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Health scare motivates Fields to make health a priority

Written by Mary Jane Skalka OF Kearney Hub

KEARNEY — For Katie Fields, a picture is worth not just 1,000 words, but 100 pounds and more. She has lost 80 pounds in the past year, and she’s not finished. Her husband Jim is taking pictures of her as she diets to keep her motivated.

“The pictures were my idea,” she said. “I wanted to keep track of my progress. They come in handy when I’m having a down day. It reminds me of how far I have come.”

Fields had sparred with diets all her life, but the diets kept winning. She’d plunge into one and lose a few pounds, but the weight crept back on. No matter what she did or what she ate, she was stuck at 450 pounds.

But when her doctor found some pre-cancer cells in her body a year ago, alarms went off. “I wanted things to change,” she said. This time, she was determined to win.

First, she and Jim, who live in Shelton, took an eight-week Power of Possibility class at the Kearney Family YMCA that focused on nutrition and exercise. Then they changed their eating habits. They eliminated fast food and soft drinks and added more fruits, vegetables and protein. “We made lots of changes together,” Fields said.

She started exercising, too. At first, it was a struggle, but Fields, the lead teacher for three- and four-year-olds in the Green Grasshopper classroom in the Ron and Carol Cope Child Development Center at the Y, stuck with it. “After one lap of walking around the gym, my back would hurt,” she said. She would sit down, but she did not quit. By the second week, she could do two laps. If her back hurt afterward, she would sit down again. She also began swimming.

The weight began falling off. Slowly, she began to see and feel a difference.

Fields bolstered her efforts by signing up for the Y’s 12-month Diabetes Prevention class. She had been diagnosed with prediabetes, a condition in which a person’s blood glucose is elevated, but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. The class focuses on healthy eating, physical activity and more. The program aims to help participants lose from 5 to 7 percent of their body weight and exercise for 150 minutes each week.

“The wellness instructor, Terri Miller, had a quote: ‘If you’re not challenging yourself, you’re not changing,’” Fields said. “That stuck with me.”

In that class, Fields found encouragement, support and new friends. “It wasn’t just about losing weight. They also stressed getting enough sleep. I also learned that if you violate your diet, move on. Take it one meal at a time. Also, I learned that even when the scale isn’t moving, keep going,” she said.

Fields learned to focus on losing 10 pounds at a time. “Otherwise, I’d get lost in numbers,” she said. “Sometimes, the smallest steps make the biggest difference.”

Jim, meanwhile, decided to join Katie in shedding pounds. “First, I wanted to support Katie. We knew losing weight would help with her other medical challenges, but I, too, was majorly overweight and needed to do something about it,” he said.

Jim, the community relations officer for Mosaic in Axtell, already had developed Type II diabetes. His family history included diabetes and heart disease and “about everything else you don’t want. Katie’s medical challenges were the kick in the butt we both needed to get serious about this now.”

He has lost 50 pounds and brought his A1C down to normal. “I hate needles. I dreaded the idea of taking insulin every day. With the weight loss, I’ve gotten it down to a normal range,” he said. “My plan is to keep it there and never have to use those darn needles.”

He feels better, too, “I don’t get as winded now when I walk around Mosaic. I have more energy on the weekends. We hope to have children in the future, and I look forward to having the energy to play with them, not just sit and watch them play,” he said.

Fields keeps track of her menus and activity with MyFitnessPal, a food tracking app. She enters her meals into the app and it tracks her calories, including fat grams, carbohydrates and more.

Rather than cutting out certain foods, she and her husband are simply eating less. If they go out to eat, she calls up the menu online before they go so they can plan for a healthy meal. “I treat myself from time to time. It’s all about moderation,” she said.

Fields, meanwhile, has increased her physical efforts. She has taken group classes at the Y in kick-boxing, body pumping and cycling. She has worked on machines. She’s running on the treadmill now. She walks or runs three to five miles a day, either inside at the Y or outside if weather permits. She plans to participate in the YMCA’s 5K (3.2-mile) Shamrock Shuffle on March 17.

“I like the feeling I get after I exercise, knowing I completed something. I feel more energy, and my body feels really good,” she said. “I’ve gained so much self-confidence. I’ve learned to love myself and accept myself and to celebrate every victory no matter how small.”

Jim beams with pride when he talks about his wife, “for the progress she’s made, and for the courage and confidence to tell her story. I’m a lucky, lucky guy to be married to her,” he said.

She’s pleased, too, especially when she looks at the pictures Jim has taken. “I never want to go back to where I was,” she said.