8-week-program to help Combes residents lose weight

COMBES — For Ashley Rodriguez, losing weight is a matter of life or death.

So, she joined the Combes Summer Slim Down Challenge.

The eight-week program will help her lose 76 pounds by the end of the year, said Rodriguez, a Harlingen health care worker who weighed-in at 276 pounds this week.

Like many of her teammates, Rodriguez has struggled with health problems in this area plagued with high rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

“Do I want to die or live?” Rodriguez, 47, asked.

Now, she’s learning about healthy eating and exercise as part of Combes Elite Fitness, a community health program funded through an annual $90,000 grant from the University of Texas Health Science Center.

“It’s a whole lifestyle change,” said Ashley Weaver, a personal trainer who leads the slim-down challenge.

Last year, eight women took part in the program.

Now, word of mouth is leading more women to take the challenge.

So Weaver expects about 45 women to participate this year.

“It’s healthy weight loss — making realistic goals to lose weight and keep it off,” Weaver said.

During the next two months, Sara Garcia wants to lose 20 to 25 pounds to drop to 165 pounds.

“It’s not really a number, it’s a health goal,” said Garcia, 30, a housewife. “This gives me motivation because I wasn’t happy with what I’d become.”

As part of the program, Weaver teaches what she calls “portion control.”

“It’s real important to incorporate portion control, not just healthy eating,” Weaver said.

Then she opens up her hands.

“I teach them the correct portion for their body size,” she said.

For each of her clients, she said, the right portion of protein fits in their palm.

For the right amount of carbohydrates, the right portion fits into a cupped hand, Weaver said.

And for a healthy portion of fruits and vegetables, she holds out two cupped hands.

As part of the class, Weaver also teaches her clients how to read nutrition labels.

So she offers a catchphrase to help dieters scan labels for healthy foods — “first five under five.”

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