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ACT course helps people improve their overall health

Achieve Conquer Thrive offers nine group classes and individual meetings with a registered dietitian nutritionist.
Jade McDowell

East Oregonian

Published on January 16, 2018 12:01AM

Last changed on January 16, 2018 9:19PM

Jenny Sullivan does a pose during a session Tuesday night at Nourish Yoga in Hermiston.

Staff photo by Kathy Aney

Jenny Sullivan does a pose during a session Tuesday night at Nourish Yoga in Hermiston.

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Weight loss programs are a dime a dozen, but Good Shepherd Health Care System is trying to help people get healthy and stay healthy — for life.

Achieve Conquer Thrive, known as ACT, offers a series of nine group classes as well as individual meetings with a registered dietitian nutritionist. Participants can learn how to maintain a healthier physique, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, get clearer skin, reduce stress and other healthful practices.

“There’s so much misinformation, and so many wrong ideas floating out there on the internet,” said Nancy Gummer, Nutrition Services and Diabetes Education Manager. “...There’s so much clickbait out there regarding nutrition. ‘Don’t eat these five things and life will change for you.’”

Any “weight loss” program will help someone lose weight temporarily, she said, as they drastically change their diet. But many fad diets only temporarily take off pounds, or help the participant lose weight without addressing underlying health concerns such as high blood pressure.

Gummer, who helped develop the ACT program, said people tend to have wrong ideas that all fat is bad for them, for example, since “low fat has been preached for so long.”

“It’s not low fat, it’s the right fats,” she said.

Mary Ann Anson said she thought she knew about nutrition before taking the class, but she learned plenty.

“Some of the things I thought were healthy for me, are not,” she said.

For example, she switched from Activa-brand yogurt to Nancy’s Yogurt after learning that different brands of yogurt vary widely in nutrition, stopped eating some things labeled “all natural” that she had assumed would be good for her, and ditched “diet” soft drinks altogether. All those things helped her better manage her diabetes, she said, which is what prompted her to take the class in the first place.

Anson uses a walker, so she said exercise is more difficult for her than some, but based on advice she was given during ACT she now makes it a goal to walk at least two miles per week and she has taken up yoga. She said the class can be a huge benefit, as long as people go into it with an open mind and are willing to change.

Rachel Tate, one of the dietitians who helps teach ACT classes, said helping people learn about their metabolism is one of the things she teaches. She said they also cook, meal plan and “talk a lot about stress and inflammation and techniques to manage that.”

While sometimes people refer to themselves as a “nutritionist” after taking a few weeks’ worth of training on a specific diet program, Tate said the registered dietitian nutritionists who work the ACT program have at least a bachelor’s degree in addition to supervised training and continuing education. They are capable, then, of not just helping people to eat healthily but also to manage underlying conditions.

She said she has seen a lot of people lose 25 pounds or more but also have better health overall after completing ACT and then continuing to apply its advice to their lives.

“People come in and they feel like they have a poor quality of life,” she said. “They’re in a lot of pain and have a lot of chronic conditions and they feel overwhelmed with trying to manage them.”

With one-on-one meetings supplementing the group classes, ACT can be individualized for people who are already fairly healthy, too. Jenny Sullivan, an executive assistant at Good Shepherd, said she decided to participate in ACT after hearing co-workers talk about it in the cafeteria.

“I had considered seeing a nutritionist last summer because any time I ran more than about 6 miles, I seemed to feel awful afterwards,” she said. “I had a hunch I was eating and drinking the wrong things at the wrong times to fuel, recover and rehydrate.”

She also thought it would be a fun class to take with her mother. She said one of the most surprising things she learned in the class was that there were ways to exercise that encourage the body to burn fat instead of sugar.

“When it comes to exercise, I’ve always thought that harder, faster and longer was better, but I’ve learned that’s probably not the best approach,” she wrote in an email. “High intensity exercise is fun and you get a sense of accomplishment, but you might not see improvements if you don’t focus on gradually improving your aerobic function by monitoring your heart rate.”

Ida Martin said she did ACT twice, to reinforce what she had learned the first time around.

“There’s just so much information,” she said.

She said she realized she had truly changed her lifestyle when she found herself in the cereal aisle at the grocery store and realized she wasn’t going to buy a single thing on the aisle.

“I looked and said there is nothing I’m going to buy, because it’s all processed,” she said.

She said she appreciated the ACT facilitators preached self-forgiveness too.

“If you get off the program and you’re not going in the right direction, just get back on it. No self-recrimination, no saying ‘Oh, I failed,’” she said.

ACT courses for 2018 start Jan. 22, April 2, July 2 or September 10. The program is $116 (payment plans available) and Good Shepherd covers the other $980 it takes to pay for staff time and materials, including a binder of information to take home at the end of the nine week course. For more information or to register call 541-667-3517.


Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.


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