Overcoming Weight Gain and Diabetes: Morgan and Rhonda's Story

Overcoming a health challenge: overweight and diabetic

"When I wake up in the morning, I think about everything that I'm going to eat that day," says Morgan Richards, eCommunications manager at Children's Hospital Colorado's Foundation.  "I even think three days in advance. That's the level I’m operating at now."

These days, Richards is energetic, positive, and wholly honest about who she is and the struggles she has overcome.

When Richards entered her thirties, she struggled to get pregnant and had trouble dealing with stress, and consequently gained weight. Once she put it on, it didn’t come off.

"There is no magic pill. I’ve tried," Richards says. "I've spent so much money the last 15, 20 years, trying to lose weight. And it just went down the drain."

Finding success with My New Weigh

Now Richards participates in My New Weigh, a two-year long nutrition class at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center (AHWC). Since joining in November 2012, she and long-time friend Rhonda Skallan, director of Property, Planning and Management, have lost a combined 110 pounds.

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Before the AHWC opened in April 2012, its founders conducted studies in order to develop effective programming. Richards and Skallan participated in those studies; Richards even lost 16 pounds, though she gained it back.

Prior to joining the AHWC as charter members, Richards and Skallan, both overweight, suffered from related health problems. Richards had high cholesterol and poor cardiac health.

"I needed to lose weight," Richards remembers. "And I didn’t want my daughter to have to grow up with a fat mom."

Skallen also had high cholesterol and had developed Type 2 diabetes before the age of 40. She took medication for the diabetes, which caused "many horrible side effects" she says, and refrained from taking cholesterol medication given her relatively young age.

Like Richards, Skallan put forth several efforts to minimal success, like weight loss programs and food education.

"I would gain it back and more, and revert back to poor habits," Skallan says. "My husband was getting more and more worried about me. I was too, but just kept plodding on with all the stress and heavy work load."

In her first six months of membership, Richards and Skallan worked out frequently – aiming for 10 times a month – and Richards saw how "fit and flexible" she was becoming. But the weight wasn’t coming off.

In fall 2012, Skallan noticed a brochure for My New Weigh and convinced Richards to join her.

"I learned about the program, did tons of research, had a long committed conversation with my husband, family and friends and decided it was time to change," Skallan remembers. "I talked to Morgan, convinced her to do it with me, and thank God I did."

Since they began the program, Richards has lost 60 pounds and Skallan has lost 50 pounds, or 25 percent of her body weight. More importantly, Richards' cholesterol is now at a healthy level, her cardiac health has improved and she sleeps better; Skallan no longer has diabetes or high cholesterol.

My New Weigh is a closed group that meets every two weeks for two years.  Participants weigh in once a week and eat meal replacements. The AHWC provides medical supervision and education on nutrition.

The program fee is not included in the membership, but Richards says it is worth it.

"I have wasted so much money trying other things, so it’s not that expensive when you really look at it. And for some of us, if you just quit eating out, that takes a lot of expense out of it."

Finding support and motivation in each other

Both Richards and Skallan credit not only the AHWC for their success, but each other. Over the last 15 months, they have supported each other through the challenge of losing weight, and have kept each other accountable.

"I’ll text her even when I’m not going to work out with her," Richards says. "Even though our families are super supportive, you need somebody who can kick you a little bit. We used to go out and eat together and now we work out together."

"It is hard," Skallan adds. "There are mind games, food games, peer pressure, stress and emotional triggers and it is very important to have a strong surrounding support group. However also having a friend to partner with who is going through all the same challenges significantly increased my success."

Committing to healthy living

Richards' home life has changed dramatically as well. Now that she is more fit, she hikes and bikes with her husband and daughter, and "can sit on the floor more comfortably with her."

She also encourages fellow employees to join My New Weigh, handing out brochures "at the risk of offending someone."

"You owe it to yourself if you want to live past 50 or 60," she says. "But you really do have to be ready to do it. You have to quit making excuses about it. We live in this digital information age; we think everything can happen like that. But you have to commit to losing weight and being healthy."

"I just think if we’re in health care, it’s not that we have to be the most athletic or have perfect bodies. It just seems hypocritical not to maximize the health of yourself when you’re saving the lives of children."

Currently, Children’s Colorado employees receive a discount membership at the AHWC of $65 and receive a $25 payback if they go to the gym at least 10 times a month.

"The incentive helped make it more affordable for me," Richards said. "I probably wouldn't have joined without it."

Learn more about the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center

Resources for nutrition classes