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Pinellas Park couple's Weight Watchers success relies on communication

‘Baklava is not a power food," instructor Virginia Milliman reminds the Weight Watchers group as they talk about counting food "points" over the holidays. • "Hmm,'' muses Joette Silverthorne as she watches her husband, Steve, interpret by sign language.

Joette lost 42 pounds in eight months through the Weight Watchers classes. She attributes her success to the program's "points" and support system, yes, but it's mostly due to some super dedication on the part of Steve.

Because Joette, 61, can neither hear nor speak, Steve, 63, joined the weight loss program with his wife last April and faithfully attends every meeting, signing rapidly and continuously so she doesn't miss a beat.

The Silverthornes, who have been married for 37 years, met at the time clock at Electrolux in Greenville, Mich., where they worked in the custodial department.

Joette explains through signing how she lost her hearing.

"When I was first born up to 6 weeks, I could hear but got a fever," Joette signs as Steve interprets, explaining that the hearing loss was the side effect of the drug the doctors gave her to fight a kidney infection. She believes it saved her life, but the incident left her deaf and virtually unable to communicate.

Now Steve fills in some of the gaps, including in the weight loss class.

"Steve has to get the information while he's translating for Joette. I don't think my brain would work that fast," said Connie Newell, a member service specialist at the Weight Watchers store at the Shoppes at Park Place, where the Silverthornes' group meets. "They are very dedicated to it. Obviously, they're very supportive of one another.

"We find that when married couples do it together, they both do well on the program," Newell said. "There's something about if everybody in the household is thinking in terms of eating healthfully. … that they go through the extra effort."

In fact, Steve, who has lost 31 pounds, says he was so into what they were doing that for a while, he was losing more weight than Joette.

"The first week she lost 7 pounds, then it tapered off," he said. "I would lose 2 or 3 pounds a week and kept going."

Joette caught up and surpassed her husband.

"Before Weight Watchers, we'd eat meat and vegetables. I would eat a lot and gain it back and lose," Joette says as Steve interprets.

Steve continues to speak as Joette signs, "When her mother was in Weight Watchers a long time ago, the program was different. Now we have more freedom. It's more of a lifestyle now instead of a diet.''

Animated, Joette reaches into her purse and pulls out their Weight Watchers guidebook. She begins to sign furiously. Again, Steve interprets.

"She says when we first came here, we had 37 points. But as we lost pounds, the points kept going down. She says they look at your overall age and weight before they decide how many points you'll get,'' he explains. "My goal is different than hers."

Their only real struggle with the weight loss program seems to be exercise. Both battle arthritis. While they have their limitations, they find ways to keep going.

"Sometimes we make excuses as to why we can't. But then I see Steve," Newell said. "Even with additional challenges, it can be worked out. I think it's very encouraging and nice to see a couple helping each other."

Steve takes a break from signing, but he hasn't stopped smiling.

"Sometimes she may not understand some things, so I help her," he says of Joette. "That's what I do."

Pinellas Park couple's Weight Watchers success relies on communication 01/10/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 2:59pm]
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