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Posted: July 8, 2014 7:29 p.m.

Looking for answers in all the right places

submitted photo /The Covington News/

Canyon Ranch Institute Enhancement Core Team member Palmer Severson (right) presents Reginald Franklin with his program graduation certificate at the end of the 12-week program.

Here is the question I faced about six months ago: How does a person truly change their lifestyle?

Coming out of a divorce, struggling with being a caregiver to my aging parents and being a part-time father to my children, I was, in a word, “depressed.”

Looking for change in your life is something of a constant struggle, while making change, on the other hand, is something most people find almost impossible.

Oh, and I should mention, I was over 50, over-weight, and at risk for all manner of ailments including hypertension and diabetes.

I had tried diets of almost all varieties with little success and tried to exercise on a regular schedule with mixed results. I could never make those two things happen on a regular basis, at least as far as making a real change in my lifestyle.
Realizing I would not get the results I wanted in the time I wanted them, I would quit. Waiting to give me comfort from the failure was my constant companion: food. Fast food, chocolate cake, fried chicken and all the rest.

How was I going to break this cycle and make some real change?

In November of 2013, I heard that a new program was coming to Savannah called the Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program (CRI LEP). Now that’s a long title for a very simple concept: a holistic approach to wellness. It’s teaching people how to adopt a healthy lifestyle and to avoid a variety of illnesses.

What is a ‘holistic’ approach? Simply, it is combining nutritious eating, with an active lifestyle, and attending to both psychological and spiritual well-being.

In other words it’s treating, teaching and training the person as a “whole.” It’s understanding that all the parts of a person’s life affect every other part.

After hearing about the new approach this program was taking, I was eager to sign up. I talked with Linda Davis, RN, at Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care and expressed my interest in the program. I learned that as a patient of the health center, I was eligible for the program.

The CRI LEP began with 20 participants signed up. We met every Wednesday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Each of us was given an evaluation at the beginning of the program so that our progress could be tracked — and not just weight loss.
Each of us had our total fitness evaluated — physical, emotional and spiritual health. That’s the holistic approach I mentioned earlier. Total mind, total body and total spirit have to be considered if the total person is going to have their life “enhanced.”

Now, 12 weeks later, I can say I have learned so much. Since starting the program, I have taken up yoga. CRI LEP Core Team member and yoga instructor Rita Teel started me out slow. I did not go into this activity thinking I would like it, but I was willing to try anything once. Her patience, skill and compassion won me over. My kids noticed how much I was taking to it and bought me a yoga mat for Father’s Day.

I have started jogging again, and I am watching my caloric intake. Being in the CRI LEP gave me a membership with Fitness on Broughton, and my access to physical trainer Palmer Stevenson, who is a member of the CRI LEP Core Team, was a tremendous blessing. He pushed me to and beyond what I thought were my limits, and that has made my work-outs even more effective.

I have started to examine more closely the things that I am putting in this engine — my body. Is this food going to clog the machineor help it run more smoothly? Thinking about what I am eating is beginning to pay off. The more I think about what I’m eating, the more careful I am about what food I choose to eat. I found that no words are truer than these: “It’s ALL in your head.”

Our group toured a grocery store with certified nutritionists to help us become better educated about the nature of food and our body’s reaction to different foods. I’m learning to deal with the different kinds of stress in my life and ways to be more productive both mentally and spiritually, despite my stress levels.

We started a walking group on Saturday mornings, walking downtown for an hour together, promoting the psychological advantage of being in a “shared struggle.”

This was the most powerful part of the program for me — knowing I wasn’t alone. The individuals in this program became my family — my Canyon Ranch Institute Family, and that has made all the difference.

I’m learning so much more than I thought I would about so many things — the ways I can enhance my life, starting with small choices that lead to big changes, and becoming a healthier person in the long run. At graduation, I learned that I lost a total of 20 pounds over the 12 weeks of the program.

Now that may sound like good news, but you have to understand why it doesn’t excite me. You see, this is just the beginning. I am looking forward to greater success.

“No U Turns” is my new motto. My lifestyle has changed. I know when I look back on this program and all I have experienced, I know there will be one thing I’ll say without fear of contradiction: Thank God for the Canyon Ranch Institute’s truth in advertising: “The Life Enhancement Program.”

Reginald Franklin is Associate Professor of Mass Communications at Savannah State University. For more info call 912- 443-3264 or email cri@canyonranchinstitute.org.

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