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Since last August, the equivalent of six or seven people have gone missing in Kenmare.
And their closest “relatives” hope they’re gone forever.
Members of the Kenmare Weight Watchers group have lost more than 1000 cumulative pounds since organizing in late August. “That’s a major milestone. Just think about it,” said meeting leader Jylann Hanson of Des Lacs as she described the lost weight in terms of the number of adults it would equal.
That loss came from a group that has run as high as 60 members, with generally 35 to 40 people showing up for the Tuesday night meetings. While the majority of the group lives in Kenmare, several individuals also drive to meetings from Bowbells and the surrounding rural area.
Weight Watchers groups have formed in Kenmare before, but no active group had been organized in town for a number of years until local residents Lori Neubauer and Julie Schweitzer worked to make it happen last summer.
“I started in Mohall,” said Neubauer, who admitted the drives back and forth for those meetings interfered with her family’s schedule. “We did it for the convenience. I knew it would take off really well here, and we started with over 50 people. I was hoping for 25!”
“Six of us were going to Mohall,” added Schweitzer. “I truly believe in the program and there’s a need for it in the community. If some of us were [willing to go] to Mohall, we knew there were more of us in Kenmare who could benefit.”
The meetings were established as corporate, or at-work, meetings through the
“Weight Watchers works because it is a lifestyle change,” said Hanson. “It raises an awareness of the foods you’re eating, and it’s all about portion control. We don’t make you eat food you don’t want to eat.”
She paused and laughed before adding, “You’re not required to eat liver and onions!”
She also referred to the eight “Good Health Guidelines” members are encouraged to follow. “Basically, we want you to eat smarter and move more,” she said.
Members agree they can attribute their weight loss to education about healthier choices, the ease of the program itself, and control over their participation.
Jackie Schoemer had attended Weight Watchers meetings years ago, but decided to give this session a chance. “I finally wanted to reach my goal weight,” she said. “Before, I had to count things like proteins and fruits. It’s so much easier now, and I think the mindset is the whole ticket.”
Schoemer appreciates the e-tools available to members on the Weight Watchers website. “You put your own recipes in, and it will figure out portion sizes for you and how many points they’re worth,” she said. “I want to eat regular food, and know how to have portion control.”
Sandy Wallstrum is new to Weight Watchers, but she was determined to achieve her weight goal for health reasons. She appreciates the realistic goals members are encouraged to set for themselves, involving a range of healthy weight for a given height.
“You have to be realistic,” she said, adding that working toward her goal in small steps seems helpful. “You don’t want to set [your weight goal] too low because then you’re struggling. This way, when you reach [your goal], then you can increase it a little more.”
The two women shared some weight loss tactics that have worked during recent months. “At Christmas time, I sent all my candy out of the house,” said Wallstrum, smiling as she acknowledged she didn’t even miss the sweet treats that much.
“I don’t deny myself,” said Schoemer. “I just portion it. When you deny yourself, that’s when you crave something.”
Renae Ehlke and Bev Heninger joined Weight Watchers for health reasons. “I take blood pressure medication, and I want to try to get rid of it,” said Ehlke.
“Diabetes runs in my family,” Heninger explained. “I decided it was time for a lifestyle change, and I don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of food. I can use what’s in the cupboard already and my family eats what I cook.”
“It’s easy,” added Neubauer. “I don’t need the extra stress [of other weight loss programs], and you can do this wherever you are.”
Support is key
Members of the Kenmare group consistently referred to another benefit from the meetings: the support they experienced from each other, regardless of their circumstances.
“There’s a wide ranges of ages here,” said Wallstrum. “That made me more comfortable. I was nervous to come the first time and I’m still learning, but it’s a friendly group.”
“I think people would be surprised to come and see the variety of people who do attend,” said Schoemer. “Don’t be embarrassed.”
Wallstrum said seeing such a mix of members helped her decide to join. “But everybody’s got to have their head in that spot [about weight loss},” she added.
Neubauer appreciated the support from other members. “You’re not criticized when you don’t do well,” she said, “but you’re still encouraged.”
As Hanson leads the meetings, plenty of laughter, good-natured teasing and honesty accompany the group’s discussions about everything from new recipes and ways to measure portion sizes to strategies for monitoring and recording food intake. And small achievements are celebrated each week as members achieve personal milestones and successes in their quest to lose weight.
Join any time
New members have an open invitation to join the group. “You just need to come and fill out a registration,” said Hanson. “People can join any time.”
That invitation holds true even if one of the 17-week sessions used in the Weight Watchers framework is already underway. “If you join later, the fees are pro-rated,” said Hanson.
Meetings are held on Tuesdays in the third floor activity room at the Baptist Home of Kenmare, with weigh-ins starting at 5 pm and an informal discussion taking place from 5:30 to 6 pm.
Neubauer said the group has welcomed new members throughout the year. “It’s a relaxed atmosphere,” she said. “Come and see what it’s about. There’s no pressure to join.”
Along with Hanson, Kathy Campbell and Sharon Lehman assist with the Kenmare meetings as receptionists who oversee the weigh-ins each week, distribute materials and resources to the members, and help with sales of the optional products offered by Weight Watchers.
For more information about the Kenmare Weight Watchers meetings or the Weight Watchers program, contact Schweitzer at 701-385-4785 or Neubauer at 701-385-4483.