On Thursday, April 21, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Wellness Team presented “Taking Your LEAP into Spring: Finding Your Weight-Loss Balance” at the Canalside Neighborhood Center. The event, designed to help Community members follow healthful lifestyles and share inspiration for success, featured a Walk into Spring fun walk, dinner and motivational speakers.
Staff members from the SRPMIC Health and Human Services Department provided a health screening that included checking blood sugar and blood pressure. Physical Fitness Specialist Jason Seepie from the Salt River Fitness Center led participants on the half-mile walk through the Canalside neighborhood.
After the walk, a healthy dinner was served by Ernie’s Catering and the speakers shared the changes they have made in their lives to lose weight and get fit. The speakers included Community members Erica Harvier, Sharilyn Belone and Tamar Gonzalez.
Harvier’s motivation for staying healthy is to prevent diabetes; almost everyone in her family has it, and her mother is disabled and in a wheelchair. Harvier explained that her mother has a lot of granddaughters who are there to help her, but Harvier has three sons, and she knows that sons are different from daughters and “they probably won’t stick around to help.” In any case, Harvier said, she does not want her children to have to help take care of her.
Harvier had to overcome negative thinking to change her lifestyle. She said, “I just did it. I started out walking, and when I got comfortable I would do a brisk walk; then I started jogging.”
She also had to gain control over temptation. “I was eating unhealthy foods, so I had to teach myself to eat better, or at least eat smaller portions,” said Harvier.
Like Harvier, most of Belone’s family is diabetic; she and two of her sons have diabetes. A sister lost both of her legs because of the disease. She now takes action by staying active. She has always been active and played basketball and softball in junior high.
“When I was younger, we were all skinny,” said Belone. “We walked everywhere. If we wanted to go to a dance, we would walk there; there were rare occasions when a parent would actually drop us off or pick us up.”
Belone found out she was diabetic 30 years ago. She was devastated about the diagnosis, but today she is determined to take care of herself. Belone participates in Senior Steppers, and for the past year she has been waking up before sunrise every morning to walk more than two miles from her home to the Community Building and back. Since she started walking, Belone has made a new friend: a dog named Molly, who meets her at Longmore and Thomas roads and walks with her until she comes to her stop. Molly sometimes even will meet Belone at her residence if Belone is running late.
The endurance she has gained through walking helped Belone participate in one of the Community’s 5K runs.
“Young people need to take the challenge themselves, because of the diabetes that is plaguing our people,” said Belone about getting healthy and fit. “We [Salt River Community members] should take advantage of the Fitness Center and all the fitness events that go on in the Community, because it’s all free.”
Gonzalez was motivated to lose weight because of her family history of high blood pressure and diabetes. She explained that she didn’t want to go through the struggles that other family members went through. In the past year Gonzalez has lost more than 60 pounds by attending fitness classes and training with Rachel Seepie at the Salt River Fitness Center. She also has started participating in half marathons and other running events.
“We are a lucky Community,” said Gonzalez. “We have a fitness center here in the Community that is free. When I first started out, I couldn’t do a half-mile or a push-up; now it’s a breeze for me. When you’re first starting out, you make excuses to give up, but you have to trust and believe in yourself to keep pushing through and not give up.”
The keynote speaker was Michele Kuhn, coordinator of wellness education and the Fitness & Wellness Center at Scottsdale Community College. Her presentation was titled “Weight Loss: Where Do I Start?” She explained the risks of being overweight, as well as helpful advice for dieting, setting weight-loss goals and keeping the weight off.
For attending, participants could choose to take home either a Nike duffel bag or a basketball, and children also were given backpacks and mini basketballs.