By M. Scott Morris
On New Year’s Day 2016, Lee County resident Andrew Battaile wanted to knock 38 pounds out of his life.
His granddaughter’s wedding in Lafayette, Louisiana, was a motivator. He didn’t want to buy a new suit for the festivities, so he went to work and hit his goal by mid-April.
“I was in my suit and looking good for the wedding,” 78-year-old Battaile said with a smile.
But he’d lost weight before only to gain it back. He realized he needed a plan to sustain his success.
He succumbed to multiple temptations during his granddaughter’s joyous occasion. He returned home with extra weight, but it didn’t hang around long.
“I didn’t have to do anything special to take it off,” he said. “I just got back to normal.”
In a world filled with gimmicks and quick fixes, Battaile accomplished a difficult thing: He made a change and stuck with it.
“It’s a profound process,” said Tracy Stebbins Arnett, director of wellness at North Mississippi Health Services Wellness Center in West Point. “It’s a lifestyle. You have to go into a process knowing this isn’t something you will start and stop.”
Imagine a covered pot on a burner, and the water’s getting hot.
“At some point, the water you’re in starts to boil, and you can’t take it anymore,” Arnett said. “The pressure becomes significant enough for you to take action.”
Through portion control, exercise and sheer will power, the pounds come off.
“Once you start seeing some gains, you lose some of the pressure,” Arnett said. “That’s like someone took the lid off the pot. The pressure is gone.”
To fight against backsliding, Battaile has several strategies in place, including a regular exercise program he enjoys.
“It’s a habit. If the weather permits riding, I’ll go riding,” he said of riding his bicycle on Tanglefoot Trail. “If it’s raining, I’ll go to the Wellness Center. I can burn calories and do weight training.”
Battaile visits the North Mississippi Medical Center Wellness Center in Tupelo, and Heather Thorn, an exercise physiologist, is his coach.
“He’s accountable here,” Thorn said. “He sees me or sees another fitness instructor. There’s a social aspect, as well, to keep him focused.”
He double-dipped on the accountability side by joining Weight Watchers. In addition to the tools for tracking his exercise and food intake, he has regular weigh-ins.
Battaile is now a life member of Weight Watchers, and he retains that status as long as he’s within two pounds of his goal weight each month.
“People who watch their weight daily typically don’t regain their weight,” Arnett said. “You’re aware of when those pounds start to creep up.”
Arnett offers one caution here: Regular weigh-ins work for most people but not all.
“A bad number can be an excuse for a binge,” she said.
It’s important to have measures that go beyond the scale.
“How do your clothes feel,” she said. “Did your dress size go from an 18 to a 16. That’s real.”
For Battaile, it was suit size. He’s also gotten off his blood pressure medication, a significant personal achievement.
During the maintenance phase, he’s been careful to watch portion size and to keep exercising as he’s thoughtfully added favorite foods back into his life.
“A lot of times, people will start adding those empty calories back,” Thorn said. “That’s fine, but when you start adding what you used to do, you can become what you used to be.”
Battaile has adjusted to his new lifestyle. Rather than a big bottle of Gatorade and three energy bars after a bicycle ride, he’s satisfied with an apple and an orange chased with green tea.
“The previous times I lost weight, I always thought I was depriving myself. I reacted badly to that,” he said. “Now, I don’t feel deprived. I enjoy what I eat and feel satisfied with what I eat, and there’s no deprivation there.”
“It clicked for you,” Thorn said.
“Yes,” he said.
His actions have affected other people in his life. Thorn said he’s an inspiration to her and others at the Wellness Center. His efforts also have been felt closer to home.
“My wife hasn’t gotten into a program, but we eat together, and we eat the same,” he said. “She’s been going around saying, ‘I couldn’t fit into these clothes last year.’ She’s a secondary beneficiary.”
If what he’s accomplished were easy, email spam folders wouldn’t overflow with dubious weight-loss promises.
Battaile tackled the problem head-on and did something far harder than shedding pounds. He changed his thinking, so healthy choices have become normal choices.
“A lot of people lose weight and gain it back,” Thorn said. “He’s doing it the right way.”