CHANUTE — Spreading the success of the Allen County Meltdown across a nine-county region of southeast Kansas was the goal of organizers as they met Thursday night on the campus of Neosho County Community College.
A Southeast Kansas Meltdown would be a regional health initiative that encourages healthy lifestyle changes that hopefully will turn into habits, including exercise and nutrition. Communities across Allen, Bourbon, Cherokee, Crawford, Labette, Montgomery, Neosho, Wilson and Woodson counties would participate in the 10-week effort that begins April 2.
Thursday’s meeting was to encourage participation by health representatives of each county and explain how funding is available for the coordination of activities.
In Kansas, the southeast quadrant ranks first in being the worst for having healthy lifestyles, according to the Kansas Health Institute. Almost 66 percent of area residents are either obese or overweight.
“Lack of exercise and poor diet are the two biggest culprits to a creeping waistline,” said Dr. Brian Wolfe, a presenter at the meeting. Wolfe said waistlines greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men can be signs of Metabolic Syndrome, which along with elevated blood pressures and cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease and diabetes.
Wolfe encouraged participants to shake the addiction of food to one of exercise.
“There are such things as positive addictions,” he said. “In 10 weeks’ time, you’ll get there,” he said of the lifestyle change.
Wolfe challenged participants to “be examples for your communities. Show people you exercise and what a difference it can make.”
HUMBOLDT citizens Terry Butts and Sherry Herder are examples of the success of the Allen County Meltdown.
The two were part of the Lumbering Lutherans Plus One group who began exercising together in the 2009 weight loss effort. The original group has for the most part kept it up ever since, plus added several more participants.
Butts has lost 60 pounds over the two years; Herder, 40 pounds.
Butts said she first was skeptical of the Meltdown’s effectiveness.
“I thought I’d lose maybe 5 pounds,” she said. “But I knew I had to try something. My knees hurt; my energy was low,” Butts said of the effect of the extra weight.
For Herder, a dog groomer, she said, “I couldn’t stand on my feet all day,” being so heavy.
The combination of exercise, fellowship, sharing recipes and occasionally cooking meals together made for an environment of true change, they said.
“It was more about feeling better, not necessarily losing weight,” Butts said. “It’s important to be happy with yourself.”
Herder said the group effort brought people together who otherwise, “wouldn’t have probably crossed each other’s paths,” during their daily lives. “It’s grown into a real support network,” she said.
Herder occasionally crowds the women into her kitchen as she shares low-fat cooking tips and recipes.
The women exercise a minimum of twice a week in the garage of Butts and another two days a week through Humboldt Recreation programs.
WITH ALMOST 200,000 people living in the nine-county region, the goal is to get 2,000 to participate in the SEK Meltdown, said David Toland, executive director of Thrive Allen County.
The Meltdown is being coordinated by the SEK Regional Health Coalition, which was formed last summer through the efforts of Thrive Allen County and the Kansas Health Institute to form a regional healthcare network.
Thrive SEK is an offshoot of Thrive Allen County, which has been created to facilitate the structure and growth of the SEK Regional Health Coalition as it builds upon state, regional and local partnerships to gather resources for future efforts.
“We’re trying to spark a change across county lines,” with the Meltdown, Toland said. “We can’t make a difference in one county, if we don’t also involve our neighbors. After all, a county line is something arbitrary and doesn’t affect where we live, work, play or worship.
“We’re hoping this Meltdown is just the match that starts the habit to a healthier southeast Kansas.”
For more information about the Meltdown and how you can participate, contact Sunny Shreeve at Thrive Allen County, 620-365-8128.