Atlanta woman loses 65 pounds during pandemic, thanks to online wellness program

Sha Gadson has had two vision boards in her closet for years.

They are full of goals she has set for herself.

Gadson wants to learn yoga, lose some weight and get healthier, but none of those goals had been achieved when the pandemic hit in early March.

Yet, instead of putting her plans on hold, the Atlanta grandmother found a new way to get healthy, virtually.

"I had to figure out a way to stay connected to people, and also find some joy in it," Gadson remembers.

Her church, Antioch Baptist Church North, sent out a newsletter announcing it had teamed up with Piedmont Healthcare to offer online wellness classes during the pandemic.

"The first thing I saw was yoga, and yoga was on my to-do list," Gadson says. "Then, they had meditation, and they had a decluttering class.  I needed that. 

She signed up for all of them, and along with low-salt cooking classes and a 21-day vegan challenge.

They’re all part of a wellness program run by Piedmont Healthcare's Southside Women's Heart Program, where coordinator Avril James says she's has seen people react very differently to the pandemic.

"I have friends that are now running every day, because they can; they're home," James says.  "Then, I have other people who've gained, like, the freshman 15.  It's like the COVID 20."

James says if want to get healthier in this time of social distancing, technology is your best bet.

Gadson taught herself how to use the online meeting platform Zoom, which, she says, was easy to use.

"You have to just be brave and try it,” Avril James says.

Gadson also joined a virtual walking group, circling her cul-de-sac each Thursday while she chats with the other group members on Zoom, on her phone.

She likes the company and the connection.

"I went from maybe exercising 5 minutes a day to exercising for over an hour a day," she says.

The program has helped her lose a total of 65 pounds, Gadson says.

James says getting in better shape can also lower your risk of suffering serious complications if you contract the virus.

"I can say, as a medical professional, that you are more likely to survive and thrive after COVID, if you are healthier going into it," she says.

James has torn a page from the heart disease prevention playbook: focus on the risk factors you can control.

"We can't change your race, and we can't change your gender, and we can't change your race, but we can change if you're smoking cigarettes," James says. "We can change if you're eating a full fast-food diet."

Sha Gadson has already tackled a few of the items on her vision boards.

"My goal is to just stay well, because I have a grandson," Gadson says. "I realized I wanted to be here, to be around, so he could see me smile, and I could see him smile."

For more information about Piedmont’s Women’s Heart Program classes go the link below:

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