE to be dedicated to yourself! You have to have the drive, the burn that can only come from the core of yourself being, once you have that, your journey will start.

Health Encyclopedia

People who are obese have an increased risk of:

People who are obese are more likely to develop insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. The risk of type 2 diabetes increases as BMI increases. People who have a large percentage of body fat in the abdominal area—greater than 40 in. (102 cm) in men and greater than 35 in. (89 cm) in women—are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, even if their BMIs are within the normal range.

Cancer
People who are obese are at greater risk for different types of cancer, including:

Digestive problems
People who are obese may have more digestive problems.2Obesity increases the chance of having gallstones and is linked with liver problems such as an enlarged liver (hepatomegaly), a fatty liver (steatosis), or cirrhosis. Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)  are more common in people who are obese than in people of normal weight.

Breathing problems
People who are obese may have difficulty breathing. They are more likely to have sleep apnea. Obesity is linked with a higher prevalence of asthma. People who are obese tend to take smaller or shallower breaths (pickwickian syndrome). These small, gasping breaths may not get as much oxygen into the blood as needed, leaving them always tired. Pickwickian syndrome can eventually lead to heart problems.

Arthritis
People who are obese have a greater risk of developing arthritis. Extra weight puts more stress on the joints than normal, especially in the legs and lower back.

Sex hormone problems

It’s Your Time for Change – Patty’s Commitment to Health

The week of May 13th is National Women’s Health Week and we’d like to address this by highlighting the accomplishments of women within our community who have taken charge of their health through exercise, healthy eating, addressing mental health and through preventative care and screenings. You can check out the stories of other women making a commitment to their health and more information about National Women’s Health Week here.

Patty Ledbetter, 55, Admitting manager at TMC, is a woman who’s taken charge of her health and is proactive in dealing with a high-risk family history.Creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a goal for most women, as it allows us to enjoy ourselves and stay fit. But what about women for whom it may be a matter of life and death?

Patty and Julia Strange (Vice President for Community Benefit) running on campus. Patty is participating in the program First Time 5K with Performance Executive Fitness Trainer Amy Maddox. Patty is training to run her first 5K at Meet Me Downtown on June 2. Julia joined her for one of the training sessions, along with her border collie.

This is the case for Patty. With a family history of heart disease, hypertension and high cholesterol, she knew that being in optimal health was essential. Extra body fat put her at higher risk for developing heart disease and other health problems, and she wanted to make lifestyle changes that stacked the odds in her favor.

Patty met with her doctor and committed to exercising regularly. “I found that focusing on consistency with my exercise, rather than length of time, made the difference. And once I began to see success, I was motivated to continue.” That’s a good reminder to those of us who think that if we’re not training for a marathon or can’t go to a 90-minute spinning class, we might as well sit on the couch. Every bit of exercise counts. A 20-minute lunchtime walk, a few laps in a pool on a summer’s day, walking stairs in your office building—make exercise part of your everyday life and it’ll become second nature.

Eating more healthfully was another change Patty made. She consulted with a nutritionist, and to make sure she’d be able to stick with the changes, she included her family in her new way of eating. “It helps when others are following a similar diet,” she notes.

So did these relatively simple changes—more exercise and a healthful diet—make a difference in Patty’s overall health? You bet! Her total cholesterol dropped over 50 points and her doctor took her off her cholesterol-lowering medication.

Working in a hospital no doubt helps Patty lead a healthful life. “The TMC community supports and encourages the choices I’ve made.” For those of us who aren’t surrounded by medical experts and health-care advocates, Patty has a few words of advice: “Make changes because you want to. Never stop trying, even if you can’t see results. Everything you’re doing is benefitting you. Surround yourself with others who support what you’re doing and who have similar goals.”

So get out there and ask a few co-workers if they want to go on a lunchtime walk a few times a week. If you drive to work, park father away than you need to. If you can bike or walk to your workplace or the bus stop, even better. Patty Ledbetter serves as a great reminder that no matter where we start, we can find our way to a healthier lifestyle.

Thank you, Patty!

National Women’s Checkup Day – It’s Your Time!

Monday, May 14th, 2012 is National Women’s Checkup Day.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health marks this day to encourage us to take charge of our health. We’re often so busy taking our kids, parents, dogs, and cats to their appointments that we forget our own!

 

My mom told me to schedule my annual gynecological exam on or near my
birthday. That worked for a while, but once you throw the childbirth bit into the
picture, things can get off track. And so many of us rely on our “annuals” for our
comprehensive health care, and we forget other types of screening we should have.

For a nineteen-year-old in excellent health with no significant family history, an
annual gynecological exam might be sufficient. The doctor will typically listen to the
heart and lungs and checks lymph nodes in addition to doing a breast and pelvic
exam.

But guidelines for screenings change as new research findings emerge, and as
we get older, we typically need more types of screenings (I’ve heard tell that a
colonoscopy lies in my future but I am in denial for the time being….)

So on National Women’s Checkup Day, TMC for Women asks you to take care
of yourself by visiting your current doctor for a checkup or scheduling one for the
appropriate time, and talking with him or her about which screenings you need, and
when you should get them.

You can also use this interactive tool to find out what screenings are recommended
for you based on your age.

If you want to put your intention into the writing, or at least “the cloud”, you can
take a pledge online.

Happy healthy Spring to you from TMC for Women!

All week we’ll be featuring women from our community who have made the commitment to make their health a priority. Check here for more National Women’s Health Week posts. 

It’s Your Time – A Role Model Jessie Pergrin

Every week is women’s health week at TMC for Women, but nationally the week of May 13 is a dedicated National Women’s Health Week. We’re recognizing National Women’s Health Week by sharing the stories of some of our TMC community – women who have taken the message of National Women’s Health Week to heart with impressive results.

This year National Women’s Health Week’s theme is ‘It’s Your Time’. Many of us struggle with finding time to make our health our priority, the women in these stories are making it happen. Meet Jessie Pergrin


“I’ve been active all my life,” Jessie  shares. “I’ve hiked and backpacked all over the world – the Inca Trail, Chile, Argentina and Alaska.”

Jessie’s voice is strong, vibrant. Over the phone it is impossible to gauge just what age Jessie is.  A participant in Senior Services’s Health Coach program she must be of retirement age, but she also leads multiple support groups for patients with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Her voice and her energy belies her age. Jessie is 86 years old.

Jessie joined the Health Coach program at its inception several years ago- the purpose of the program is to help participants set and keep health goals. For Jessie who does not have specific health concerns, her goal was to lose 10 pounds. Jessie’s health coach, Judy, meets with her on a monthly basis providing encouragement, checking up on her progress based upon the goals and needs they have established and spurring her to make time for her health and to stick with it. At 86 years old Jessie rises early, walks 30-40 minutes every day, returns home for breakfast, and heads back out for a 30-45 minute bike ride. She credits her robust health to being active, genetics, never smoking or drinking and never being overweight. Jessie laughs and adds, “and that I never married.”

Jessie met her goal of 10 pounds, but continues to check in with her health coach Judy finding that the accountability helps her stick with it. When asked what her advice is to other women that they might enjoy such ruddy good health Jessie encourages eating well, getting a good night’s sleep, being physically active at least three times a week and emphasizes being socially active for mental health. “For Heaven’s sake cut out the cigarettes.” Jessie pleads.

As each of us assess what our goals are perhaps taking a moment to listen to the strong, vivacious voice of a lively 86-year-old is a good place to start.