What Have You Got to Lose?

The bad news is that more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, and 68 percent are overweight, according to the National Institute of Health. The good news is that most of us can reach a healthy weight by learning to strike a balance between calories consumed and calories burned. Whether we go it alone or look for support, fitness centers can help.

We all get a little carried away during the holidays. We just can’t help ourselves … the cookies and candy, the dinner parties, dips and drinks. But the cold light of a new year finds us squeezing back into our work clothes, afraid to step on the scale. If we’re lucky, we’ve only added a few pounds. For most of us, however, that holiday weight is never lost, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). The cumulative effect contributes to unhealthy weight gain and obesity, which the NIH defines as a body mass index greater than 30.

While the latest fad diets may tempt us with their promises of quick results, the NIH recommends a program of healthy eating combined with moderate physical activity as the key to losing weight and keeping it off. Building muscle mass through strength conditioning is important, too, since muscle burns more calories than fat. In addition, an introspective search for unhealthy behaviors that lead to overeating should not be overlooked.

Many local health clubs offer safe and effective programs to give you the muscle to lose those extra pounds, once and for all. Here are a few.

Twice-weekly personal training sessions are part of Advocate Good Shepherd’s program.

Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital Health & Fitness Center, 450 W. Highway 22 in Barrington, offers a 12-week, medically-based weight loss program for members and non-members. Clients must fill out a medical questionnaire and obtain a doctor’s clearance to participate.

“Some of our clients may not be up to the physical demands of this particular program, so we may match them to another one that is more suited to their capabilities,” explainss Mark Henrichs, fitness specialist.

The program includes four one-hour sessions with a behavioral specialist and four one-hour sessions with a dietician. The behavioral specialist helps clients to identify and eliminate diet-sabotaging behaviors and encourages positive behavior modifications. The dietician evaluates a client’s diet and calorie intake and recommends adjustments. A calorie guide and a journal to track progress are provided.

Henrichs recommends that clients develop the habit of exercising four to five times per week. Included in the program are 23 one-hour personal training sessions to be used twice per week. The trainers offer coaching, support and motivation techniques to help clients reach their goals.

On average, past program participants have lost one to two pounds per week, says Henrichs. Consistency with each component in the program is important.

“Clients are encouraged to keep up with healthier habits,” Henrichs says. “We’re really promoting a lifestyle change rather than just a weight loss program. This system keeps you on track.”

In fact, many clients join the program to improve their overall health. Some are diabetics, for example, and their goal is to reduce their medication intake by improving their fitness. All program participants are given a health assessment before and after the program; the assessment includes body fat and girth measurements, both important to determining cardiac risks and tracking results.

The program costs $1,631 for center members and $1,811 for non-members.

Delnor Health & Wellness Center, 296 Randall Road, Geneva, offers a 12-week program called The Right Weigh, which provides clients with a lot of individual attention. It consists of weekly one-on-one sessions with a certified personal trainer; four hours of individual time with a registered dietitian; four hours of individual time with a trained life coach; and pre- and post-program health assessments to determine a starting point and to calculate progress. The program runs through the year.

“The personal trainer provides work-outs for you and helps track your progress,” says Anthony Caraccio, membership services specialist. “Our goal is to motivate you and to make sure you’re getting the most out of your time here. Our trainers must have at least a four-year degree on top of national certification, and we have some with Masters Degrees in Exercise Physiology. They’re trained to find out what your needs are and to help you reach your goals, safely and efficiently.”

Membership at Delnor is all-inclusive; members have access to the entire club and pool, as well as several daily group fitness class options. The cost of the Right Weigh is $1,485 or three monthly payments of $495.

Centegra Health Bridge Fitness Center, 200 E. Congress Pkwy., Crystal Lake, and 10450 Algonquin Road, Huntley, offers an eight-week multidisciplinary program that encompasses nutritional education, fitness and behavior modification. In the nutrition segment, clients attend four classes where they learn to read food labels and receive a meal plan, tips for dining out, and ideas for healthy cooking and snacks. In the behavioral phase of the program, they learn to identify emotional eating patterns and discover how stress and anxiety affects their food choices.

“The behavioral component is important, because it is usually not just emotional eating but some behavior or emotion that is just a little bit off that can contribute to why people don’t have success losing weight,” says registered dietitian Meg Burnham. “It’s all about finding what motivates people to make better choices.”

