Abbey Delray South is home to some of the biggest losers in town. And they couldn’t be happier. About three dozen seniors accepted the center’s weight loss challenge and scored above average losses.
To celebrate, they met for a heart-healthy luncheon and awards ceremony – after stepping on the scale. When the scores were tallied, the total revealed a combined loss of 240 pounds, an average of 6.3 pounds each.
“For older adults, the numbers are amazing,” said Abbey Delray’s fitness director Mike Schmidt.
He credits its success to the camaraderie inspired by the three teams; the Slim Jims, Skinny Hips and The Castaweighs. Team captains would call members who missed a workout and encourage them to stay with the program.
The 10-week competition was transforming for many of the retirees whose average age is 84. Some reported their lowest blood sugar levels in years. One person’s blood pressure improved so much the doctor prescribed less medication.
“He saved our lives,” Nick Campbell said of Schmidt’s coaching. “My doctor said I was dying, if I don’t stop eating like a pig. It’s been good for us.”
Campbell shed 14.5 pounds by cutting the portions on his plate by half. At times he tired of the regimen but didn’t want to let his team down by dropping out. Campbell’s efforts paid off. He was the top men’s division winner. First place earned a $50 gift certificate and three personal training sessions.
Niki Marshall won the women’s title. She attributes her 14-pound reduction to boosting exercise and water intake.
“Every time I lost a pound I had more energy,” Marshall said. “I found out I can eat a lot less and not be hungry.”
All three team’s final scores were close. The Castaweighs triumphed over the Skinny Hips by merely one-third of 1 percent. The team’s prize was individual training programs. But everyone took home a certificate, a handbook and promised to return for checkups on the scale.
“The monthly weigh-ins keeps them thinking about it,” Schmidt said. “It’s a conscious effort.” His intent wasn’t so much weight loss, but making permanent changes.
Schmidt set weekly goals that were “small and reachable.” Each week they increased and were tracked. For instance, he’d add a few more minutes of exercise until reaching a target of 30 minutes a day.
In addition to physical activity, the group got lifestyle tips. Schmidt stressed simple dietary changes such as eating more vegetables, choosing complex carbohydrates and staying hydrated.
Gloria Galloway gave up her cookie habit to lose more than 4 pounds. She doesn’t envision going back to her twice-a-day treats.
“He [Schmidt] calls them non-nutritious calories,” Galloway said. “I’m going to be careful.”