When Lesa Hirtzel took part in the biometric screenings offered through HSHS’s LiveWELL program in fall 2017, she knew that the results wouldn’t quite be what she wanted. When her results put her in the “O category” though (obese as she refers to it), she was shocked and motivated to do something about it.
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Lesa, a scheduler in the Admitting (Patient Access) department, shared, “For the first couple months after getting those results, I tried to make improvements on my own; I thought, ‘I can do this….”, but it was so out of control, I knew I needed help.”
Around Christmas time, Lesa heard about the HMR® Weight Management program, which HSHS St. Anthony’s had recently launched at the Opilka Family Wellness Center in Altamont. She decided to look into it because, knowing it was a St. Anthony’s program, she trusted that enough to check it out. Lesa said, “I felt loyalty to the hospital. If I wanted to do something about my health, I wanted to do it through my employer, so I contacted Brooke and that’s where my journey started.”
HMR Program Coordinator and Health Educator Brooke Welcher-Miner, MS, RDN, LDN, was excited to get Lesa on board and after some back and forth communication, Lesa became St. Anthony’s very first HMR patient, enrolling in the HMR Healthy Solutions at Home Program on January 5, 2018.
Lesa is living proof of how HMR can help you find a healthier balance for your life. To date, Lesa has lost 39 pounds, an astonishing 22 percent of her initial body weight. Recently, Lesa had family visiting from out of town, including a niece and her little boy. When she couldn’t lift the little boy, who weighed 34 pounds, she realized, “I have just lost that child’s size in weight! I couldn’t pick him up with my arms, but that is the weight my body and my joints were carrying.” Beyond just weight loss, getting healthier and losing weight has allowed Lesa to have more energy and no longer be short of breath. “Now, I can chase my grandchildren. It is a total life change and I’m not going to waste it,” she said with tears in her eyes.
The Diet: Eat All You Want (Really!)
St. Anthony’s Weight Management has four different HMR diet options to choose from, offering both in-clinic and at home programs. The Healthy Solutions At Home option that Lesa chose follows an easy 3+2+5 structure of three HMR shakes, two HMR entrées, and five servings of fruits and vegetables daily with all products delivered to the client’s door step and phone coaching/support, if requested. According to data on HMR’s website, the average weight loss for those who try the program on their own is 13 pounds in 12 weeks, while those who take advantage of the phone support lose an average of 23 pounds in the same timeframe.
“Just like everyone else, I have a really busy life. I work two jobs, have other commitments in my life, and I knew I just couldn’t find more time in my week to meet with Brooke or a group at the clinic,” Lesa shared about why she decided to try the Healthy Solutions At Home plan. While she didn’t meet face-to-face with Brooke, they scheduled weekly phone calls and communicated via email at least once a week. “Lesa took advantage of the phone support we offer. Dieting is hard and dieting alone is even harder. So having me for support and accountability makes a huge difference in how successful you’re going to be on this program. It’s (phone support) a proven tool to help,” Brooke noted.
Having dieted before, Lesa anticipated that she would starve and be really limited in what she could eat in order to lose the weight she wanted. However, she soon learned the HMR program offered her the complete opposite experience, boasting a wide assortment of meal replacement options beyond just shakes and daily minimum intakes instead of maximum allowances. “When I talked to Brooke and she shared the amount of food that you get with this program, I realized, ‘Ok, this is a lot of food.’ In fact, in the first week I was on the program, it took a lot to get all of these servings in, in one day. That’s what I loved about it; there is no reason you need to starve, their food is wonderful, and the variety is unreal.”
A main part of the program is planning to succeed and with her busy lifestyle, Lesa initially wondered how she would stay committed to the program. In the midst of the first phase of the program (weight loss), Lesa faced challenges that easily could have derailed her efforts. Lesa’s father had a stroke a couple weeks after she started the program, where she was with him in the hospital for multiple days in a row. “My dad was unresponsive for five days and as I sat in the hospital for those days, I had to prepare and plan so I wouldn’t ‘fall off the wagon.’ I am so thankful for Brooke that she would help me push through those challenges,” she shared. “I was committed to it 100 percent because I know the health issues my family has faced. There is heart disease, stroke, and diabetes in my imme
diate family, and I just knew that I needed to lose weight or I was going to be in that same situation.”
No Jumping Jacks Required
Beyond just making improvements to her eating, the HMR Program prompted her to get more consistent with her physical activity efforts while at the same time teaching her how to simply implement more movement throughout her day to day. “I learned not to get stuck in an ‘all or nothing’ mentality, thinking that if I don’t have time to do a whole 45 to 50 minutes, I just won’t do it at all,” she explained. “The program helps you with exercise – it’s not ‘I have to do 50 jumping jacks’ or ‘I have to do 50 sit-ups’. They show you all the different ways you incorporate movement – walking, biking, yard work, mowing, even house cleaning – it’s all movement and you have to start somewhere.”
Brooke explained how activity and movement work hand-in-hand with the program’s meal planning. “You can’t out work a bad diet and you can’t out eat a sedentary lifestyle – you have to find that balance. HMR really makes it so anyone can do it,” she said. “A lot of people who join the HMR program are not active so we start by figuring out how to get them moving because a body in motion stays in motion. You just have to make a goal for yourself to be active in some way every day, whether it’s five minutes at a time or an hour uninterrupted.”
Lesa shared how her weekly talks with Brooke were really helpful for setting and meeting goals, in a non-judgmental way. “When we would talk about the week ahead, it was, ‘This is our goal for the week, and the plan to succeed at it.’ Brooke wasn’t on the phone every day to slap my hands and say, ‘Lesa – did you do what you promised to do?’ She was so supportive and encouraging – she would gently say, ‘This is what we want for the week,’ and allow me to pick and choose what I wanted to accomplish. And if I didn’t meet that goal, when we talked next, we would talk through what the barriers were and what to do next time,” Lesa said.
“The HMR program is not a perfection program, it’s about finding that balance,” Brooke said. “My job is to help you succeed. When someone has a rough week, I am there to provide that extra support and accountability. When someone struggles, I’m going to ask what happened because that’s my job, to help troubleshoot the issues you are having, because these temptations don’t go away just because you’re dieting or you’ve lost the weight. We work together to figure out how to tackle it the next time it comes around, because it will,” she said.
Even though she is now in Phase 2 of the program (the maintenance phase), Brooke and Lesa continue to have weekly support calls. “Just because she’s lost all the weight doesn’t mean I’m dropping her and saying, ‘Good Luck on maintaining your weight.’ We’re still here, offering support and helping with challenges you face,” she explained.
Of course, there is a financial commitment for the HMR program, depending on the plan that you choose. For Lesa, the choice was an easy one. “My husband and I used to go out to eat pretty regularly, which I cut back when I started the program. The money I previously spent to go out to eat, I could now use to purchase the HMR products,” she said. “But even more important, I knew I had to do something. And I thought, ‘can I really put a price tag on my health?’ We have to look at the long-term quality of your life – you are worth it!”
Could the HMR Plan Work For You?
Free, no-obligation informational sessions are hosted weekly at the Opilka Family Wellness Center in Altamont (Reservations required at 217-540-2336). If you are considering the at-home program or any of the options offered by St. Anthony’s Weight Management, you can contact Brooke for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those considering the HMR program, Lesa is willing to share her experience and answer any questions noting, “If I can do it, anybody can do it. I faced a lot when I started the program – with my Dad’s stroke, some job changes here, and working two jobs – if I can do, anyone can do this,” she said. “Those who know me, know my life and my schedule, and how crazy it is. But I did it and so can you.”