In Pursuit of Good Health

Meal prep, daily walks and a little support from MCMC helped new mother, Yulissa Sanchez, lose 34 pounds

It's not easy to lose post-pregnancy weight. But MCMC Environmental Services Representative Yulissa Sanchez is happy to be an example to Gorge residents who are trying to burn body fat and develop healthier habits.

The Dalles resident gained 65 pounds during her pregnancy with her first child, peaking at 270 pounds. Childbirth and breastfeeding trimmed 30 pounds, but Sanchez wanted to lose the rest of the baby weight and model healthy habits for her daughter.

Today Sanchez is down to 203 pounds and still losing weight thanks to healthy eating, daily walks and a little support from MCMC.

Fitter, Healthier, Happier

"After having the baby, I didn't feel energized," Sanchez said. "I felt bleh. After I started walking every night, I just started to feel better. Now I can fit into smaller sizes, so it's exciting."

Monday through Friday she grabs a stroller and walks with her baby to and from Sorosis Park.

To keep her healthy eating habits on track, she does meal prep twice a week. A busy working mother, Sanchez preps breakfast, lunch and dinner, choosing simple meals with minimal cooking:

  • Breakfast: Whatever fruit she's craving that week.
  • Lunch: Lean meats like chicken, salmon, shrimp or tuna, plus brown rice and a vegetable.
  • Dinner: Salads with chicken and vegetables—anything easy to prepare—or a smoothie bowl with fruit and granola.

"Especially with my baby, it has to be quick and fast,” she said. "The less time that I have to spend cooking the better. I always tell my friends that they should meal prep. It takes two or three hours, but during the week it saves you so much time.”

But on cheat days, Sanchez can eat anything she wants. She allows herself a cheat day every Sunday. "It just depends on what I'm craving,” she said. "Lately it's been chocolate everything!"

The Wellness Challenge

"Mid-Columbia Medical Center's new quarterly wellness challenge for MCMC employees was a big help," Sanchez said. She integrated healthy habits into her schedule before the challenge started, but it helped her maintain healthy habits.

"I participated in the wellness challenge," she said. "You tracked how many servings of fruits and vegetables you were eating a day, and it suggested exercises to do throughout the week. Tracking made it easier for me."

Last quarter's food challenge was the second wellness challenge, said Tracy Dugick, MCMC registered dietitian and diabetes educator. It was organized by MCMC's wellness committee, which formed after the hospital became a Blue Zones worksite.

"We started off not sure how this was going to go," Dugick said. "In the first quarter we had 26 people participate in the activity challenge. Last quarter for the food challenge that number doubled. We're onto our third quarter, stress management, and people are pretty excited about it."

Thanks to wellness credits from their insurance company, MCMC incentivizes participation by offering prizes. To encourage healthy habits, MCMC employees also started a yoga class for employees on Wednesdays at noon and host wellness events in the atrium, like free cooking demonstrations and massages.

Make Time for Health

The quarterly challenges are part of the Blue Zones Project, a wellness initiative that takes a community approach. It is designed to improve wellness by encouraging change at local schools, grocery stores, employers like MCMC and other organizations.

Blue Zones are communities around the world where people commonly live active lives for much longer than average. The goal of the Blue Zones Project is to make places like The Dalles more like Blue Zones. In those places the healthy choice is the easy choice.

"Often in the U.S. that's not the case,” said Brett Ratchford, organization lead for the Blue Zones Project. "There's no healthy food options, it's not easy to walk anywhere, maybe you don't have any friends nearby, so you feel lonely.”

People often say they don't have time for physical activity.

"I was a mom of two boys,” Dugick said. "I know how hard it is. I know what it's like to feel like you're going 24/7, practice, and sports and games and events. It can be done.”

Sanchez agrees, "It can be done. It's not impossible. If I can do it, anybody can do it."