Healthy Lifestyle Program Offers Personalized Counseling for Better Health
Program is free to Central Louisiana residents
The Rapides Foundation's Healthy Lifestyle Program is celebrating its 10-year anniversary working one on one with Central Louisiana residents. More than 3,500 people have taken part in this free nutrition and physical activity counseling service administered by CMAP.
The goal is to give residents the knowledge and resources they need to lead healthy lifestyles after they graduate from the six-month program. A registered dietitian and an exercise specialist work with each client to offer customized demonstrations and education on proper nutrition and physical activity for good health.
The Healthy Lifestyle Program accepts Central Louisiana residents ages 5 and older who have been referred by their doctors. The program is offered free of charge as part of The Rapides Foundation’s Healthy Behaviors Initiative.
“In working toward our mission to improve the health status of Central Louisiana, the Foundation recognizes that behaviors are a large driver on premature death and illness,” said Joe Rosier, President and CEO of The Rapides Foundation. “Our goal in creating the Healthy Lifestyle Program was to provide residents with the nutrition and exercise tools and knowledge they need to avoid disease and sickness.”
Clients are referred to the program for a variety of reasons. Some need to lose weight for their health. Others have medical problems like high blood pressure, gastrointestinal disorders, food allergies, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease or diabetes that can be improved with healthy lifestyle changes.
The Healthy Lifestyle Program provides residents with resources and behavior changes they can take with them and share with their families. The Foundation recognizes that behavior change is generational, so one of the goals is for children and grandchildren of clients to learn and adopt these healthy behaviors.
Central Louisiana physicians appreciate the program because it gives them somewhere to send their patients for follow-up and consistent nutrition and exercise education. Doctors point out that diseases become easier to control when patients modify their diets and increase their physical activity, two key components of the Healthy Lifestyle Program.
How to become part of the program
The first step to join the program is to get a referral from your doctor, who will assess your need to make a lifestyle change and your readiness to change. Your doctor will send the referral to Healthy Lifestyle Program staff.
The Healthy Lifestyle Program has a network of Central Louisiana physicians who participate in the program, so it’s likely your doctor has already heard of the program. If not, ask him or her to contact the Healthy Lifestyle Program for a referral form. Healthy Lifestyle Program staff can also assist in contacting your healthcare provider for the referral.
If you don’t already have a doctor or health insurance, the program recommends you visit an HP Long clinic for help establishing a doctor and getting a referral to the program.
How the program works
Once enrolled, clients will be scheduled for a 60-minute consultation with a Healthy Lifestyle Program Registered Dietitian. The dietitian will assess the needs of the client, and work with the client to make realistic and healthy goals, such as learning what the food groups are, weight loss strategies, healthy meal planning and preparation, and how to be more physically active. Clients also learn how to manage their specific medical problems.
The dietitian tracks a client’s progress throughout the program, assessing their eating habits, behavior changes, weight and inches lost, as well as growing in their knowledge on proper nutrition and physical activity.
Once the client’s goals are established, the Healthy Lifestyle Program’s exercise specialist will monitor and track the client’s progress. The exercise specialist serves as a health coach who meets with clients routinely to ensure the client’s plan is being followed, to keep clients motivated and to provide them with tips and accountability. The exercise specialist also provides clients with individualized, easy-to-follow exercise routines.
In most cases, meetings are held at the CMAP office located in the parish where the client lives.
Throughout the program, clients learn how to make healthy shopping lists, how to read labels, how to combine foods for nutrition benefits and creative ways to increase their daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Clients also learn safe exercises to increase physical activity. All exercises and nutrition plans are customized for the individual client so no two plans are the same.
Clients who have completed the program reported they lost weight, ate healthier, and experienced improvements in their overall wellness. Clients also reported more energy, lower blood sugar levels, better sleep and lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
To keep clients engaged, the Healthy Lifestyle Program offers incentives such as measuring tools, meal plans, recipes, private Facebook group support, exercise equipment, T-shirts and portion plates.
The Healthy Lifestyle Program is piloting group exercise classes for its clients. In addition, it offers community walking clinics for the general public to learn walking tips and to get information about the Healthy Lifestyle Program.
After the six-month program ends, clients are given the option of entering a six-month maintenance program where they meet with their dietitian and exercise specialist once a month. They receive encouragement, support and resources that will help them continue their healthy lifestyles long after they complete the program.
Christine Eding joined the Healthy Lifestyle Program in October 2020 and continued with the six-month maintenance phase. A year later, in December 2021, she saw the results of her hard work. After a checkup with her doctor, she learned her A1C levels, which measure blood sugar and can indicate diabetes, were down.
“My A1C went down to a 6.7! I have been working on my weight and learning to eat more correctly. Thanks to Healthy Lifestyle, I have started accomplishing my goals.”