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Creation Health Spotlight: Jeanne McDowell

Jeanne McDowell – Director, Strategy Execution and Innovation

Simple Changes, Change Your Life… Jeanne lost over 30 lbs.

A vibrant and energetic southern belle raised in Augusta, Georgia, my name is Jeanne McDowell. My entire career has been helping individuals and organizations find easier and better ways to accomplish their work.  That career, however, has had one drawback:  long hours and lots of travel.  Having been an extremely active and fit person most of my life, I started gaining weight around age 45, and in April 2013 I read in bold print that I was severely obese.

 

The Start

 1)      How did you hear about CREATION Health/ Change Your Life with Florida Hospital? What were your initial thoughts? (Honesty is encouraged) 

I first heard of CREATION Health during the first week of employment at FHMMC.  I was given the book, which I gave a cursory read and placed on the bookshelf in my office.  That was in November 2010. 

Change Your Life got about the same attention when I joined in 2012, although the renewed focus and health assessment completed in April of 2013 spurred my attention a bit.  Little of the information provided was new to me; however, it was somewhat sobering to read in print, in a report based on MY clinical measurements, that I was severely obese

My risk percentile, when compared to average 65-year-old American women, was 93% for heart failure, 94% for diabetes, and 50% for stroke.  Hmmm…all of a sudden I am above average, but not in a good way! 

Old habits die hard, though; I still did not take anything seriously enough to make changes in my life.  In early September of that year, I had my quarterly check-in with my doctor, a kind physician who treats me as an adult and doesn’t nag me about my weight or lack of physical activity.  Between the April assessment and the September office visit, my lab results showed little improvement and I had gained 17 pounds.  My doctor expressed concern and encouraged me to take action – literally. 

 

Turning Point: Motivation

1)      Why did you start? What spoke to you about CREATION Health/ Change Your Life with Florida Hospital?

Two weeks after my check-up, we had a leadership meeting that taught the first four principles of Creation Health (Choice, Rest, Environment, and Activity).  The class was excellent and really spoke to me, primarily because I realized that I could seemingly make a few minor changes that could have a big impact on my health.  Everything we learned that day didn’t sound easy, but most things really did at the basic level. 

One of our activities during the session was to make a commitment to applying one thing we learned that day.  To help with our commitment, we were partnered with the person sitting beside us, and agreed to follow up with each other periodically. 

My commitment was to get more rest, something I could readily do by getting to bed earlier each night.  After all, I was staying up past midnight most nights – something that really wasn’t necessary. 

2)      Which one of the letters in CREATION Health did you start with and why? 

My initial commitment to CREATION Health principles was the one I made during the Leadership meeting.  However, so much of the information shared that day resonated with me that I decided to try something in each of the four principles we covered. 

To ensure success with my health improvement plan, I knew that CHOICE would play a huge role, starting in the grocery store.  My commitment to REST started with going to bed 5-10 minutes earlier every couple of nights until I was in bed well before midnight.  ENVIRONMENT is not an issue for me so I did not make changes from that perspective at first.  ACTIVITY, rather the lack of it, is a huge issue for me, so my initial commitment had to be simple.  I decided to walk up at least one flight of stairs every work day.

 

The Journey

1)           How did you start? 

My journey started with making better choices in selection of foods, particularly snacks.  Unfortunately for the mission fund in the Education Department, I decided to replace my near-daily snack of a Snickers or bag of M&M’s with an apple. 

Knowing it would be a challenge, I decided to replace them with apples; according to my health analysis, I needed to add fruits and veggies to my diet.  Veggies just didn’t make the cut, but I did find tiny apples (lunch box size) that worked perfectly. 

Eating an apple at 10:30 each morning helped to reduce hunger when I went to the café for lunch each day at 11:30.  Another apple around 3:30 each afternoon gives me a bit of a lift, eliminates the desire for candy, and helps control hunger as I am driving home each day.  After all, I have to drive right by a Dairy Queen on my way home, and just as macaroni and cheese is considered a vegetable in the Deep South, ice cream is a staple!   

2)      High points? What have been the really good times through this process?  

For me, the high points have been the feelings of satisfaction and control I feel when I am walking to my car in the grocery store parking lot, knowing I have made better choices.  Yes, I have actually done a fist pump or two with a big smile on my face, as I softly exclaim “YES!”  And as I’m standing in the check-out line at Michael’s and not buying a Ghirardelli  treat…even a little one… I actually think, “I beat you today.  I’m not taking you home,” and smile outwardly at this little victory. 

Another high point comes with each comment from friends and coworkers, recognizing that something about me looks different.  At my size, it took about 20 pounds of weight loss before they actually realized I was losing weight, but they were seeing a difference in my face, my eyes, and my spirit. 

Internally, the biggest high point is that I am no longer inhibited by knee pain.  Certainly, months of outpatient rehabilitation helped, but taking off weight so I could walk more comfortably and climb stairs more easily will help me get to my next level of goals.

