The Herald Bulletin

April 8, 2013

Jump-start to better health

By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — We all know we should eat better and get more exercise. A local program staffed by volunteers is out to help you do just that, and its track record shows it makes an impact. Healthy Beginnings is set to launch a new series of classes on April 15. Tuesday night or Thursday, you can attend a free information session to learn whether it’s just the kick-start you need to a healthier lifestyle.  

“We’re strictly a volunteer driven organization as a community service to help educate people on the causes of all these diseases that seem to be overtaking us,” said Susan Landess, mentioning things like heart disease, overweight, high cholesterol and blood pressure. “We’re trying to put tools in the hands of people — help them be informed and educated.”

Landess is a health educator and registered nurse, the former director of Indiana Healthy Choices. Landess and her husband, Jesse, lead the Healthy Beginnings program, classes that they have been teaching for more than 10 years. The program was formerly called CHIP, which stands for Coronary Health Improvement Program.

Healthy Beginnings is a monthlong program. Participants attend eight two-hour classes during that month. They have a textbook, but there are lots of hands-on activities. The focus is on diet and exercise, with emphasis on getting processed foods out of the diet.

“We cover everything from label reading to fat to sugar. We bring them on a shopping tour,” said Landess. They even have a light meal at the beginning of each class so that participants begin to learn what “healthy” tastes like.

Landess said there’s typically a weight loss of 7 to 8 pounds for participants, although some have lost much more. She said most participants have an 11-12 percent drop in bad cholesterol, with some as much as 40 percent.

“We’ve had fairly good results with blood pressure. Some people actually normalize,” Landess said. “We can’t promise anybody anything, but we know … we have a good idea (of what to expect).”

Retired Anderson High School coach Al Lind and his wife, Kathy, attended Healthy Beginnings in January 2012, driven by a desire to be healthy. They wound up transforming their diet, with results so good they are committed to their new lifestyle.

“Our rule of thumb is that we don’t eat anything that has a mother or has eyes, which includes dairy products,” Lind said. With genetically modified organisms out there, he said, “We even stay away from soybeans.” Although it sounds like quite a departure, the pair is happy with the new regime.

“You eat as much as you want,” noted Lind. Still, he lost 30 pounds, and his wife lost 58. Blood pressure and cholesterol numbers all went down, and meds were cut. Even the food bill was cut in half. “I have more energy. I have more endurance.”

Former teacher Kathy Lind said that not only did they learn a lot at the classes, they had fun doing it. With about 50 people in their program, they became pretty good friends with other participants.

“I recommend it to everybody,” said Kathy Lind. If people realized what was in their meat ... their milk, I really think they would think twice.”

Susan Cox is another program graduate. The changes Cox made in her diet made a difference. “I feel much better. It makes me have more energy,” Cox said. “My cholesterol went down 33 percent — just from diet.” She also lost 9 pounds in the process.

“I think that diet plays a big role in several types of cancer. I’ve doubled up on fruits and vegetables and whole grains. I try not to eat meat very much at all,” said Cox, who now volunteers with the program.

Information about the Healthy Beginnings program is available tonight and Thursday at 7 p.m. at Park Place Church of God, 501 College Drive. The program will meet at that location beginning on April 15. Cost of the program is $130, which includes two blood draws at the start and finish of the program, as well as meals. For information or registration, call 621-7557 or 759-9937.