Go Red Employee Teaches Herself to Go Red

Fruits and vegetablesWhen she began working with the Go Red for Women initiative as a part of her job at UW Health, Vicki Carter knew that she was working to inform women about the dangers of heart disease. But as her own life became more stressful Carter began to pay less attention to her own health and soon found it hard to practice what she was preaching.

"When I was 35, I was in what I considered to be the best shape of my life," said Carter. "I had been working out a lot, but then hurt myself on a treadmill and I've had some hip pain on and off since then. That has sort of hindered my ability and my motivation to work out."

In 2008, Carter faced more challenges which put her work out and diet plans on hold.


"It was a really rough year, and I gained a lot of weight. My father was terminally ill and had several other people in my life pass away. It was a really stressful year with a lot of changes going on."

Carter found that the pain, both physical and emotional, became a barrier for her. The stress, specifically, became an issue as far a weight gain was concerned.

"I think stress is a huge barrier for women when they are trying to lose weight. Stress must do something to your body that doesn't allow you to lose weight. It was so bad for me, I thought I was having a thyroid problem," said Carter. "I guess what it all boiled down to was getting to a better place mentally in my life."

In July of 2009, Carter felt as though she could handle a change and decided to formulate an exercise and diet plan.

"I knew that I had to diet and exercise. I had lost weight before, I knew how to do it. It just takes tracking my calories and eating healthy foods," said Carter. "I started reading and trying to figure out a plan. I figured out how many calories I could take in and still lose weight."

Carter was consistent with her meals, being sure to eat breakfast every day. She tracked her calorie intake and her meals throughout the day, being sure to watch portion sizes. At home, she cooked lean meats with vegetables and for a breakfast on-the-go she chooses a protein shake. Of course, all of these dietary changes come with an effect on the rest of the family.

"My husband is very supportive," said Carter. "But he still eats what he wants. I just decided that I would cook what I need to eat and he can choose to eat it. Then, if he would like a second helping or prefer to make something else, then that is his choice. He does seem to appreciate my healthy cooking."

Carter also cut soft drinks out of her diet and really tried to cut down on sugar due to the result of her glucose test.

"None of my numbers were over the top," said Carter. "I really wasn't at risk at the time, but they were getting up there. I was concerned about my glucose because it was a little bit over 100. That was one thing I started working on was the amount of sugar I was eating."


Carter also began an exercise plan, working out three to four times a week. She walks, uses an elliptical machine and lifts weights for overall strength training. She also enjoys Pilates tapes, especially in the winter or when she can't get to the gym. Recently, Carter began taking Zumba classes as well as a beginner's dance class at Madison Ballet.

With her combined efforts, Carter began to see the weight come off and the numbers go down.


"On average I was losing two pounds a week," said Carter. "It wasn't like an enormous weight loss right away."

By November 2009, about four months after she implemented her diet and exercise changes, Carter saw a great improvement in her numbers. Her BMI (body mass index) had dropped down from 32 to 25.4. Her blood glucose was down more than 10 points, and her cholesterol was down by more than 40 points. Her triglycerides were amazingly down by nearly 100 points, not to mention that she had experienced significant weight loss.

Vonda Shaw, manager of UW Health's Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation Clinic, works with Carter in UW Health's Go Red For Women initiatives. She notes that Carter's combination of a healthy, conscientious eating plan and a regular amount of daily activity and structured exercise is recommended for anyone looking to reduce their individual risk of heart disease.


"This type of consistent lifestyle can also help when the expected - and unexpected - stressors of life mount," Shaw said. "Vicki's determination and perspective towards a healthy lifestyle will produce both personal and clinical benefits to her. She's done a great job and we are proud of her!"

"I have wanted to practice what we preach at the clinic, which is take care of your heart. I guess at the time I didn't think I was doing a very good job of that. I wanted to set a good example," said Carter. "There are women out there who are size two and have heart trouble because maybe they are not eating right or they don't take care of their body, so I know that even if I don't lose any more weight, body image is not the issue. It's that my numbers are where they should be."

Carter is proud of what she has done for her body and hopes that she can be an example to women. She always thinks back to her musical inspiration, "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus. The song presents the idea that the journey is worth more than the outcome.

"I always go back to the song and think, this is really why I'm doing it. It doesn't matter if I lose a pound this week, it is just that I need to stay healthy."