Written by Betsy Abraham Thursday, 19 December 2013 00:00
Demetra Ingram wanted to get healthy. The 56-year-old Westbury resident had gained weight over the past several years, and at a recent doctor’s appointment, was told that she had an irregular heartbeat. Her doctor encouraged her to do cardio exercise, not only for her heart, but to help fight Alzheimer’s Disease, which runs in her family.
So Ingram, along with a team of fellow members from her sorority Pheta Iota Omega, decided to join the Long Island Weight Loss Challenge, an eight-week health initiative that encouraged people to focus on healthy eating and exercise.
The challenge was the product of a collaboration between two chapters of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority: Pi Pi Omega (which is based in Westbury) and Theta Iota Omega. Patricia Mack, president of the Pi Pi Omega chapter, said that the two chapters joined together with a desire to help the community, specifically in regards to their health.
“We know there are health issues involved with people being overweight, and that it involves diseases like diabetes and kidney failure. We thought we could do a fun competition to remind people to be healthy, eat properly, and exercise,” said Mack.
Originally, the two chapters thought of doing an informative health fair, but then decided to make it a more competitive event that would not just help participants, but others as well.
“We decided to make it more of a fun activity, with the proceeds of everything going to charity,” said Mack.
At a culmination event this past Saturday, the 22 participating teams gathered at the “Yes We Can” Center in Westbury for their final weigh-ins, and to see which five person team had lost the greatest percentage of their total weight over the past eight weeks. The
Determined Divas were announced the winners, having lost 3.7 percent of their total weight. As the winning team, the Determined Divas were able to choose which health based charity would receive the proceeds of the Long Island Weight Loss Challenge (which came from the $20 per person entry fee). The women chose to donate the $2,200 raised to the American Cancer Society.
The event allowed friends, coworkers and neighbors to all come together to support each other’s fitness goals. Ingram notes that her favorite part of the challenge was the encouragement that came from being part of a like-minded team.
“When you try to do something like this on your own, it’s very hard,” said Ingram. “It’s very helpful to have encouragement and to have someone who has the same goal as you. You feel like you have support.”
The event organizers provided participants a lot of motivation and fitness tips during the eight week challenge to help them stay focused. At a kick-off event in October, teams were given information from health care professionals and speakers. Every weekend, they
were invited to come back to the “Yes We Can” center for a weigh-in, and encouraged to take part in different classes the center offered like kickboxing and dance. An informative newsletter was also sent out weekly, which had fitness tips, healthy recipes, and encouragement to help the participants keep moving toward their goals.
For Mack, participating in the challenge was a good reminder to make health a priority. Exercise was already a regular part of her life, but over the past eight weeks, she says she cut down on sugar and breads, and was more intentional in her eating habits, choosing more organic fruits and vegetables and checking food labels.
“The challenge taught me how to be aware of how to be healthy,” says Mack. “I took away more of an education and awareness and learned more ways I can stay healthy, without resorting to anything extreme but just by watching my diet and keeping my body in motion.”
Ingram says the challenge has helped her really focus on her fitness goals, including sticking to three meals a day, drinking more water and getting 30 minutes of exercise each day.
“This really helped me change what I want to do on a daily basis going forward,” she says.
This was the kick off year for the Long Island Weight Loss Challenge, but event organizers are optimistic that this will become an annual activity.
“Overall it’s been very productive,” said Gladys Andrews, president of Theta Iota Omega. “Hopefully it will be the start of an annual activity and will grow to involve a lot more people.”