One Pound at a Time
Hawaii RN uses goals, tools to lose weight, transform her life
Ravida Benjamin is an RN in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit at the Moanalua Medical Center in Honolulu. A member of the Hawaii Nurses Association, OPEIU Local 50, she has been a nurse at Kaiser Permanente since 1997. She is married with two teenagers. She talked with LMP Communications Consultant Anjetta McQueen about her success in losing more than 50 pounds.
Q. How did you get started on this journey?
A. I’ve been chubby, overweight or obese my whole life—well, not quite my whole life. I was born three months premature and weighed 3 pounds, but ever since then….
In July 2012, I weighed in with my primary care physician at 199 pounds. I’m 5 feet 3 inches, by the way. Now, I weigh 140 pounds, and I just bought size 8 petite jeans. And I’m still losing.
I’ve been an insulin-dependent diabetic most of my life, and at my highest was on 186 units total of Novolin N and R. Today, I’m off the insulin. My last A1C was 5.5. I watched the “Weight of the Nation” [the HBO mini-series that Kaiser Permanente co-sponsored] and found it very frightening. Working in the PACU, I see the dialysis patients, and the amputees, and all the complications of diabetes. I don’t want that to be me—and I want to be around for my children and grow old with my husband. Today, I feel a lot better. I’m getting healthy.
Q. What Kaiser Permanente tools and programs did you use to lose weight?
A. I’ve been doing Thrive Across America and KP Walk since they started. I did the Mix It Up challenge and lost some weight by adding in fruits and vegetables to my steady diet. I also took the total health assessment.
Q. What were some of your biggest setbacks?
A. I’d lost some weight in 2010 and went down to 160. But I gained it back, and then some, to reach the 199 pounds I mentioned earlier. I’ve gained and lost my entire body weight at least six times in my 50 years of life.
Q. What are the barriers to success? How do you overcome them?
A. The biggest barrier is trying to find a routine and just making it a part of your life—as well as changing your whole mindset. I helped to overcome this by setting 10-pound goals and not looking at the total amount I had to lose. It helped me focus and as I made new goals, I was motivated to keep going.
Q. What is your work schedule, and how do you fit in exercise?
A. I work four 10-hour shifts plus on call. I work 0700 to 1730 and get up at 0430 when I’m scheduled for a shift. I walk for 60 to 75 minutes and then get ready for work.
Q. Some people get discouraged or intimidated, trying to get in shape. Is being fit a realistic goal for anyone, especially a busy nurse working full time and caring for a family?
A. It’s a realistic goal for anybody. I’m a busy wife, mother, nurse, et cetera, and manage to do it.
Q. Did you involve your family in your journey?
A. In October 2012, my daughter saw my primary care physician and she recommended an app on your phone called My Fitness Pal.
We started using the app as a family. My son lost 10 pounds. My daughter,15 pounds. And my husband lost 27 pounds. I had lost 11 pounds before I started and was 188 in October. I lost 44 more pounds for a total of 55 pounds. I weigh 144 pounds now and am still going.
Q. Do you count calories?
A. Apps like this work by counting calories. If you exercise, the app calculates how much more you can eat. There’s a huge database and you can scan the bar codes to make it easy. I’m not one to count calories and have always scoffed at people who did so. If this wasn’t easy, I wouldn’t do it.
I’m not starving. I wanted to do something that I could stick with for the rest of my life. I’m currently on 1,200 calories a day. Once I get to a maintenance level, I can increase my calories. If I exercise, which I do for over an hour each day, then I can eat more.
Q. What made you decide to go on this journey?
A. I just decided that I did not want to be that person anymore. I’ve learned finally how to eat, and understand the correlation between your health and what you put in your mouth. I’ve learned what the phrase “eat to live, not live to eat” means. I’m still in the overweight category for my BMI, but I’m going to continue until I get to a healthy weight.
Q. You’ve received a lot of praise for what you’ve done. How does it feel to be a role model?
A. Children always have a way of putting things into perspective. My 19-year-old said to me one day, “Mom, you may be a lot smaller, but your head is getting bigger” [laughs]….It feels good to feel better, though, and this is my story.
- Total Health Assessment
- Healthy Lifestyles Programs
- Everybody Walk!
- Weight of the Nation