Losing and loving it

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Shirley Lephew is happier and healthier since dropping 210 pounds in the hospital's 'Biggest Loser' wellness challenge.

By April Wright, Reporter



Once Shirley Lephew sat down, she struggled to get back up.
And for Lephew, a registered nurse who is manager of the women’s health unit at the hospital, it was hard to tell her patients that they needed to live a healthier lifestyle when she wasn’t following her own advice.
A few years ago, Lephew never knew exactly how much she weighed because the scales never reached that far.
Lephew, who had been overweight since the first grade, knew that she had topped out at over 400 pounds and had to take drastic measures to overcome health problems, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but she knew if she didn’t do something, she would continue to go downhill.
She lost 210 pounds when she had gastric bypass surgery in 2002, which gave her the spark she needed to continue on a weight-loss path.
Going the healthy route, she lost 28 pounds in two years on Weight Watchers.
But when the Twin County Regional Hospital began offering the LIFE (Lifestyle Improvements For Employees) program in October 2010, TCRH’s registered nurses and LIFE coaches began meeting face-to-face with employees who were wanting to improve their health.
Hospital workers began to take advantage of the Wellness Center and Weight Watchers program, which is paid for by insurance.
The hospital also implemented the “Biggest Loser,” a component of the LIFE program, in which workers participate in physical challenges weekly, must stay committed to Weight Watchers and meet with a personal trainer twice a week. Then, the top few weight losers get a makeover, and the biggest loser gets a free membership to the gym and six months of personal training.
Lephew’s friends persuaded her to join the “Biggest Loser” challenge. In just a few weeks, with a combination of diet and exercise, Lephew lost 21 pounds. As the pounds melted off, she found her self 72 pounds lighter in the second round of the “Biggest Loser,” which put her in the top six and made her eligible for the makeover.
“Weight Watchers is wonderful for structure and guidance, but you need exercise,” said Lephew, who now works out with a personal trainer twice a week at the Wellness Center. “When I started the program, I was embarrassed and didn’t want to work out in front of people. I hadn’t ran since high school.”
And between back surgery and arthritis, Lephew thought exercise would make her symptoms worse, but it had the opposite effect.
“The trainers worked with me to improve my strength and health,” she said. “And they helped me to overcome my fears of being in front of people, and they had me doing things I couldn’t do before.”     
“Some people say or might think, ‘Why would you let yourself get that way,’” said Lephew. “But it’s something that you lose control of. You would have to be in the situation to understand how it feels.”
Lephew said shortly after gastric bypass, for example, she was faced with the stress of losing a loved one, which sent her into a depression. She gained 40 pounds of the weight she had lost after the surgery and being a part of Weight Watchers for two years.
“I thought, ‘I’ve gotta do something,’” said Lephew. “I felt like I was heading back to where I started, and I needed to do something before it happened.”
In just a few short months, she lost 70 pounds with the Biggest Loser challenge versus 28 pounds in two years. When she began exercising, she felt like she had better control of her life.
Through diet and exercise, she was able to do more at work than before and even slept better. Although she still has a way to go, her blood pressure and cholesterol are down and she no longer has to take insulin shots.
“The key is exercise,” she said. “I was able to deal with stress better and gain a better outlook on life. My back feels stronger, I’m more flexible. Before, I couldn’t do a sit-up at all, and now that I can do them, that’s an accomplishment to me.”
She had never learned to ride a bike, but for the first time, she was able to go on the New River Trail riding a three-wheel bike, with more energy and higher self-esteem.
“Getting healthy is something you have to do for yourself,” said Lephew. “Now, I’m able to get down in the floor and play with my granddaughter and get back up.”
Since starting the program last October, she ran two 5Ks, including one a couple of months ago. “I may not be able to run the whole way, but I’m able to finish.”
When Lephew started last October, she had 46.8 percent body fat. Now, she’s down to 22.2 percent.
“I still have some to go, but I feel a big difference,” she said. “I hope that people think, ‘Well, if she can do it, I can do it.’ Attitude alters everything. You have to do it for yourself.
“You can’t compare yourself to others. You have to start slow and build up and set small goals that can be easily accomplished.”