WebMD Fitness Rx Challenge: 2 Months In

Two months after starting the Challenge, our two participants have their first weigh-in on their year-long quest for healthy weight-loss, fitness, and overall better health. How'd they do?

From the WebMD Archives

Welcome to the second installment of our yearlong WebMD Fitness Rx Challenge -- which means it's the first moment of truth for participants Jeff Kibler and Stefanee Williams. How have they done in the first weeks on their new, customized healthy eating and fitness plans? Have they conquered the temptations that lurk in the pantry and successfully squeezed workouts into day planners crammed with work and family commitments? Let's find out.

First, Jeff and Stefanee's pitfalls and triumphs: Nutritionist Kathleen Zelman is helping them find solutions to old eating habits. Jeff confesses he still has trouble cutting meals short when he knows that he shouldn't take those last few bites. Zelman is encouraging Jeff to eat regular small meals throughout the day. "His goal is not to go more than a couple of hours without a meal so he won't find himself starving and eating too much," she says. The key is planning ahead, by packing granola bars, apples, and other portable healthy snacks to help him resist the vending machines.

For Stefanee, Zelman has prescribed heart-smart foods to help with the elevated cholesterol levels that popped up in her initial physical. She's spreading her bread with Benecol (a butter substitute), breakfasting on Quaker's Take Heart oatmeal, and washing it down with Minute Maid Heart Wise orange juice. They're all fortified with added plant stanols. Heart experts recommend eating 2 grams of plant stanols daily to lower LDL "bad" cholesterol and help keep heart disease at bay.

Stefanee's husband has even gotten in on the healthy eating act. "He used to hate bananas, but then he read that they can help lower blood pressure, so he's eating them now," she marvels.

Update on Jeff: Size Matters

Jeff Kibler
Age: 52
Weight: 204 lbs.
Goal: 169 lbs.

This month, Jeff bid a not-so-fond farewell to some old friends: his 38"-waist "fat" pants. Although he wasn't the least bit sorry to send them off to Goodwill, he isn't ready to invest in new clothes quite yet; he still has more to lose. So a foray to the back of the closet yielded a pair of khakis that the 52-year-old Washington, D.C., art director and dad had forgotten about. "Two months ago, the larger pants were tight and I couldn't have even gotten into these."

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But his progress hasn't come without hardships. The biggest one: "I want to eat! I think about food a lot." That old stumbling block, noshing while making dinner -- especially on evenings when he's worked late and arrives home ravenous -- is still giving Jeff trouble. So he's restocked the pantry with Triscuits and uses those as a less-guilty munchie while cooking a healthy meal. "I'm doing my best to keep ice cream, cookies, and potato chips out of the house. If they're not there, I can't eat them."

Another healthy-lifestyle hazard for Jeff: workout consistency. "When he works out, he works out very hard, and you can see the results," says trainer Michael Lin. "He's stronger and we're able to push him a lot more." For proof, look no further than the plates on the weight machines: He's gone from 20 to 35 pounds per leg with leg curls, from 50 to 70 pounds in leg extensions, and from 50 pounds to an eye-popping 160 pounds in leg presses. (He's been doing two sets, about 15 reps per set.)

But when he travels for work, Jeff sometimes misses one or more of his week's workouts. "He needs to get into a consistent pattern of workouts and eating well if he's going to make more steady progress," Lin says. Jeff's cholesterol and hemoglobin A1c numbers (to test his diabetes) look fairly good because he is on medication, but one of his goals is to change this.

He'll soon be tested again to see if he's made progress -- and our doctor, Michael Smith, MD, predicts great results. "There is a very good possibility that Jeff will be able to go off his diabetes and cholesterol medication one day," he says. "For many people with diabetes, like Jeff, even though genetics plays a role, lifestyle can make all the difference."

See Jeff's current vital stats -- weight loss, inches lost, cholesterol levels, and more.

Stefanee Williams: Slow but Steady

Age: 30
Weight: 188 lbs.
Goal: 159 lbs.

The numbers on the scale aren't dropping fast enough to suit Stefanee. "I know that my body's transitioning and I'm building muscle instead of fat, so I shouldn't pay attention to the scale -- but I can't help it," the 30-year-old part-time information security analyst and full-time mom says. But she's feeling stronger, and it's easier to lift her son, who definitely is not getting smaller. "I know I can see changes in my body because of the weightlifting."

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Workdays are Stefanee's best friend, since the family's structured routine makes it easier for her to stick to a healthy eating plan. "I have my oatmeal for breakfast at 7:30 without fail, my lunch on schedule, dinner by 6 p.m., and I'm done for the night," she says. (She closes the kitchen after 8 p.m. to curb late-night snacking.) "But weekends are a little more challenging." A recent trip to Las Vegas also put temptation in Stefanee's way, in the form of all-you-can-eat buffets. But she tried to pile as much salad on her plate as possible -- a big change from vacations past.

When it comes to workouts, Stefanee can be a little too enthusiastic. "I got on the treadmill and started running, and then I did something to my knee," the Maryland resident confesses. Now that her knee is on the mend, she's still pushing hard when she goes to the gym --"I could stay there for hours, once I manage to get myself there" -- and trying to extend her assigned 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer to 35 or 40.

"Stefanee's definitely getting healthier: Her joints are stronger, she's more flexible, and she can lift more weight," says Lin. "But she shouldn't be using workouts as a crutch to help lose more weight. Before I start torturing her by increasing her cardio, we need to make sure she's eating right."

Taking control of her eating habits and workouts should help Stefanee control her cholesterol too, Smith says. "That's her biggest medical issue. As she makes progress with her diet and exercise and starts losing weight, we'll see if these changes are enough to get her cholesterol down to normal."

See Stefanee's current vital stats -- weight loss, inches lost, cholesterol levels, and more.

More Fitness Rx Challenge links:

Don't miss Jeff's blog and Stefanee's blog, updated weekly.

WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD
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