Clients meet once a week for group fitness exercises that start off at an easy pace and progress to more challenging moves throughout the eight weeks. There are pre- and post-weight loss waist measurement taken and weekly weigh-ins.

“We really try to help people shift their focus from just dropping pounds to establishing healthy behaviors, and we really try to point out that these eight weeks are a jump start to a healthier lifestyle,” says Burnham. “We are helping to educate and motivate them for the rest of their lives rather than just for eight weeks.”

Clients can choose to work in a group-based program, called Bridge to Weight Loss, or as individuals in the Lifestyle Therapy program. In Bridge to Weight Loss, participants attend all classes in groups. In Lifestyle Therapy, clients have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a registered dietitian and a wellness coach. That 12-week program consists of three meetings with the dietitian and three meetings with a wellness coach. Exercises are still done with the group, twice per week. There are three fitness assessments included.

The costs of the Lifestyle Therapy program is $160 for members and $240 for non-members. Bridge to Weight Loss costs $75 for members and $115 for non-members.

USA Athletic Club & Spa (formerly Provena Mercy Fitness Center), 1975 Melissa Lane, Aurora, has a Biggest Loser Contest that runs for eight weeks. Contestants must join up in groups of three to five members and compete as a team, using an exercise “buddy system.”

“Working as part of a team helps keep people motivated,” says assistant athletic director Nancy Chivari. “When you’re part of a group, you have people counting on you, and vice versa, to keep you all going. Sometimes, when you’re on your own, you tend to lose track and your motivation isn’t there. But with buddies doing it with you, you have to hold up your end of the deal. If you slack off, it affects the whole group.”

Each team receives sessions with a personal trainer twice a week, nutritional advice, and weekly workouts via email regarding strength and cardio routines. Each team weighs in on the first day, and the winning team is determined by total percent of weight loss after eight weeks. Winners receive a cash prize determined by how many are enrolled in the program.

The cost for the eight-week program is $300.

Life Time Fitness, 451 Rolls Dr., Algonquin, offers a 12-week weight loss program with three levels: Team Weight Loss, Team Fitness and Boot Camp.

The first program is for those who haven’t been exercising and are just getting started, explains fitness instructor Gloriann Stangle.

“In Team Weight Loss, everything participants do is on the treadmill – walking at a slow or moderate pace and then adding incline,” she says. “We use bands and hand weights for interval strength training during slow-paced walking. Over the 12 weeks, exercisers may progress to the next level. Each small group meets three times per week with a personal trainer.

“Once they advance to Team Fitness, they do 20 minutes of cardio, and it can be on any piece of equipment, whether it’s a Stairmaster, treadmill or elliptical trainer. From there, we take it to our resistance machines to help with strength training.”

Clients weigh in and go through a Fit Point Assessment at the start of the program, and again after six weeks, to see if they’re ready for the next level. The testing measures their flexibility, strength, body composition (body fat percentage) and cardio level.

“We see a lot of success with this format, because regardless of how you feel, we really try to put it to the science and make sure that we’re building you up correctly and that you have the metabolic numbers to support you at the next level,” says general manager Tim Kersten. “Obviously, with weight loss and loss of body fat comes the challenge to go on to the next class. Some will graduate, but we have a lot of people that retake the same class, so that when they take the next step, they’re prepared.”

The cost of the program is $166 per month, and includes one session per week with a nutritionist. Club members can attend any of the center’s regular group fitness classes as well, and there’s a dedicated space on the exercise floor just for weight loss clients.

Life Time is a national fitness chain, and its weight loss program has been successful around the country. During its last 90-day challenge, the national winner lost a whopping 105 pounds. The third-place finisher lost 85 pounds, and was a member of the Algonquin club’s program.

“The spirit of the 90-day challenge is what makes it special,” says Kersten. “We held two 5K races during that time, one at the beginning and one at the end. We really heard about some great accomplishments from people who were able to make a difference, whether it was on the scale, in inches, or just in improving their 5K times. It was really a great program, and we’re excited to do it again in 2011.”

With the variety of weight loss programs in place throughout the Fox Valley, there’s no excuse not to get moving and sign up. What have you got to lose?