Sarasota’s nonprofit community bands together to lose 774 pounds through Weight Watchers.
Kameron Hodgens was 72 hours into a Key West vacation when she declared to her husband, “I’m done.” Not with the crystal blue South Florida waters but rather with no longer caring about the food she ate.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to live like this any more. It’s my fault. It’s like self-inflicted,’” said Hodgens, CEO of Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center. “Nobody expects me to be everywhere all the time. Nobody is shoving rolls and dessert down my face, and nobody’s telling me that I shouldn’t have a better balance. So why am I doing this to myself?”
She knew she needed to make a change in her life and — with the support from within the nonprofit community — 13 months ago she started a WW (formerly Weight Watchers) group of 35 people at Glasser/Schoenbaum that collectively lost 774 pounds.
Meeting every Tuesday, often during their lunch break, the group has the chance to talk about what they might have struggled with or achieved that week.
At the central point of every conversation is their “why,” as in what is the reason for working toward their goals. For many, their why is because they want to be able to run around with their children or because they want to feel comfortable in their own skin.
The group works together to create a positive environment that encourages healthy weight loss. Shon Ewens, CEO of the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County, said having a community where people can exchange meal-prepping tips and well-wishes or to walk around the parking lot on a break has helped to keep her on track.
“One of my best friends is doing it with me, and we went on vacation together, and it was awesome because we held each other accountable,” said Ewens, who has lost 70 pounds since September. “We both came back from vacation and had lost weight.”
Ewens said that the WW group has given her a support system and that rather than looking at the program as a diet, she has treated it as a lifestyle change.
Similarly for Hodgens, the journey has been about more than her 33-pound weight loss. It’s about finding ways to be more present in her life and to realize that she can take a step back from letting her job rule her life in order to implement a healthy lifestyle. But more than anything, she said it is about being able to chase after her daughter without being in pain or getting winded.
Through her journey, Hodgens has recognized the effects certain food has on her body. Now when she eats too much soy — an ingredient she loves — she said she notices how bloated she gets, which is something she said she didn’t really notice before she started the program.
For Ewens, joining in on the Glasser/Schoenbaum WW group has helped her to believe in herself again.
“Life is so busy, and I take care of everyone else in my life,” she said. “I take care of Sarasota County’s moms and babies, I take care of my family, and I take care of my friends. I finally realized through this journey that I needed to start taking care of myself.”