Members of a Weight Watchers group in Fort White are minus a ton of pounds

Published: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 1:17 a.m.
FORT WHITE- If you are among the thousands - say millions? - of Americans who put on unwanted weight over the holiday season (it's been reported we each gain an average of 7 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's), take note: there is hope, and it comes in the form of a life change called Weight Watchers.
Or so say the nearly three dozen residents of Fort White who first met in the fellowship hall of Shiloh Baptist Church Jan. 10, 2002.
By attending weekly meetings and hearing encouraging messages, by clearing out kitchen cabinets and refrigerators of fat-drenched, high-salt and high-sugar condiments and other generally fattening foods, and by sticking to a program that calls for them to calculate "points" rather than calories, this large group became a whole less large.
A 2,000 pounds less large, to be exact.
To mark this milestone, members got together at a recent meeting to be photographed with a 1-ton pickup to symbolize their loss. (As a disclaimer, a 1-ton pickup means it is rated to carry a ton, but it may actually weigh much more itself.)
For Fort White Weight Watcher's group organizer Anna Allen, her husband and daughter, the year-long journey has been nothing short of miraculous. And they describe in glowing terms the ease and efficiency of the program.
"It was truly the most effective for me. I have tried others. Believe me," said 54-year-old Anna, who lost 61 pounds in 12 months. "I didn't have to eat specially prepared food. I could still maintain a household. And with three of us together, it was very easy to stick to it," she added.
"I still cook full meals, but we learned about 'portion distortion.' And we continue to snack on popcorn and potato chips and sweets. We just choose the healthy alternative ones."
While daughter Amanda, a dental hygienist, takes a pre-packaged Weight Watchers meal for lunch, when husband Larry leaves for work at H.T. Hackney Co. in Gainesville, he takes "a sack full of stuff for lunch. He's a grazer, so he takes fruit and water and low-fat yogurt and all sorts of things. He gets full," says Anna.
The impetus for starting the group came with the impending wedding of Amanda, now 21, who lost 47 pounds herself and has become a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. "I didn't want to shop for a mother-of-the-bride dress at the sporting goods tent department," Anna laughs.
Timing was everything though. "We started the ball rolling in November, but quickly realized the holiday season was not the right time to start up, so we began the second Thursday in January," while New Year's resolutions were still ringing loudly in everyone's ears.
"I thought it would be hard to recruit members. We needed 30 members to start. I thought, "Oh my, I don't know that many people.' But I called Weight Watcher's' Jacksonville office and we had 60 people the first night," she recalls.
While the Allens are members of Shiloh Baptist, only about 10 others in the group are. "We decided to use the building because it was vacant on meeting nights."
Larry Allen, also 54, was - excuse the choice of words - the biggest loser in the group. He started at 301 pounds and shed 104. His goal is to lose 12 more pounds. "When you first start, you drop a good bit the first week or two. But after that I aimed for 2 to 3 pounds a week. It was really easy."
He has coupled his more sensible eating with walking 3 to 4 miles every day, doing some power walking, bicycling and physical strength training with dumbbells at home.
He is the music director of Shiloh Church, and listens to music on headphones while he walks. "Gospel gets you going. But lately I've been listening to contemporary Christian music, and it really gets you stepping," he said.
Over the holidays, his biggest temptation came when he was confronted by his mother's fruitcake. "Christmas evening we had a big dinner. And I just caved in. It must have been 10 points. But I made up for it by doing an extra 30 minutes on the elliptical machine the next day."
The Fort White Weight Watchers group meets Thursdays at Shiloh Baptist Church. Weigh-in is at 6:30, the meeting starts at 7 p.m.
The biggest 'loser' sheds 104 pounds.

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