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Trade pounds for green

A 12-week nutrition program rewards weight loss with cash

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Obesity comes from convenience. The quickest bite to be had during a busy day is fast food, a literal term applied to big portions that are poor in quality but easy on the bank account. Five bucks will fill you easy.

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Every item is conveniently wrapped, like a Christmas present, and each can be eaten with one hand while driving. Endorphins flood the brain with that first sip of high fructose corn syrup, every mouthful of greasy meat, and French fries loaded with enough salt to suck the moisture out of any mouth. Not to worry—more soda will solve that problem right quick.

When the meal’s over, there are no dishes to clean or leftovers to put away. It’s a simple matter of wadding up the wrapping paper and disposing of the mess in the nearest receptacle. The whole meal’s finished in a matter of minutes, allowing the modern worker unit to return to the office for four more hours of sedentary desk duty.

SUCCESS YOU CAN SEE::  Ginger Schenk, pictured above in 2010, has lost 67 pounds by sticking to reasonable nutrition guidelines and sensible portion sizes. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF MIKE STEWART
  • PHOTOS COURTESY OF MIKE STEWART
  • SUCCESS YOU CAN SEE:: Ginger Schenk, pictured above in 2010, has lost 67 pounds by sticking to reasonable nutrition guidelines and sensible portion sizes.

It’s a model of efficiency, except for the resulting obesity and the increased risks of cancer, heart disease, liver disease, stroke, and diabetes that the Center for Disease Control associates with being overweight.

Yes, becoming obese is a slow and easy process, but with the proper plan, a little encouragement, and a lot of patience, breaking that cycle can be equally easy. Crossroads Wellness offers the full package for just $39.

The nutrition club’s 12-week weight loss challenge kicked off Jan. 17, and owner Mike Stewart said it’s never too late to join. Last year’s winner didn’t start until week six, and he won $200 by losing 14 pounds.

The program is simple. Every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., all the participants meet at 1542 W. Branch St. in Arroyo Grande. A coach offers one-on-one body analysis and advice, and participants weigh in before hearing a lecture on nutrition with practical tips for healthier eating.

Stewart said that $10 of everyone’s entry fee is donated to a local children’s charity. After 12 weeks, the rest is awarded to whoever loses the most weight.

“Being around like-minded people and weighing in every week, that reinforces the decision to exercise and stay with the diet,” he said.

Crossroads Wellness isn’t a gym or even a fitness studio. The main focus is education, with lessons on portion control, metabolism, proteins, and the importance of water intake. They also sell supplements and shakes that serve as meal replacements. Participants don’t have to buy anything extra, but Stewart said those who do usually see better results.

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“We’re not just selling products,” Stewart said. “We care about your health.”

Stewart said he got involved in the nutrition business after he went from being 220 pounds with joint problems and a bad back to a fit 165. He said the aches and pains are gone, and he’s no longer held back by lethargy. All it took was a commitment to a commonsense diet and 100 minutes of exercise every week.

“I never would have stuck with one of those strict ‘cut everything’ diets,” said Daniel Arndt, who’s lost 85 pounds since 2010.

 

VANISHING ACT::  With the Crossroads Wellness weight loss challenge, Daniel Arndt lost 85 pounds and is now free to enjoy a more active lifestyle. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF MIKE STEWART
  • PHOTOS COURTESY OF MIKE STEWART
  • VANISHING ACT:: With the Crossroads Wellness weight loss challenge, Daniel Arndt lost 85 pounds and is now free to enjoy a more active lifestyle.

Arndt still eats whatever he wants, but with the Crossroads support network and classes, he learned to read nutrition labels properly and keep his portions sensible.

According to a 1998 report published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, portion sizes have increased dramatically since the 1970s in all establishments (restaurants, fast food, and households) for every common food type they studied, except for pizza. An extra 10 calories per day of unexpended energy will result in an added pound of body weight every year, and portion sizes have risen anywhere from 49 to 133 calories per meal depending on the type of food. Multiply that by three meals a day, and the pounds pack on awfully quick.

“We’re definitely happier,” said Arndt’s wife, Ginger Schenk. “We used to need a nap every day after work. Now we go out all the time.”

Schenk said she never felt like she was dieting and that she was able to go out to eat with friends on a regular basis, as long as she put half of her meal in a to-go box the moment it came to the table.

In addition to the obvious health benefits, the couple is able to travel more freely, and last month, they finally got to go skydiving. They were too heavy to meet safety requirements before the weight loss program.

“I never would have made it on my own,” Arndt said.

Though San Luis Obispo County is relatively fit compared to the rest of the country, 17 percent of the population is considered obese according to a 2010 Gallup poll, and scores from the U.S. Department of Education’s Physical Fitness Test reveal that 32 percent of the county’s youth are overweight.

Calendar Editor Nick Powell can be reached at npowell@newtimesslo.com.

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