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According to the Centers for Disease Control, 23 percent of the adult US population is overweight or obese. They also say thirty six percent of disabled adults are overweight or obese.  That shouldn’t be a surprise, because we’re surrounded by fatty food in this society. Healthier food is more expensive.  

Also, for me, this time of year is tough, calorie-wise. My Dad’s birthday’s in August, then my birthday’s in October, followed quickly by Thanksgiving and Christmas. There’s leftovers for days, and that makes it exceptionally difficult to avoid the “good, but not good for you” decisions. But the spectre of diabetes scares me.

According to my Body Mass Index (BMI) I was not merely overweight, but obese. But because the BMI doesn’t take things like muscle mass into consideration, I got branded. And my doctors hounded me about it. Your doctors have probably told you the exact same things. Get exercise, cut back on fats and carbs, and watch portion control.

Being proactive is key, of course, but it’s tricky when you’re disabled. “Getting adequate exercise can be tougher for a lot of us disabled folks,” says Dr. Ben Gerber of the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago.

He and his colleague Dr. James Rimmer of the University of Alabama at Birmingham conducted a study involving 100 people. Participants (all with a mobility impairing disability) were assigned to one of three groups – one group received a physical activity toolkit plus regular video chats with coaches, one group received the video chats only, and the third group only received the toolkit (with no coaching) after the study was completed.

Rimmer and colleagues found that a weekly (then bi-weekly, and finally, monthly) phone call to coach select study participants resulted in an average loss of five to six pounds compared to those who didn’t receive a call.

I hope that this study’s results can be replicated, because as I said, losing weight is tough for anyone, but for the disabled, it’s doubly as tough.

A few years ago, I decided to get myself back in shape. Like I said, being proactive is key. With the help of the iOS app MyFitnessPal and a little determination, I succeeded. I logged everything I ate. I dropped fifty pounds. Not bad, especially for a wheelchair user.

Fast forward to about a year ago. I decided I’d probably internalized my eating routine, so I felt it would probably be OK to loosen the reins a little. I started to not be as vigilant about logging my food. I also didn’t see my dietician very often.

That was a mistake. By this past summer, logging my food was almost a memory. The consequences: gaining back about 15 of the pounds that I lost. At my lowest, I weighed 165 pounds. I’m still a long way off from my heaviest, but I think it’s time to reverse course.

As long as I get back on the program, I should be able to do it, and if I can do it, you can too.

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