Teacher finds guidance on weight-loss journey
“I feel fortunate that we have all these resources to weave together to make this strong system of support.”
It had been a while since Andrea Hittle’s scale had stopped under the 200-pound mark.
“A long while,” says Andrea, her voice dropping.
That changed over the past year. The 50-something Rose Park Middle School exceptional education teacher has lost around 60 pounds and is embracing a happier, healthier version of herself.
“I have my joy back,” says Andrea. “I’m feeling better. You don’t realize how crabby carrying extra weight can make you.”
A generous arsenal of MNPS health benefits helped in the process, but one stands out: Foodsmart, a nutrition counseling program offered free to those enrolled in the teachers’ health plan. The service includes an app that helps participants easily search through a vast bank of recipes, make grocery lists, stock their pantries and create meal plans. It can even link those lists to a participant’s grocery for easy pickup.
Foodsmart also lets participants choose a dietitian for one-on-one guidance. Andrea meets with registered dietitian, Kalyn, on Zoom every week or so. Kalyn accommodates her need for an evening appointment, and they go over eating habits, food preferences, missteps and goals.
When Andrea purchased products marketed as “healthy,” Kalyn made sure they lived up to the hype. Using a picture of the package, together they would review the nutritional information.
“I had someone teaching me in a way that was meaningful,” Andrea says. “And she took me through tiny steps and let me go at my own pace.”
Between visits, Kalyn sends helpful links and notes of encouragement. When Andrea worries about her progress, her dietitian recounts important milestones.
Now Andrea trusts in the process and has more patience for what she calls her weight-loss journey.
“I’d been a yo-yo dieter my whole life,” she says. “I’m used to dropping 20, even 30 or 40 pounds really quickly. Then what happens?”
It took a series of setbacks for Andrea to seek real lifestyle change. Her mother died in hospice care. Andrea hurt her knee in an automobile accident. She fell and injured her arm. She went through a tornado in October.
She has taken advantage of MNPS offerings like the Vanderbilt Health Care Centers, physical therapy, the MNPS fitness center and even remote counseling services for her mental health. She also received a later-in-life ADHD diagnosis and was treated.
“Foodsmart is a piece of the puzzle. Foodsmart is a person I can see every week,” Andrea says.
The program has provided her with an important sense of connection and has helped her forge commitment. Now, instead of eating out two or three meals a day, she usually prepares her own. That can be difficult in a meat-and-potatoes household, but Andrea says she prefers the healthier fare.
The big Saturday breakfasts she used to enjoy look different, with lots of vegetables and healthy fats, but they are satisfying.
Andrea still eats her favorite Nashville hot chicken, but only once a month or so. Her mission continues.
“I was determined I wasn’t going to stop this time,” Andrea says doggedly. “I feel fortunate that we have all these resources to weave together to make this strong system of support.”
Exceptional Education teacher
Rose Park Middle School
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