Wescom News Service
haron Speelman turned to her doctor when she decided it was time to get her weight under control.
"I told him I needed help with weight loss. I was hoping for the little magic pill," she says with a smile.
He suggested Weight Watchers.
Which presented a problem since the closest Weight Watchers meeting is in La Grande, and Speelman lives in Richland.
"I thought, if they meet at 7 for two hours, I'd be driving down the canyon at midnight. Plus, they wanted money," she says.
So she designed her own weight control group Â— for people who need to lose, need to gain or want to maintain their weight Â— with no monthly dues, no specified diet regime and lots of moral support between members.
They call themselves the WAGs Â— the Weight Accountability Group Â— and met for the first time on May 31.
"The whole idea is to give support and be accountable to someone else," Speelman said.
And these women Â— 10 in all Â— have figured out how to keep laughing and stay motivated in pursuit of the same goal: To be healthy and see the numbers on the scale steadily decrease.
"Most of us have medical reasons for doing this," Speelman said.
Together they've lost 57 1/2 pounds.
"It was a little more, but Christmas took its toll on us," Speelman says with a smile.
The WAG game plan
The WAGs meet once a week at Speelman's home to weigh in and keep track of their progress.
"There's no dues, but every person has to weigh in," Speelman said.
The designated "weight recorder" marks down the numbers.
"If you gain weight, we write your poundage in red. Blue if you lose," she said.
Then everyone gathers around to share their successes and struggles Â— and drop a quarter in a jar if the scale numbers are a little higher than the week before.
"At the end of each month, the person who loses the most (pounds) gets that money," Speelman said.
Along the way, Speelman comes up with incentives to keep the group on track with their weight loss goals, such as door prizes and coupons for "one free weight gain payment."
At their first meeting, every member brought small wrapped gifts. When someone loses seven pounds, they get to choose one of those presents as a reward.
But there's a stipulation.
"You have to keep the weight off or else you have to replace the gift," Speelman said.
Their meetings are also educational, and all the members bring healthy recipes, exercise tips, information about reading labels and guidelines on portion control.
"Most of us know what we need to do, and what we shouldn't be doing," Speelman said. "A lot of it's getting your mind on the right track."
Speelman developed the WAG from tips used by various weight management groups, such as food diaries (record every morsel you eat to see how much food you really consume) and forms for planning menus.
Their newest project was to write down their short- and long-term weight loss goals, and seal that paper in an envelope.
"In two or three months we'll open the envelopes and see how it's working, if we need to change things a bit," she said. "We're doing everything we started out doing Â— we just keep adding."
They recently developed a buddy system to help keep each other on track.
"We have one person we're really accountable to, and they can keep us up when we get discouraged," Jennet Bond said.
And they do get frustrated.
"I plateaued for a month Â— I didn't lose, I didn't gain," Speelman said. "But a couple of the gals were really encouraging and said, Â‘Look what you've done so far.'"
They also make sure to celebrate each other's successes.
"We're very happy for each other if something goes good. We clap and cheer," Canon said.
And they're encouraging others to become WAGs by starting more groups in the area.
On Tuesday the Richland women traveled to Halfway to share their story as part of a Cottage Series gathering sponsored by Health in Action, a local initiative that encourages a healthy lifestyle and activities. HIA is funded by Catholic Health Initiatives, the parent company of St. Elizabeth Health Services.
Prior to forming the WAGs, Speelman and a few of her friends joined HIA (membership is free) and had attended other Cottage Series meetings. After organizing their weight control group, the WAGs invited Sherrie Kvamme, HIA facilitator, to speak to the group about stress management.
Kvamme, in turn, decided the WAGs could present their own Cottage Series meeting.
"I am always looking for facilitators for HIA's Cottage Series and these gals fit the criteria perfectly," Kvamme said. "They inspire, energize and make me never want to quit. They work all the time, they walk all the time and they laugh a lot."
The next HIA Cottage Series featuring the WAGs will be at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at St. Elizabeth Health Services. The women will share their success and give tips on starting a group in Baker City.
"I started this club, and now everyone's coming Â— I have to lose weight," Speelman said. "We do have fun, but it's serious, too."