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Released April 25, 2005

SOUTHERN MISS’ LEARN AND LOSE WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE
IN FULL SWING

HATTIESBURG University of Southern Mississippi faculty, staff, and students participating in the Learn and Lose Southern Miss Weight Loss Challenge are seeing results after spending five weeks on the program. Of the participants who have been weighing in, a loss of 85 total pounds has been recorded and more is expected as the program continues.

Learn and Lose is a 10-week weight loss challenge provided through Southern Miss Student Health Services that started at the end of February. Faculty, staff, students, and spouses participate in weekly lectures, behavior-change activities, team support, and weekly weigh-ins. Incentive prizes are drawn weekly and have included donations from Barnes and Nobles at Southern Miss, Blockbuster Video, and Healing Touch. The challenge will conclude May 5.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 41 percent of Mississippi’s population is overweight and over 25 percent is obese. The Learn and Lose program is designed to help fight excessive weight and obesity in the Southern Miss and Hattiesburg community through education and accountability.

Susan Dobson, the Health Educator at Student Health Services assisted in developing the Learn and Lose program. Dobson said many students have struggled with their weight for some time and may not have the tools they need to make healthy decisions about diet and exercise.

“I believe college is an excellent time to teach and encourage students to make positive lifestyle decisions. This program teaches the basics in nutrition and exercise and it also offers students simple, practical changes they can make to lose weight in a healthy way," she says.

Olivia McCay, registered dietitian and coordinator of the Learn and Lose program believes the program has benefited those who have actively participated. “Many people signed up that weren’t quite ready to make the changes, but they are interested,” McCay said. “Then there are those who signed up and were actually ready to make a change. The program gives education to those who are thinking about making changes and gives tools to change to those ready to make changes.”

Dr. Virginia Crawford, director of Student Health Services, is pleased with the program’s success and the loss of 85 pounds at the half-way mark in the program. “Losing weight is hard,” Crawford said. “I am glad that this program is offering support and inspiration.”

McCay feels the program provides a unique approach to weight management through a team and goal-oriented approach. She believes motivation is a key factor in weight loss, and through team support and accomplishing weekly goals, it can be maintained long-term. Each week, short-term goals are set by each participant, while keeping their long-term goals in mind.

Laura Malone, a participant in the program, says she has been setting goals weekly. “I don't always reach every goal but with encouragement from Olivia, my teammates and other participants, I continue to learn and look forward,” Malone said. “Every goal met is an accomplishment and it's celebrated. It's been great and I already feel stronger and healthier.”

Malone also says the program is a great motivator for her. “The program has encouraged me to try things I've wanted to attempt for years,” she said. “I'm currently training for a sprint triathlon.”

McCay says weight loss isn’t the only thing participants are getting out of the program. “I’ve gotten positive feedback from participants, not only about losing weight but about how much they’re learning about healthy nutrition and themselves,” McCay said.

For more information on this program, call (601) 266-5564.

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May 16, 2005 3:39 PM