Phys.Ed.: A Life-Changer
Next spring University of West Georgia students will find a new physical education course in the mix.
Titled “Rebuild and Relive, Biggest Loser,” this course will be like no other. It’s designed for students who have struggled with morbid obesity and need to lose roughly 100 pounds or more. The course will explore not just the physical aspects of weight gain and loss, but the emotional components as well.
“I want the mentality to be life-changing,” said Bridgette Stewart, who is teaching the course. She is a lecturer and the activity coordinator in the College of Education’s Leadership and Applied Instruction Department.
If a student’s first question is “What do I have to do to get an A?” forget about it.
“That’s not what it’s all about. That should not be the focus,” said Stewart, who is on a weight-loss journey too.
“I want the student to come to class with the attitude of ‘I have to change my life. What do I need to do?’”
Stewart developed the course after her own life-changing moment two years ago: her doctor put her on blood pressure medication.
“I was appalled,” she said.
The 35-year-old teacher has always been active. She played softball, basketball, golf and tennis as a child. But she also struggled with weight. As an adult, her work schedule kept her busy. She teaches golf and tennis and was in charge of the move that took her department from Row Hall to The Coliseum.
Her weight gain was gradual.
“It was never something I noticed,” she said.
But “I got tired of feeling bad. I had headaches. I was drained, emotionally and physically.”
After the doctor put her on blood pressure medication, Stewart put herself on a program of portion control, good-sense cooking, more water and exercise.
She tries to do the equivalent of a 5K every day, which often includes walking, riding the stationary bicycle and using the elliptical machine.
Since January Stewart has lost about 40 pounds. She plans to lose another 65 pounds and signed up for next May’s Warrior Dash in Blue Ridge.
Her journey is “still a work in progress,” she said.
One night while watching one of her favorite shows, The Biggest Loser, Stewart wondered what morbidly obese students on campus were doing to get healthier.
Morbid obesity is used to describe someone who is twice the size of the recommended body weight, for example a person who should weigh 150 pounds weighs 300 pounds instead.
As she developed the course, Stewart talked to morbidly obese students about their health issues and concerns.
There were lots of stories. Some students were too embarrassed or afraid to work out at the Campus Center. Others – young adults in their early 20s – were already taking blood pressure medicine. And still others have parents who are also morbidly obese and diabetic. They fear they too will be diagnosed with diabetes.
The three-credit course will meet Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. To register, prospective students will have to meet with Stewart first. A lipid profile and a physical will be required. Registration will max out at 15 students because Stewart wants to create a supportive and fun environment.
Students should expect physical activity and homework. They will learn about nutrition and how to make good food choices. Crucial to the course will be regular meetings with Stewart and class discussions about the emotional issues surrounding weight gain.
Oftentimes “it’s not that they just like to eat,” Stewart said. “If you look at what has gone on in their lives, it’s usually something deeper. A lot of times there has been a tragedy, some sort of self-doubt…. I am not a psychologist. But I think it’s important that students have a class where they feel comfortable talking about their weight. Food is just their outlet. They have to be able to deal with that.”
There may not always be a tragedy or trauma behind the weight gain, she said.
“But you have to ask the question: Is there something there or not?”
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