Written by Jennifer Dziedzic, Photographed by Sara Moore
“Our bodies are our gardens. Our wills are our gardeners.” –William Shakespeare
The new year brings limitless possibilities for those longing to make positive lifestyle changes. It’s the perfect time to pay attention to your health and to banish bad habits that have crept in over time.
Michèle Feckoury knows firsthand how difficult making these changes can be.
“When I moved from France to Georgia 26 years ago, I had no idea I was going to have to fight with my weight for almost 20 years,” she says. “It was hard, depressing, and changed my self-esteem in a way that is hard to explain.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the obesity rate for U.S. adults was at 39.8 percent in 2015-16; the rate was 31.6 percent for 2017 in Georgia. Obesity leads to health risks such as osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
To help people who aspire to reach their health goals, Feckoury opened Lifetime Wellness Center in Newnan in 2015. Most who visit do so for the same reason: to lose weight.
“I divide clients into two categories,” says Feckoury. “One, those who come to see if we can give them a miracle pill, which does not exist. And two, those who have been scared by their doctor who told them they need to lose weight because of bad blood results.”
Feckoury finds that those who are ready to lose weight will do what it takes to accomplish their goal. That’s what happened with her.
After becoming a mother, she was motivated to get back to her healthier self and tried many diet plans with little success. Then, a horseback riding accident resulted in a spinal injury, preventing her from performing traditional exercise. She ultimately decided to try a protein plan developed by a French doctor and lost weight.
“Exercise is, at the most, 20 percent of our health,” says Feckoury. “The other 80 percent is what goes in our mouths.”
Proper nutrition is essential to overall well-being and healthy weight, according to Feckoury who offers tips for those beginning to search out a diet plan:
• Take the time to do your research.
• Don’t fall for the quick fix.
• Why do you want to lose weight? To look good is not enough. Find good reasons and then find a coach you like.
• Having a coach is the secret to success.
Feckoury says anyone can be successful in working towards a healthier lifestyle.
“I want to say losing weight is almost easy, though keeping it off is the problem for most people,” she says, noting that incorporating a healthy diet is key to building a new, healthy lifestyle.
According to the CDC’s “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” a healthy eating plan:
• Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
• Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts.
• Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt/sodium and added sugars.
• Stays within your daily calorie needs.
In studies funded by the National Institute of Health, Dr. Stephen P. Messier looked at the effects of weight loss through diet and exercise on knee osteoarthritis in overweight adults and found that with a 20 percent weight loss, subjects had reduced pain and inflammation, thus avoiding surgical or pharmacological intervention. His study finds that for every pound of weight loss, there is a four‐pound reduction in knee‐joint load per step.
Jillian Michaels, a personal trainer and TV personality says, “It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort.
And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs.”
Locally, Newnan resident Bill Oakes is a walking testimonial to the fact that anyone can make a change for their health if they put their minds to it. In his early 70s, Oakes has eliminated type 2 diabetes. He is active, energetic and notes that his joints no longer ache. He credits his success to making the right food choices for his body and exercising safely.
Cassie Jackson, owner of Steppin’ Out Performing Arts in Newnan, advises those on a path to healthy living to get started early each day.
“First thing in the morning is the best time to get hydrated, raise your heart rate, and feed your spirit,” says Jackson. “Taking care of our bodies inside and out is the best path to true freedom and true joy.”
Beth Carroll, also of Newnan, took steps to improve her health after being told at a yearly checkup that she had elevated blood sugar levels and high blood pressure and needed to lose some weight.
“I have so many friends with serious health issues worse than mine and I thought, I don’t want to get like that. I don’t want to be dependent on insulin or on other drugs,” she recalls.
Determined to make a change, and with the support of her husband and daughters, she gave away the foods in her house that tempted her and lost 12 pounds on her own in the first month.
“I don’t know why it took me so long to get started,” she says. “I guess it just took having that, you know, devastation in my mind, thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got to do something. I am 60 years old.’”
Carroll is currently down more than 90 pounds and feeling wonderful. Only eight pounds away from her goal weight, she tells of a recent followup checkup: “The doctor told me when I went back that my blood work was all back to normal. I haven’t seen my cholesterol that low, or my triglycerides.”
Her advice for anyone heading out to an event where there may be tempting foods and snacks is simple: Pack your own. She enjoys bringing her own foods like raw vegetable trays to parties.
“People I work with will ask me, ‘Beth, don’t you miss pizza?’” she laughs. “Well yeah, but if I go back in that direction, I will be back where I was, and I don’t want to be that way.”
Carroll had to buy a new wardrobe and is now in clothing styles she hadn’t anticipated wearing again.
Before her weight loss, she found herself hiding in the background of family photos. She says being active with her grandchildren and feeling great are her biggest rewards.
“It was little things that I couldn’t do before,” she says. “I wouldn’t dare get on a ladder, my balance was off, and I was always so tired.”
She calls her success a personal journey.
“I look good but I feel better,” she says. “At my age, it’s more about how I feel.”
Beth Carroll, Before and After
Bill Oakes, Before and After
Check this story and more in the Jan/Feb 2020 edition of Newnan Coweta Magazine – available January 4th in The Newnan Times-Herald, and at these locations: https://newnan.com/2019/11/25/single-copy-locations/