Nutrition meets fitnessPublished 1:03pm Thursday, January 31, 2013
Amy Pleimling, the dietitian at Hy-Vee in Albert Lea, has taught a class on nutrition for the last five years.
In one of those classes, Susie Hulst, the sports and fitness director at the Albert Lea Family Y, was a guest speaker. Last summer, they began brainstorming and decided to make Pleimling’s class a two-part program.
In the fall, the program was given its first shot and it began again this week. Called the Healthy for Life program, it aims to improve people’s nutrition and fitness habits.
The Healthy for Life program is offered three different ways.
Participants have the option of taking just the nutrition portion of the class at Hy-Vee, just the fitness portion at the Y or taking them both.
“It really should be both,” Pleiming said. “I’ve always wanted to include the fitness piece and make it seem important, but I’m a dietitian so the food thing trumps what I’m teaching. By no means do I feel that’s more important than the exercise piece so it was an obvious collaboration, really.”
The classes each meet one day a week, but Pleimling and Hulst hope what is learned carries out throughout the week when they aren’t watching.
In the nutrition class, Pleimling helps her students set goals and stick to them. The class discusses portion control, nutrition facts, strategies, balance, recipes and Pleimling’s favorite, the class takes a grocery store tour.
“It’s the most practical and fun way to teach nutrition,” Pleimling said.
The tour gives participants a hands-on approach to finding what sort of foods they should be looking for to maintain a balanced diet by being in the aisles. It also teaches how to read labels.
Another learning tool that Pleimling is adding this time around is MyPlate. MyPlate is a color-coded plate created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It visually shows participants what sorts of foods should fill their plates.
“It’s not so realistic, but it’s a great goal,” Pleimling said.
She said it’s not realistic because many meals, like salads, are mixed dishes and it’s not as easy to see the portions. Pleimling does believe, though, that it is a realistic and practical way to control portion sizes and eat more fruits, vegetables and dairy.
Pleimling said some people take the class just to get healthier, but many take the class with a weight loss goal in mind. Pleimling works to keep the focus on staying healthy more than the weight loss.
“I do that so people don’t get obsessed with the number on the scale,” Pleimling said. “Because we weigh ourselves every week it’s really easy to regard success if you lose weight. These people are making all kinds of diet changes so the weight doesn’t always come off right away.”
Weight loss has shown to be a result of the class, though.
The women said participants who took both portions of the class lost an average of 12 pounds over the three-month class.
The women teach their classes on separate nights of the week and in the two different buildings, but they work together to keep their participants accountable. They ask what their goals are and where they are in reaching them. The acronym they follow for settting and keeping goals is SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
Pleimling said becoming more healthy should not be a black-and-white issue. There are days when people will slip, but that doesn’t mean they should give up on all the work they’ve already done on the goals they set.
“We’re here to be supportive, not to judge,” Pleimling said.
The fitness portion of the class seemed to be a good fit not only for the collaboration, but for the Y as well.
Hulst said people were looking for a beginner level class that didn’t have the intimidation that some of the others have.
In the Thursday night session, participants alternate between doing cardio work and strength training.
“If we did just one, people might not stay,” Hulst said.
Hulst said the classes increasingly become more difficult so that participants can keep reacher a higher level of progress. She said she doesn’t get in people’s faces like on weight loss reality shows because she wants people to come and to trust her while they make changes to their lives.
The women are hopeful that people continue to take both portions of the class because each one has different knowledge to offer about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The nutrition portion started Wednesday and the fitness portion starts today, but it’s not too late to register.