Leading the weigh


Debbie Powers, left, lost 100 pounds to make her high school’s pom-pom squad  after her aunt, Frances Milan, right, took her to Weight Watchers in the 1970s. Now Powers is the longest-serving Weight Watchers leader in Fort Wayne and a healthy-eating advocate for several projects around town. Her Aunt Frances is still one of the regulars at her Sunday afternoon meeting.   

I interviewed a 34-year Weight Watchers leader for my final column to appear in the print edition of The News-Sentinel, which will roll the presses for the last time Oct. 7 before going all-digital*.

One of the things I admire about Debbie Powers is that she stresses eating healthy over a grab bag of diet tricks. One of the reasons I moved away from Weight Watchers in recent years – aside from the fact that I was sometimes going to ridiculous, wrestler-style sweat tactics to “make weight” once a month – was that I wanted to eat less sugar. Though I lost 90 pounds on the program back in 2010, I found myself inevitably saving points for this or that treat. And because some treats took up most of my daily points allotment, I wasn’t necessarily eating a very balanced diet.

But after sitting in on one of Debbie’s classes recently, I’ve found myself counting points again. Though all my dietary experiments of the last few years have helped me shift toward eating more whole foods, the reality is that I’ve often been eating too much. I’ve been trying to make peace with carrying around 10-15 extra pounds, and in my case it’s been fairly easy to rationalize because I was never normal weight to begin with. Even as a high school athlete, I was always on the chunky end of the spectrum. Maybe it’s time now, finally, to combine eating healthy with eating less.

Debbie lost 100 pounds to make her high school pom-pom squad back in the 1970s, went back to Weight Watchers as needed over the next few years, then became a leader in 1984. But she’s not just a Weight Watchers leader; she’s a healthy-eating advocate who volunteers all over the Fort Wayne community. I first met her while doing a story on the “Our HEALing Kitchen” program at New Zion Tabernacle back in January. It was awesome to witness a church supper in a mostly African-American community where people were drinking bottled water and eating fajitas made with fresh veggies.

Debbie’s message, no matter what group she’s working with, is the empowerment that accompanies good nutrition.

“If you eat healthy,” she likes to say, “you aren’t going to have all the medical bills.”

Amen to that.

*Technically there will still be a micro print edition that will be inserted in the morning Journal-Gazette, but the physical newspaper as we know it will cease to exist. (And no one expects that weird hybrid of an experiment to last very long, anyway.)

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