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Published: Monday, 9/14/2009

On the road to better health

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

On the second Monday of each month The Blade will feature one of the participants in Lucas County's Million Pound Challenge.

A working life of always being on the road was taking its toll on Lou Bonanni's cholesterol and waistline.

Captive in his car for nine hours each day while traveling between doctors' offices, the 43-year-old pharmaceutical sales representative recalled his past unhealthy relationship with the drive-through window.

"It was so easy to just go through Burger King or McDonald's and get a hamburger, but that's probably the worst thing you can do," said Mr. Bonanni, a married father of three in La Salle, Mich., and a 5-foot, 11-inch former offensive tackle for Toledo's Central Catholic High School.

While he has always been a bigger yet physically active guy, Mr. Bonanni was dismayed to see himself tip the scales beyond 300 pounds. His doctor had also become concerned about his cholesterol levels.

The problem was straightforward: too much sedentary driving time with burgers and fries.

After a few unsuccessful attempts at taking off weight, including a go at the Atkins Diet and some quick-fix pharmaceutical drugs, Mr. Bonanni enrolled last January in the structured Health Management Resources program offered at Mercy Weight Management Center on Talmadge Road in West Toledo.

He also signed up for the Lucas County Million Pound Challenge, part of a county-wide initiative to educate residents about healthy eating and weight- loss strategies.

So far Mr. Bonanni, who has been named the Million Pound Challenge participant of the month for September, said he couldn't be happier with his results: 77 lost pounds since mid-January. He now weighs 229 pounds, wears a 38-inch waist size instead of 46, and is completely off cholesterol lowering drugs.

Mr. Bonanni said he feels better than he has in years and is no longer so fatigued at the end of each day. As he put it: "A bag of dog food weighs 40 pounds, and it was like I was carrying two bags around."

Lifestyle adjustment is central to Mercy's HMR program. The program has different phases that can include meal replacement shakes, low-calorie entrees, plentiful servings of fruits and vegetables, regular exercise, and weekly group sessions along with one-on-one coaching.

On Mercy's program Mr. Bonanni said he never felt hungry as he lost weight nearly every week because he is allowed as many fruits and vegetables as he wants. If he feels like snacking on the road, he'll run into a supermarket for some bananas or sliced pineapple.

"So you meet two goals: one, you are actually getting out of the car and walking into the store, and two, you are eating something that's better for you," Mr. Bonanni said with a smile. "The key is that the fruits and vegetables keep you full so you're not thinking about McDonald's and Burger King."

For exercise while at home, Mr. Bonanni takes bike rides at least three times a week and also goes on long walks.

Amy Watkins, director of Mercy's HMR program, said that Mr. Bonanni's progress is spectacular yet also in line with the two to four pounds per week that men typically lose when they follow the program.

"It's not about eating less, it's about eating the right foods," Mrs. Watkins said. "Because the meal replacements are small in calories but big in volume, people can lose a lot of weight but still feel full."

As the Million Pound Challenge participant of the month, Mr. Bonanni will receive a $50 gift certificate to Focaccia's Delicatessen in downtown Toledo, a year-long Max Membership to the YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo, and a free month of classes at the Mercy Weight Management Center.

The Blade is cosponsoring the challenge, which was the brainchild of Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop. Enrollees may track their weight in a private journal on The Blade's Web site at toledoblade.com/challenge.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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