Most of the snow is gone. Unless you're a snow plow driver or own a ski lodge, most of us are cheering.

It's time for spring.

If you're like me, you've put on a few pounds over the winter and would like a "stress-free" way of taking weight off. Yes, I know you probably made a New Year's resolution to do that _ and how many years have you done that?

There have also been plenty of news stories about rising obesity in adults and children. Video games and cutbacks in physical education and sports teams in schools have added to youths' sedentary lifestyle. We all live busy lives, so how to work out and still meet family and work commitments present quite a dilemma. One possibility is enrolling in the N.E.T. Links program at the FoxCare Center on state Route 7.

Established more than 10 years ago, it offers both nutritional and exercise guidance, headed by Becky Drake and Mary Hansen.

Both women work with individuals to prescribe a program of diet and exercise to fit one's goals. Drake is a certified diabetes counselor, and Hansen is a registered nurse.

"N.E.T. Links is short for Nutrition, Education and Training," Drake said. "Our motto is a 'Healthy lifestyle approach to wellness.' We want you to be in it for the long-term, so we provide support and assistance. We want each person to do what feels comfortable to reach their goals."

To get started, you meet with Drake for an hour and tell her what medications you take and what you eat each day. She may then make modifications to your diet such as reducing your intake of say, fats, bread or soda. She may also suggest replacement foods. She said she is totally against "quick fixes."

"Fad or low-calorie diets are bad," she said. "You get a quick weight loss but can't stick with it _ there's a quick regain. It is better to lose one or two pounds a week, as losing more results in a loss of water. I'm also a big believer in 'portion control.' Instead of having six Oreo cookies between meals, you should have two."

At the consultation, one will also receive a binder with dietary suggestions. Drake is a strong proponent of keeping detailed food records where you can review your daily intake and discuss its effectiveness. She said she believes in eating lots of fruits and vegetables and three meals a day (not skipping meals), but having a piece of fruit as a snack is OK. She also advocates regular aerobic exercise.

"My philosophy is that small weight loss can have large health benefits. I found that people eat too much because they are bored. They need to substitute another activity for gouging. When you feel a craving coming on, take a walk or ride a bike. I believe weight management requires a lifetime commitment to a healthier lifestyle and the development of a positive relationship with food."

Hansen reviews your medical history and physical capabilities. She asks: "Can you get off the floor if you fall down? Have you had a knee replacement, back surgery or heart condition? Do you have high blood pressure or hypertension? Are you a frequent exerciser?"

All of that information is necessary for her to design an exercise program to fit your goals and capabilities.

"My program consists of a combination of cardiovascular exercise, resistance training and flexibility," she said. "We then go to the gym to see if you can actually DO the exercises. I also find out WHERE you will be doing them. For example, do you have equipment in your home such as a stationery bike, treadmill or hand weights, or will you be working out in a gym?"

Hansen then will give you a written script of what to work on, how many repetitions and how many times per week.

Drake and Hansen are always available to give support, review progress and make adjustments in the programs. You can do that by scheduling follow-up sessions, which last 20 to 30 minutes and cost $20.

To enroll in the N.E.T. Links program, call 431-5181 to schedule a consultation.

Dr. James R. Wheeling is a cardiologist and specialist in internal medicine with an office at 432 Main Street in Oneonta. He has been at this location for 20 years. He said that to get in better shape, one must make a change in one's philosophy.

"People need to move more and eat less by engaging in activities they enjoy on a frequent basis. Walking is the best exercise, but you can also go biking, swimming, to a gym or do calisthenics. To be fit, one needs to exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week."

He agreed with Drake's views about portion control; that a person should eat three meals a day, not skip any meals and that losing one or two pounds a week is about right. "People are impatient," he said, "but more than that is impractical."

First Lady Michelle Obama is actively engaged in a war on obesity and has appeared on the "Today Show" and "Live with Regis and Kelly" to bring national attention to the problem. Wheeling agrees with her that adults and children are much heavier than years ago. He made it clear that this is a major problem for the country.

"In the 1930s, less than 10 percent of the population was overweight. Most people lived on a farm and were physically active tending to animals and doing chores. Now, we do more sitting at a computer. Today, 65 percent of the population is overweight."

He disagreed with the popular notion that you should cut back on certain things.

"There are no bad foods," he insisted. "It's just we live in a land of abundance. Your mother told you to 'clear your plate and eat some more.' That is the wrong philosophy. People need to control their eating habits by eating less and exercising more."

His research has shown that overindulgence can acerbate other physical ailments.

"A waistline over 40 inches can lead to a high rate of hypertension, diabetes and blood vessel diseases. By the year 2030, 60 percent of Americans will suffer from diabetes. This will become costly to the family and reduce one's productivity. One needs to invest in one's 'physical future.' What do you want to look like 10 years from now? In all honesty, fitness doesn't cost that much."

The YMCA on Ford Avenue in Oneonta offers many different classes geared to all ages and interests. Its programs run the gamut from "fun" to highly strenuous.

"Members range from 6 months to 80 years," said Heidi Tanner-Brantley, the head of child enrichment and group exercise coordinator. She is also a certified trainer and trains prospective trainers.

"Our most popular class is the Zumba one taken by either individuals or families. It combines Latin dance with body resistance, push-ups, squat jumps and boxing. It is a total body workout. It makes your heart stronger, giving you more energy as it combines movement with exercise," she said. "There is also an 'equipmentless boot camp' class which strengthens your upper body, abdominals and involves kick boxing. Another class is 'Spin-Yoga' which combines 40 minutes on a stationery bike with 20 minutes of yoga. We also have a 'Youth Athletic Training Program' for teens, which consists of a cardio center, a weight gym and a gym. The athlete works with a college intern to develop speed, quickness and agility. That program is geared for their specific sport.

"There are also classes for seniors called 'functional training' which deals with the basic movements one needs during the day such as standing or flexing," she said.

The facility also has two swimming pools.

The Y is open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays One can either become a member or purchase a day pass. To view its schedule, visit www.oneontaymca.org or call 432-0010.

After a long and arduous winter, all of us need to get back in shape to better enjoy the beautiful outdoors and many activities our area provides. Although he wasn't referring to getting in shape, we should follow President John F. Kennedy's advice in the 1960s: "Let's get America Moving."

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