Since August 2017, Ricky has lost more than 65 pounds. He can walk farther. He used to wear size 48 pants; now his size 42s are pretty loose. He once wore 3X shirts; now he’s comfortable in a large.
Ask Ricky whether he feels better now, and he doesn’t hesitate. “Yeah!” he sings out.
This weight loss is more than a win for Ricky. It’s a victory and a source of pride for the Easterseals Arc staff who have helped him choose better food daily. It’s also a relief for his sister and guardian, Joann Piatt, who is deeply involved in her brother’s life.
Among the staff members, Shari Whitehead plays a large role in helping Ricky stay focused in his eating. As Piatt pointed out, Whitehead is there to help Ricky choose good breakfasts and lunches five days a week.
Whitehead said that Ricky is more active after his weight loss. He walks more, and he plays ball.
In 2017, when he hit his peak weight, there were danger signs for Ricky, who is now 60 years old. It was clear that losing some weight was crucial for his health.
Piatt saw the difference losing weight made for Ricky most dramatically on a couple of summer outings that are traditions for them.
In 2017, when Piatt took Ricky to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, her brother’s stamina was so diminished that he had to be pushed almost everywhere in a wheelchair. He could still walk, but he couldn’t go far. In summer of 2018, she said, “He walked the same distance we had to push him in a wheelchair last summer.”
Similarly, he was in much better form when he went to Indiana Beach with his sister. “This year, he could do it all with no problem,” Piatt said.
He goes to the pool at the Parkview YMCA with his sister twice a week. He no longer swims – he doesn’t want to put his face in the water – but he walks in the pool for 20 to 30 minutes, she said.
How did he accomplish all this? Piatt said that doctor’s orders, backed up with an 1,800-calorie daily diet developed by a dietician, make all the difference. With that directive in place, staff adapted the routine at the house to make healthy eating easier for Ricky.
They got a scale to measure Ricky’s portions, because portion control is the heart of helping him change his eating. They made sure there were more implements added to the kitchen to measure portions. They also designated a kitchen cabinet over the stove as one devoted entirely to food for Ricky.
“I really appreciate everything they’ve done,” Piatt said.
Whitehead said Ricky’s nighttime snacking and frequent fast-food stops are gone. When he does go to McDonald’s, Whitehead said, there’s a different go-to treat these days. “He has a regular hamburger – but no cheese – and unsweetened tea,” she said. At home, fruit is the designated sweet treat.
His favorite? “Banana!” Ricky said.
Another staff member, Tia Grigsby, said that Ricky’s eating choices are restricted, but there are always choices. He can’t have meatloaf anymore, but he can have fish or chicken.
“We stick to it. We are on it!” Grigsby said of his diet.
Piatt would like to see Ricky lose more weight rather than settle for his accomplishments thus far. With that in mind, she makes sure that he weighs in every couple of weeks at the Y and encourages him to hit one incremental goal after another.
But no matter how many advocates and staff are backing him up, there’s no denying that the guy who changes his eating is the one who’s done the hardest work. Easterseals Arc staff members can go only so far in their efforts to change the way an individual eats.
As Rachel Pemberton, director of supported living, put it, “The doctors can give an order, but the same as if they give one to you or me, we have the ultimate choice whether or not to follow that recommendation. Staff has been taking initiative on the meal prep, the counter offering of healthy snacks and getting him motivated to exercise,” she said.
Brad Garrett, another staff member, said of Ricky’s weight loss, “He gets credit for that. He cooperates real well.”