115 POUNDS LIGHTER! - Fitness program changes civilian's life

  • Published
  • By Steve Thurow
  • 311th Human Systems Wing
Diana Harmon awoke startled and confused. Her cat stood on her chest, pawing at her face. But the feline wasn't trying to hurt its master, it was trying to get her to breathe.

Weighing 270 pounds, Harmon suffered from sleep apnea. Not wanting to use a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine, she sought alternative means. She went to the Health and Wellness Center at Brooks City-Base in San Antonio for help.

Civilian Health Promotion Service Coordinator Diana Gonzales started seeing Harmon. After initial assessments, they mapped out a fitness program together.

Harmon wasn't thrown into an aerobics class and left to suffer until she met her goals. The assessment revealed that a healthy, safe start for her would involve seven minutes of cardio-vascular exercise on a stationary bike five days a week. That was less time than all the commercials that appear during a half-hour TV show.

Harmon has made exceptional progress over the past two years. She dropped 115 pounds, is down to a size 10 and does up to an hour and a half on an elliptical trainer.

Now she wants to work out, even needs to workout. If she has had a bad day, she'll get a babysitter so she can go to the gym. Two years ago her children couldn't get their arms around her to give her a hug. Today her 15-year-old son gives her hugs and tells her that she's little. That makes Harmon feel great.

By using all of the resources available to her at the HAWC, Harmon learned that there are four dimensions of human wellness: physical, emotional, social and spiritual. When you're healthy in all four areas, you're a healthy person.

"It's a relationship that helps keep you motivated," Harmon said.

Harmon said she learned an important lesson after only two months of working out: Trying to go it alone just wouldn't work.

"(There's a) group that's there to encourage you when you don't feel like going in to workout," she said. "You don't have to do it alone."

But Harmon had other emotional issues to overcome. In the past when she was depressed, food was her companion. After only a short time of working out and watching what she ate, she experienced emptiness from the loss of that companion. She spent the next three months fighting the addiction and turned to scrapbooking to occupy the time -- time she had spent eating in front of the TV.

For her, it proved to be a better approach than dieting.

"Diet is a four-letter word," Gonzales said. "(Some) diets starve the body. When the body is starving, it saves every calorie that it can as fat."

That's why with a lot of fad diets, people drop large amounts of weight, but without lifestyle changes the weight will not stay off.

Gonzalez said that by following a fitness program, it's reasonable to lose one to two pounds a week and be able to keep it off.

Harmon can attest to that. She lost an average of nearly five pounds a month on her weight-loss journey and has been able to keep it off. Her new wardrobe puts the exclamation point on her success.