A VISIT TO STRUCTURE HOUSE – Part I
By Shannon Lindsay
As a lifelong weight-loss warrior I am always on the lookout for the “next great thing” in the battle to lose weight. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve tried just about everything. To be quite honest, I am also a bit of a cynic when it comes to all of the new diets and claims of quick fixes. I know that it’s about the calories that you consume and the calories that you burn and as the saying goes – I’ve been there…done that.
A lot of you probably know exactly what I mean. If you’re like me and have tried to lose weight only to gain it back again, we are part of a very discouraging statistic. Studies have shown that 95 percent of dieters fail to maintain their weight loss. Diets just don’t seem to work. However, when I heard about the program at Structure House, a residential weight loss center in Durham, North Carolina, I admit I was intrigued. I’ve always wanted to know what goes on behind the doors at these weight-loss institutions. Is it anything like the ranches on T.V.?
Founded in 1977 by Dr. Gerard Musante, Structure House is one of the most hardworking and heartfelt places that I have ever witnessed. As a clinical psychologist and author of The Structure House Weight Loss Plan, Dr. Musante began his career working with overweight patients in a hospital-based program. He watched as patients who lost weight while in a structured medical environment tended to regain it back after they returned home to their basically “unstructured” life. Dr. Musante realized that a person’s relationship with food had much more to do with their success in weight loss and especially for long-term results. Because of this, he began to merge the principles of nutrition, exercise and psychology into a treatment program designed to treat the whole person from the inside out and Structure House was born. (Right: Gerard Musante, Ph.D., Structure House founder)
It would be impossible for me to talk about Structure House without highlighting the fact that it’s the people there are at the heart of this story and during my 5 days on campus I realized that the people were what mattered the most. From all 50 states and over 35 countries, the participants have come to Structure House over the last 30 years to experience the program first hand. Some participants, I found, had been there before while others were visiting for the first time. But the one thing that we all had in common was that we were all here and holding onto one word…hope.
On my first day at Structure House I met two other ladies who would be my companions for the week and at our intake session we learned what getting “structured” was for the first time. To be “structured” means to eat and exercise in a structured format like eating three meals a day – at the same time each day. If you eat outside of these times, you aren’t being structured. This sounded like a good strategy for me especially since I’ve never really been a “snacker.” Basically, the only reason a person should eat is for nourishment and if you are eating for other reasons then you need to ask yourself why you are eating. I learned that if you are eating at other times, it’s usually because of three reasons, you’re either bored, you’re stressed or it’s a habit…not because you are hungry. No truer words may have ever been spoken.
Student of Change
(Left: Marlene Lesson teaching a class on nutrition)
There are world class psychologists, dieticians, and other professionals on the campus working towards a common goal of helping the participants reach theirs. At my nutrition orientation, I quickly found that Marlene Lesson, who is Nutrition Director at Structure House, is a genius. Marlene has been at Structure House for 27 years. She makes the menus for every person and teaches several nutrition classes weekly. I always knew that certain foods were comfort foods. But I didn’t realize that crunchy foods may be indirectly connected to anger or that sweets help to improve moods and meats can lend encouragement.
One of the important parts of the Structure House program is keeping up with your Food Diary. There are four main points to Structured Eating -
- 3 Planned Meals
- Calorie Conscience
- Maximize Nutrition
- Identifying Food Triggers (habit, boredom or stress)
By following these guidelines and recording your meals and exercise in your diary, a pattern quickly forms to what could be your challenges. This is why being “structured” is so essential to the program.
Walking hand in hand with nutrition for a healthy lifestyle is exercise. At Structure House there are three general guidelines for each participant who enters the program. The first is to improve your aerobic capacity to be able to accumulate 45-60 minutes of cardio a day. The second is to improve your flexibility by adding 10-15 minutes of stretching into your daily exercise plan and lastly, to improve your strength by weight training or using resistance bands 2-3 times a week.
Upon beginning the program each participant is given a full Fitness Assessment consisting of different tests to measure your weight, body mass index, your resting heart rate, your strength and flexibility. Not only did I find this information invaluable, I was also surprised by my own results especially when it came to the strength and flexibility portion. Not as great as I thought.
There’s lots more to this story so please click here to read Part II of my visit to Structure House.