Shedding the Pounds

Almost 100 lbs. lighter, this year's challengers enter the final lap.

Well, another month has gone by, and the women are showing awesome results. So far, they have lost a combined 97.5 pounds, with participant Deborah Perrodin losing 25 pounds!

"Biggest loser" Perrodin is my inspirational story this month. Last year, her seemingly healthy-as-a-horse father underwent double-bypass and valve replacement surgery. That was a wake-up call for Deborah. "It took us all by surprise," she says. "It scared us." In 2007, she put on the pounds following her own surgery. The oldest of five girls, she felt a responsibility to set an example. So, she signed up for the challenge, both to be a role model for her siblings and, most important, to be there in the long haul for her 16-year-old son, Angelo Landry, her "pride and joy."

Last year, the American Heart Association and Personally Fit for Women launched The Go Red for Women Personally Fit Challenge, a 12-week lifestyle management program combining weight loss, exercise and spirituality. At the beginning of the program, the participants had to forego bread, rice, cereal, pasta and potatoes. After two weeks, we were allowed to gradually add in one of those coveted carbs, substituted with a healthier version.

This month, our leader, Personally Fit owner and nutrition expert Dawn Foreman, asked everyone to bring a dish made with a whole grain to the weekly group nutrition session. With these creative cooks from south Louisiana, the usual bland-tasting whole wheat, barley, bulgur, quinoa, brown rice and wild rice were transformed into tasty dishes, like shrimp with wild rice and crawfish and brown rice casserole. My favorite was the beef pot roast with barley, crafted by Go Red challenger Carmon Simon. It was so delicious that I just had to share the recipe with you.

During the last two weeks of the challenge, Dawn took us grocery shopping to find the most nutrition-packed foods. We spent the most time in the produce section, where we learned that colorful veggies and fruits generally provide the most bang for your buck. So, dis the pale stuff and stock up on those papayas, sweet potatoes and red peppers.

As for me, I finally dragged myself to a small group exercise class - and I'm glad I did. Personal trainer Jill Woolfolk coached us through a 30-minute interval training session that was as tough as any hour-long workout I've ever tackled. After huffing and puffing through the class, I left red-faced and exhausted. But I definitely felt the "burn" two days later.

So far, this program is really working for me - and I'm not even an official participant. I've been following the group since Day 1 to report on its progress. My pants' waistlines are no longer leaving squiggly lines on my middle. I'm not expecting to have the Bertinelli-bikini bod, but I would like to be able to walk the beach without too much jiggle.

Hope to see you at the Go Red for Women luncheon on Thursday, May 6, 2010, at the Lafayette Hilton. For tickets, call Laura Broussard at (337) 781-2198 or e-mail her at [email protected]

And, try Carmon Simon's dish below - it's really terrific.

Pot Roast, Gravy and Barley

1. Thaw 3-pound beef bottom round roast overnight in refrigerator.

2. Place roast with 4 cups of low sodium beef broth into slow cooker for 7 hours on high. After 6 hours, add onions, carrots, etc., if desired.

3. Steam 1 cup dry barley in rice cooker or steamer with 2 cups water. Fluff barley when finished.

4. Serve 1/2 cup of barley cooked with 2 oz. of beef topped with 2 spoons of gravy.

To thicken gravy, add a little teff flour.

The Go Red for Women Personally Fit Challenge participants learn the ins and outs of healthy eating via a tour of Albertsons. Pictured from left are Dawn Foreman of Personally Fit, Kellee Charles, Raquel Zenon, Deborah Perrodin, Donna Baudoin, Amy Bolgiano and AHA's Laura Broussard.