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Teen makes lifestyle change, improves health

​​​​​​​​​​​​If you want to do it, only you can do it.

Donald Loew, Chippewa Falls Donald Loew, Chippewa Falls

These are words to live by when you decide to make a big lifestyle change. They also are the words of Donald Loew, age 17, Chippewa Falls. For Loew, dramatic changes in his eating and exercise habits have translated to a loss of more than 145 pounds. His decision to change his lifestyle is transforming his life.

One year ago, Loew weighed more than 400 pounds. He can easily recall the foods that were troublesome: bread, soda, chips and ice cream. "At one point I would sneak food at night," said Loew. "I loved bread and could easily eat half a loaf."

His parents, Don and Denise, had long been concerned. Well-child visits to Loew's primary care provider on one occasion produced worrisome lab results. The family also visited doctors specializing in heart care and sleep problems.

"Fortunately, no chronic health conditions developed because of Donald's weight," his father said. "You know the weight is not healthy and you're trying to figure out how to help. For a while, it seemed that it didn't matter what we did."

Two things prompted the change for Loew. His family and health care providers gently talked about the long-term health benefits he could attain by changing his eating and exercise habits. Loew also experienced a car accident without serious injury last fall. It served as a wake-up call.

"That is when I realized I should be lifting or doing something," said Loew. With the help of a fitness trainer at a local gym, Loew had a fitness routine and diet in place by Thanksgiving. His goal was to get to 260 pounds before the start of the 2012 football season.

"Research shows that repeated contact or counseling regarding smoking cessation is effective over time," said Nurse Practitioner Taura Maraia, Marshfield Clinic Chippewa Falls Center, who is Loew's primary care provider. "This finding also can be applied to weight loss counseling. We need the patient's buy-in for a change in lifestyle to happen. As Donald's health care provider, I make sure he knows that I am here to work with him to set weight loss and exercise goals that are attainable and find everyday ways to reach those goals."

Loew continues to follow a healthy diet regimen that includes proteins to rebuild muscles and reduces salt and sugar intake. "One of my new favorites is a bean dish called cowboy caviar," he said. "I'm also eating more apples, oranges and bananas – the fruits that are in season -- and more fresh vegetables." As a family, the Loews are eating out less.

Patience and support have paid off for those who care for Loew. "I started seeing Donald for well-child visits when he was 13," said Maraia. "He was always very open and honest with me about his eating habits. These were not easy conversations. Today Donald seems to have overcome negative feelings about himself that may have kept him from making this change earlier. His family, too, has rallied around him with lots of love and support."

Loew has not looked back. Each time he meets a weight loss goal, a new one is established. He is experiencing new events in his life because of his weight loss accomplishment. "I went to my junior prom," he said. And now I'm making plans to go to college."