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Summer weight loss program succeeds at Mt. Pleasant-area facility

| Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Kelly Vernon | Trib Total Media
Gigi Lowe of Bear Rocks (left) and Sarah Grabiak of Mt. Pleasant hold items that signify the amount of weight they lost during the Regional Family YMCA of Laurel Highlands' summer weight loss program recently. Photo taken Aug. 31, 2015

Regional Family YMCA of Laurel Highlands' director of fitness Bea Jarbeck-Burk recently concluded an eight-week, weight loss challenge program with great success, she said, as 19 participants lost a collective 177.8 pounds.

Jarbeck-Burk said the program is geared for men and women of all ages at the East Huntingdon-based facility.

The first session's participants ranged in age from 20 to mid-60s, she added.

“We discussed fitness, nutrition, progress and challenges at the weekly meetings. Everyone achieved success,” Jarbeck-Burk said.

Each participant was privately weighed on the first day of the session, and they were then weighed in private at each subsequent meeting to chart their progress, she said.

Whatever was said at the meeting stayed in the meeting, and nobody knew other participants' weights throughout the program, said participant Wendy Sowinski, a Scottdale resident.

“Everyone motivated each other and laughed a lot,” Sowinski said.

Participants were given folders to keep track of their progress, along with distributed healthy recipes and exercise suggestion sheets, Jarbeck-Burk said, and they were also given a nutrition consultation session with licensed dietetic assistant Missy Troxell.

One program session focused on learning to workout without equipment and how to keep a fitness regime, Jarbeck-Burk said.

Jarbeck-Burk distributed prizes to individuals who reached the goal they set at the first meeting, as well as the people who lost the highest percentage of weight at the program's conclusion.

East Huntingdon resident Melissa Donovan said she lost weight without the pressure of trying to lose weight.

Vickie Hickle of New Stanton said it's “a lifestyle change.”

Hickle explained her 10-year-old daughter did not participate in the program and was not receptive to some of the healthy recipes she prepared at home. However, she began cutting out sugar and drinking more water on her own, Hickle said.

Hickle said her family became members of the YMCA as a result of her success in the program.

“It was good to hear everyone's challenges, and how they overcame the struggles of weight loss,” said Renee Brown, an Acme resident.

Brown said she now has a heightened awareness of nutrition labels on food she purchases.

Sarah Grabiak said she overcame her fear of the machines in the fitness center after completing the program.

Gigi Lowe of Bear Rocks said she almost reached her goal despite attending weddings, picnics and other diet-challenging situations during the program.

She said she teaches one kettle bell class at the YMCA and attends several classes per week.

Lowe said her favorite recipes introduced during the session include spinach quiche, baked chicken and pumpkin oatmeal.

She was able to modify the recipes to accommodate food allergies and tastes with success, she added.

Lowe said even her husband enjoyed the new recipes.

“I loved it, because it kept me on top of things, and made me even more aware of nutrition and drinking more water,” she said.

Mt. Pleasant resident Stacie Smith was impressed with the helpfulness and support of the YMCA staff throughout the process.

“We all lost weight. That's a victory,” Jarbeck-Burk said.

She added that many of the participants are continuing their weight loss journeys by taking part in the next session that will be held 5:30-6:30 p.m. Mondays beginning Monday.

For additional information on the next session or to register, contact the YMCA at 724-542-9622 or contact Jarbeck-Burk at

Kelly Vernon is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-547-5722 or