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Transformation Cafe helps put Douglas County residents on road to better health

Boo doesn’t know it, but he has a big role to play in his human companion’s weight-loss plan.

Roseburg’s Tawnya Watson scrapes food off her plate for the 4-year-old Labrador-border collie cross when she’s cutting back on portion sizes. Probably better for him, Boo joins Watson and a second family dog, Fe, when Watson hits the pavement headed for Fir Grove Park or Stewart Park.

Her goal is to stretch the walks from three to six times a week. That’s not easy for a mother of three teens.

“If left to my own devices, I tend to put me at the end of the line,” Watson said. But Watson is getting better at making time to exercise, largely through the support of the Transformation Cafe.

Weight loss is a significant part of the program, which is operated through the Cow Creek Health & Wellness Center. But there’s a reason it’s not called the Drop 50 Pounds Cafe.

“We strive to lose 4 percent of body weight, because then (participants) know what they’re shooting for,” said Bob Dunas, the center’s health education manager. “But what we really want to do is meet and kick some ideas around for whatever changes a person is willing to make, as they are ready to do it, so they are making great steps and strides in their health.”

Those steps and strides are propelled through the Transformation Cafe’s format of two consecutive four-week sessions, offered in two Douglas County locations. Participants meet once a week at either the Cow Creek Government Office in Roseburg or at Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville. All sessions are free.

Funded by the Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe, Transformation Cafe initially was open to tribe members and employees. It was launched early last year and followed a “Biggest Loser” winner-take-all format involving cash prizes.

Now available to anyone in the community, the courses have less emphasis on competition. Those who wish may put $20 into a kitty. Anyone who loses the targeted number of pounds wins back his or her contribution, as well as a portion of those who don’t meet the weight goals.

Still, the money is secondary to a focus on long-term gains, Dunas said. About 130 people have enrolled in the sessions to date, he said.

The next series is scheduled to begin March 19. Though registration is accepted, walk-ins are welcome, Dunas said.

Each session begins with a weigh-in. At a gathering last month at the Cow Creek office boardroom, seven participants followed Dunas into another room as they arrived, one at a time, for a private date with the scales. Class discussions took place around tables set in a rectangle. The mood was casual but purposeful, led by Dunas and fellow instructor Tricia Hedges, a registered dietitian.

Topics ranged from how people managed to avoid fast foods through the previous week to whether they were getting optimal amounts of sleep. Hedges shared tips on interpreting nutritional labels as everyone grimaced while handing around a large, rubbery glob of fake fat.

This week, Dunas said, it was time to talk about adding the “E” word into daily life. Even when we think we don’t have time for exercise, he said, we might start by walking out the front door, proceeding 15 minutes and turning back.

“There’s your half an hour. If you can do that five times a week, you’ve reached a good goal,” he said.

Speaking after the class, Roseburg’s Marty Weaver said the sessions are appealing to her because the instructors allow attendees to pick and choose from a variety of ideas for making beneficial changes in their lives. In her case, the impetus was getting the results of a test that showed she was a borderline diabetic. Reluctant to go on medication, she decided it was time for her own transformation.

“I’m no longer doing a diet. It’s a healthy-eating lifestyle, and I’m motivated to become healthier,” Weaver said.

One motivator for Weaver is her desire to go backpacking with her youngest child, a Boy Scout. “I need to be in better shape to do that,” she said.

Dunas said he believes in spreading the Transformation Cafe message for several reasons, one of them being information from the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on prediabetes and diabetes rates.

The center’s 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet states that more than 8 percent of Americans have diabetes. Of those 25.8 million people, 7 million don’t know they have the disease. In addition, 70 million Americans have prediabetes, 35 percent being adults age 20 and older. Half of all U.S. residents 65 and older have the condition that leads to diabetes.

According to Kary Piper, a diabetes educator for Mercy Community Education, Douglas County ranks as one of the worst in the state for diabetes. The disease ranks seventh in causes of death statewide.

Adults who learn how to stave off life-threatening diseases have a better chance to influence the next generation, Dunas said.

Watson hopes to be one of those good influences. Thyroid problems are part of her family history, and she said a recent test indicated her 16-year-old daughter could be at risk. By putting good food practices into effect now, Watson said she and her three teens may be able to turn back the pattern.

“What I love about the program is that it gives that last little push I need,” she said. “It’s up to me to make it a life change, to make those changes permanent. And the support system at the Cow Creek (Wellness Center) is phenomenal.”

Dunas said his main objective is to reach people who don’t feel good much of the time.

“When they have aches and pains and aren’t sleeping well, and for them to lose a bit of weight and say, ‘I am sleeping, breathing so much better and I can tie my shoelaces without sitting up and having to take three deep breaths — that’s the payoff for me,” he said.

• You can reach Assistant City Editor Tricia Jones by phone at 541-957-4216 or by email at tjones@nrtoday.com.

What I love about the program is that it gives that last little push I need ... And the support system at the Cow Creek (Wellness Center) is phenomenal.

Tawnya Watson
Transformation Cafe participant

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The News-Review Updated Mar 6, 2013 01:14PM Published Apr 3, 2013 04:35PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.