JOLIET – Tips. Support. Encouragement.
These are the benefits of a weight- loss community.
Thanks to the volunteers who began a Zumba program two years ago through the Will-Grundy Medical Clinic, people who can’t afford a gym membership, or are afraid to walk through their neighborhoods, now have those benefits.
A celebration of the expansion of the clinic’s wellness program is scheduled for July 26. The event will feature Zumba classes in the parking lot and a variety of health-related information.
“There will be information on lowering cholesterol, how to get enough exercise, portion control, healthy portion size and how to read labels so you don’t get too much sugar and fat,” said Shawn West, the clinic’s executive director. “We have found that the more information people have, the better they are able to take charge of their health.”
Thanks to dedicated volunteers – more than 350 clinicwide, many of them health professionals – the clinic was able to expand its wellness services during the past two years, West said. One popular component of those services are the Zumba classes, which attract about 60 people – mostly women – each time and are held at the Spanish Community Center in Joliet.
“Prior to that, we had offered salsa- size but only to our diabetic patients,” West said. “Once we started Zumba, we offered it to all our patients and to some people from the community, if they were interested.”
This year, the volunteer Zumba teachers added two “Biggest Loser” challenges to the classes. The first contest ran 16 weeks – from January through April – and the second ran just 10 weeks – from April through June.
The focus, said Carly Torkel of Romeoville, a nurse and volunteer Zumba teacher, was on body weight lost, not pounds. In addition to monitoring weight loss, the contestants had the option of being measured, so they could track inches lost, too. They also filled out food diaries.
“The idea was for them to become more aware of what they were eating on a daily basis and how much water they were drinking,” Torkel said.
The first challenge winner was Sanjuana Cornejo, 41 of Joliet. Cornejo – the mother of four children ages 13, 6, 4 and 11 months – lost 22.6 pounds and 11.9 percent of her body weight.
The second challenge winner, Rosario Pina, 29, of Joliet, lost nine pounds and 5.66 percent of her body weight. Speaking through interpreters, both women said they were pleased with the contest and with the Zumba classes.
Cornejo, who had gestational diabetes during her last pregnancy, said she no longer drinks soda and she now eats more vegetables. She feels healthier since she joined Zumba two years ago (She took a break during her pregnancy), a good thing considering Cornejo has a family history of diabetes.
Rosario said she feels healthier, too, and wants to lose 20 more pounds. She’s also drinking less soda and more water, as well as watching her carbohydrate intake. Her weakness? Not bread, she said laughing and shaking her head. Tortillas.
But the Zumba volunteers say their classes focus on more than weight control and exercise. For instance, another teacher, Rosy Gallegos of Crest Hill, recently had a friend die from breast cancer. So Gallegos is now looking for way for her students to receive free mammograms, Torkel said.
“When ladies get their mammograms, she gives them a ribbon with their name on it,” Torkel said.
Gallegos, who works in informational technology at Lewis University in Romeoville, said she’s lost 40 pounds since she started exercising with Zumba and could have lost more except, “I have a 7-year-old at home who wants pizza and macaroni and cheese.”
But like her students, Gallegos keeps the goal of healthy and fit in mind. For her birthday on Oct. 24, 2011, Gallegos signed up for her first Zumba class as her birthday gift to herself.
Four years ago, Gallegos became certified to teach Zumba and has since done so at various locations. Gallegos said she looks good and feels good, and she wants to pass both traits onto her students.
“That’s my mission in life,” Gallegos said. “To empower women any way I can.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Will-Grundy Medical Clinic Wellness Event
WHEN: 6 to 9 p.m. July 26
WHERE: 213 E. Cass St. in Joliet
ETC: Zumba classes in the parking lot, wellness booths. The Will-Grundy Medical Clinic is
a United Way Agency and is supported by four partner hospitals: Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Morris Hospital and AMITA Adventist Bolingbrook.