Obesity rates for children and adults with disabilities are far higher than rates for children and adults without disabilities, according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With this statistic in mind, Easter Seals Iowa has made a commitment to make our organization a healthier place to work. We’ve made tangible changes to our worksite environment and have started programs to support the well-being of our clients and employees. This includes implementing a treadmill desk, activity challenges, wellness trainings, an onsite garden, walking meetings and being mindful of healthy food choices at meetings. Easter Seals Iowa earned the Blue Zones Worksite® designation and is the first nonprofit in Central Iowa to achieve this designation.
Julie, an employee of Easter Seals Iowa, began her in January 2011. She experienced many health problems that were starting to interfere with her life including sleep apnea, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Walking short distances was becoming increasingly difficult.
Julie decided it was time to make a change. She wanted gastric bypass surgery, but to do this she first had to change her lifestyle and show that she could lose weight independently. By learning to read nutrition labels and cutting back on portion sizes, Julie lost 40 lbs independently. She started walking for five minutes at a time. To counteract her sweet tooth cravings, she figured out alternatives, tried new foods and learned how to cook. It was difficult, but Julie will tell you that she didn’t do it alone. “Having people close to me that held me accountable kept me moving in the right direction,” she says.
After being approved for gastric bypass surgery, Julie saw results right away, which motivated her to keep moving. With her new lifestyle and drive, Julie lost an additional 132 pounds. In total, she lost 172 pounds, which is 52% of her original body weight. Additionally, Julie was able to reverse her diabetes diagnosis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and sleep apnea disorder.
Finding an accountability partner also kept Julie on track. At Easter Seals Iowa Julie has taken part in five move-a-thon challenges, participates in a local food box program, now uses a Fitbit and participated in a community health forum. From only being able to walk for five minutes, at a time, Julie recently completed her third 5k. Julie enjoys going to the YMCA and activities such as walking, boxing, lifting weights and yoga class.
One of Julie’s favorite quotes is CARE, which stands for Commitment, Attitude, Respect and Effort. If you care enough about your body, then you have to make the commitment to eat healthy and exercise regularly, have the right attitude that you are going to take care of your body, respect your body, and make every effort you can to live a longer life.
Congratulations to Julie for making the decision to change her lifestyle and lead a healthier life. Cheers to you!
***Story provided by Sherri Nielsen, President/CEO, Easter Seals Iowa
Sherri’s Bio: Sherri Nielsen serves as President/CEO of Easter Seals Iowa and has been part of the organization for more than twenty years. She is passionate about carrying out the organization’s mission to provide exceptional services to ensure all people with disabilities or special needs, and their families, have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities. Her mantra for Easter Seals Iowa is removing barriers and creating opportunities for independence.