3)      Struggles? What have been the hard parts of this process? 

Honestly, the struggles have been few.  I made minor changes along the way, and worked to hardwire them as habits.  Did you know that anything you do for 21 days straight will become a habit? 

 

There is scientific research to back that up, so I decided to keep that in mind when it seemed I would struggle with some of my choices.  Granted, I have not yet made true exercise a habit, but I have increased my daily step total and I am still using stairs every chance I get. 

 

My current struggle is that my weight loss has slowed.  Those first 20 pounds were easier than I expected; the most recent 10 have been slower, and therefore less motivational.  However, I knew that would happen so I prepared myself for the slowdown.  It has helped to set incremental 20-pound goals rather than address the entire 90-100 pounds that I need to lose.

4)      Keys to stay on track? What has kept you moving forward towards your goal? 

Continuing to pull out my CREATION Health workbook to review tips and ideas has been motivational.  The workbook is so worn that the pages are falling out of it! 

Now that I have pretty firm control over my grocery store choices, I am continuing to learn more about the next level of healthier choices, which comes in understanding nutritional values, labels, and portion sizes.  Just thinking about that brings a smile to my face! 

 

Making a change from eating most of a nice New York Strip steak at dinner to eating a portion of meat the size of a deck of cards has been interesting…and achievable! 

 

Additionally, continuing to research the splurges I choose has been both educational and motivational. 

Did you know that one medium-sized Butterfinger Blizzard (16 oz.) has the same amount of sugar as 23 sugar cubes?  That’s 89 grams of sugar in the 740-calorie treat! (Source:  www.sugarstacks.com)  Passing that Dairy Queen on my home every evening also makes me smile, with PASSING being the operative word, as in not stopping!  I have learned that a 110-calorie package of animal cookies can satisfy a sweet tooth with much less guilt!  

Also, there are many motivational factors that are ‘the big ones’… not being a burden on my only child as a result of my poor health habits; being here and healthy enough to enjoy my grandchildren’s graduations and weddings, maybe even a great grandchild one day.

 

Outcome

1)      What have the results been so far? Where are you now on your health journey? 

I have been thrilled with the results I am achieving.  Since the September 24th Leadership meeting, I have lost just over 30 pounds, dropped three sizes in slacks, two sizes in blouses, and I feel great!  I know I am healthier than in the past, and I’m actually looking forward to my next visit with my doctor.  My office is on the third floor and I climb 40 steps to my floor each morning, as well as multiple other times throughout the day.  A motivating outcome is that I am not nearly as winded as I was when we moved into this building in late January.   

2)      What have you learned?

Oh my goodness, I have learned so much!  The biggest ah-ha factor has probably been the importance of rest to my overall health.  One of the next-level changes I have recently made is that for a few minutes each night before going to bed, I switch my television to a music channel that reminds me of spa music.  I turn off the lights and practice stress-relieving breathing to unwind, and even though I don’t often feel negatively stressed, doing so certainly relaxes me and makes it easy to fall asleep.    

3)      Changes made? 

My changes have been small but many.  They can be best summed up as making better choices, setting interim goals, keeping track of accomplishments and finding the path to achieve new ones, and having the confidence in my ability to become healthier.  Of course, it can’t hurt that I have added a new request at the end of my prayers each morning: 

“And Dear God, please give me the desire and will power to make good choices in everything I do this day.” 

I figure if God created me to live life to the fullest, it is a good idea to ask for His help every day! 

4)      Next goal? What is the next letter in CREATION health that you want to work on next? 

OUTLOOK.  I have a wonderfully positive outlook and I would like to find new ways to share that outlook with others in ways that will help them find it for themselves. 

 

What Worked For Me

1)      Tips to others –

  • Celebrate the little victories, even if with only a fist pump and a smile.
  • It only takes 21 days to create a habit; make it a good one.
  • Food choices begin in the grocery store; make good ones. 

2)       Motivation –

  •  Start with something, anything, because a year from now you’ll wish you had started today.

3)      Anything you want to add –

  • I love that my Fitbit tracks my sleep patterns and my steps. 
  • Documenting the intake of food and drink in the beginning was instrumental in the start of my nutritional education.  The free app, My Fitness Pal, worked well for me.

4)      What has Creation Health/ Change Your Life with Florida Hospital meant to you? 

The CREATION® Health principles outline a path of small individual changes that are creating synergistic impacts on my health and well-being.  

Change Your Life with Florida Hospital℠ activities, including the Live Fit Challenge, have provided a meaningful way for me to apply the principles in a variety of ways I would not have imagined. 

I have always said that God showed me the way to FHMMC in 2010, a bright and shining light on the path to my new life, and I believe that the CREATION® Health principles are rays of sunshine along that path to help me in this important phase as well. 

CREATION® Health is brought to you by Change Your Life with Florida Hospital