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Dogs help their human shed weight

Black Forest, Colo., resident Nicolette DiMaggio credits her two dogs, Mollie and Ralph, for getting her started on a weight loss regimen that led to shedding more than half her original weight.ìI work from home,î DiMaggio said. ìOne day I got out of work, walked 10 steps to my bed, was going to go to sleep and both the dogs were wiggling their tails.î She said it felt like they were asking her if thatís all there was for the evening. ìI thought they deserved to go on a walk, so I started taking them,î she said. DiMaggio said she had been overweight most of her life, and remembers weighing 347 pounds at her heaviest. Today, she has lost more than 180 pounds over the past six years.At first, even after just a quarter of a mile, the walks would exhaust her to where she couldnít walk for the next three days. Although she experienced ankle and knee pain, she pushed forward. ìI’d be back out three days later,î DiMaggio said.It took a long time, but she eventually walked almost 5 miles a day. ìMy goal was to walk the Black Forest Section 16 loop trail,î she said. The trail is a 4-mile loop. ìMy target was one step farther than the day before. I would remember exactly where I stopped, and would try to push myself one step farther than the day before.î DiMaggio walked to the trail from her house, and one day she realized she had made it halfway around the trail. ìI kept going,î she said, as she recalled the first time she walked the entire trail. DiMaggio’s mother, Cheri Stichka, has strongly supported her. Stichka and DiMaggio attended nursing school together, graduated together and ended up losing weight together. DiMaggio said none of her friends would get involved in physical activities with her; they were afraid she couldnít keep up with them. So Stichka and DiMaggio went to the gym on a regular basis and participated in several activities. Walking and taking Jazzercise led to an 80-pound weight loss, she said. Then, wanting to lose more, DiMaggio joined VillaSport Athletic Club and Spa in Colorado Springs. When the company she worked for provided employees with a discount to the Metabolic Research Center in Colorado Springs, DiMaggio said she jumped at the chance to sign up. ìIt was my birthday present to myself, because I didn’t want to spend another year of my life fat,î she said.ìI didn’t know how to eat. I would exercise two to three hours a day, and come home and have a pizza.î DiMaggio said she had been eating cheap, buying less expensive foods; not realizing how much food affected her weight and health. ìI needed more education to show me what I needed to do to make it better,î she said. The Metabolic Research Center helped. ìI knew about calorie input and calorie output. Metabolic taught me how to eat, and that was the piece I was missing.îìMetabolic Research Center is a holistic approach that addresses mind, body and spirit,î said Lisa McCarty, MRC manager. McCarty said they look at hormonal balancing and teach people about the emotional components of weight loss, as well as how to shop for healthy food at the grocery store, rather than pre-packaged diet foods. ìThey learn how to eat real foods,î she said. ìThey gain control over eating habits.ìThe biggest thing is that it is a one-on-one personalized weight loss approach. That’s how it differs from everything out there.î Weight loss professionals supervise the individuals, and the MRC has a medical advisory board that includes physicians, a registered dietician, nurses and a medical social worker. McCarty said the MRC helps people lose two to three pounds per week by addressing behavioral and nutritional health. ìTheir metabolism increases, they learn how to eat real foods, they reduce feelings of hunger, increase energy levels ñ and there’s no calorie counting,î McCarty said.The MRC offers free consultations and more than 14 programs, she said. The staff help pick the program that best fits someone’s lifestyle, health issues and budget, among other factors. ìIf budget is a concern, they just bring that up to us and then we can help them find the best program,î McCarty said.Support from the MRC has been invaluable to DiMaggio. ìThey celebrate with you for every 10 pounds you lose,î she said. DiMaggio is currently in the transition phase of the program, which McCarty said helps people re-introduce certain foods back into their diet. After people reach their ideal weight, they continue to have access to the MRC for support and encouragement.DiMaggio said she has a new outlook on life. ìWhen I was at my heaviest, my emotions were horrible ñ depression-like mad,î she said.She now has opportunities available to her that she never thought possible, and DiMaggio has a new motto: ìMisery is easy ñ happiness takes work.î

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