UTHSC’s Healthy Living Program Making Strides Against Obesity One Life at a Time

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Kathy Mathis has lost 30 pounds thanks to participation in UTHSC’s Healthy Living Program. (Photo by: Thurman Hobson/UTHSC)

Kathy Mathis, office manager in the Office of General Counsel, and Martin Donaldson, DDS, associate professor of pediatric dentistry and community oral health in the College of Dentistry, know how beneficial the Healthy Living Program at UTHSC can be. They are two of the program’s major success stories. Since participating in the program, Mathis has maintained a 30-pound weight loss, while Dr. Donaldson has shed an impressive 13 pounds.

Obesity is a growing epidemic in the United States, especially in the South. Instead of simply educating the campus community about it, UTHSC’s Department of Campus Recreation sprang into action, creating the Healthy Living Program in September 2015. The program is in its fourth group session. A total of 42 participants have completed the on-campus, 12-week program designed to educate, motivate, and give some structure to individuals who want to change some lifestyle behaviors for the better.

Once a week, participants talk about nutrition topics and fitness, and are exposed to different forms of exercise. The group setting encourages camaraderie among participants, who are experiencing similar accomplishments and missteps, too. Upon completion, participants are encouraged to keep in touch with their partners, and are invited back once a month to participate in the following group’s sessions.

“I lost my weight in six months, and the greatest part of that is that I have been able to keep it off,” Mathis said. “The staff is very helpful and informative. I am in the Monday night Body Burn class, and I participate in water aerobics here. I also take Zumba twice a week. I am hoping to start losing more weight by switching up my exercise routine.”

Mathis emphasized that nutrition is key, but exercise has certainly made a difference. “Making the choice to maintain a healthy lifestyle will have many benefits down the road,” she said.

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Dr. Martin Donaldson takes full advantage of UTHSC’s gym facilities on campus. (Photo by: Thurman Hobson/UTHSC)

Dr. Donaldson was having back pain, experiencing limited range of motion, and was developing arthritis, when he decided to join the group. “I figured that getting back to an exercise program would help me ease into exercise with the support of a group,” he said. “My favorite wardrobe no longer fit, either. Rather than replacing my entire wardrobe, I thought that losing weight would be a better idea. I have lost enough off my waist that I can get into most of my pants, but I am still working on my belly before buying a suit.”

Dr. Donaldson said his favorite aspect of the program, “was being with a wonderful group of people from around the campus who understood the challenges and encouraged each other to succeed.” He found other group classes at the fitness center to attend, including adult swim and body sculpting. “I thrive on encouragement from others, so I if you are trying to get back control of your life, I encourage you to consider this program,” he said.

Suzanne Fenech, fitness and wellness coordinator in the Department of Campus Recreation, said the goal of the program is to enable participants to learn about healthy choices they can make every day and not feel deprived or restricted. “We would like to see the participants gain an understanding of how to continue to live a healthy lifestyle and enjoy the benefits of the healthy choices they make .This is not a quick-fix program. It is about lifelong changes that you make now, so you can enjoy a healthy life now and forever.”

For more information on how to join the Healthy Living Program, contact Suzanne Fenech at sfenech@uthsc.edu.