Telegram & Gazette: Health U helping people with intellectual disabilities keep weight off

Aug 27, 2015
Mound of fruit with stethoscope
Young woman

Cassidy Bauer, participant in Health U study

By Ellen Moran

Keeping weight off is difficult for 26-year-old Cassidy Bauer, who is only 4-and-a-half-feet tall. But Bauer and her mother say they’ve had help from UMass Medical School’s Health U weight loss program for people with intellectual disabilities, which has taught them about proper nutrition, exercise and lifestyle changes, according to an article in the Telegram & Gazette Aug. 26.

“The food environment is pretty complex, and making healthy choices is difficult when there’s so many new products,” Linda G. Bandini, PhD, RD, associate professor of pediatrics at UMass Medical School and co-investigator on Health U, a program within the medical school’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, told the Telegram & Gazette. “We talk about healthy eating and making healthy choices,” including portion control.

“We’re trying to encourage healthy eating and increased physical activity,” Bandini said, “making changes in diet and lifestyle that are sustainable.”

Eating plans are individually tailored for participants in Health U, Bandini told the Telegram & Gazette.

Bauer participated in the weight loss study about five years ago and lost 10 pounds. After regaining some of the weight, she and her mother, Denise Burroughs, reviewed the information they had learned through Health U and Bauer dropped six pounds, the Telegram & Gazette reported.

“We definitely went back to what we had learned in the program, just as a reminder,” Burroughs told the Telegram & Gazette. “It came along at a wonderful time for us. It was a wonderful opportunity for us. We all learned a lot.”

Bauer has two part-time jobs and volunteers at the Northborough Senior Center. She exercises by walking and is a competitive powerlifter. She told the Telegram & Gazette she encourages others to change their diet and get more exercise. And she cited a change she has made to her diet.

“There’s one thing I have given up. It’s cookies. I’m trying to cut back on sweets,” she said.

Health U, which began last summer, has 18 adolescents and young adults enrolled, Richard K. Fleming, PhD, adjunct associate professor in psychiatry at UMass Medical School and associate professor of exercise and health sciences at UMass Boston, told the Telegram & Gazette. Fleming is principal investigator of the study.

UMass Medical School is recruiting for the current Health U study. More information on the study, and how to participate, is available on the Shriver Center website. The program will be held in the fall in Shrewsbury and Danvers.

© 2015 University of Massachusetts Medical School