heart association shows women a healthier way

ALBANY – Tamara Garrison feels like a whole new person.

Garrison is one of 12 women who graduated from Better U last week, a free program run annually by the American Heart Association to teach women about better eating and exercise habits in the hopes of preventing heart disease and strokes.

More than 100 women applied for 14 positions at the end of 2019 and started enthusiastically in February 2020. When the pandemic began, Better U leader Maria Decker briefly attempted to organize meetings and sessions. training by videoconference. It didn’t work, Decker says, because the program works on the camaraderie between women who support each other. Against the wishes of the Heart Association, Decker suspended the program in the hope that it could eventually resume in person. The time has come in August 2021, but it still wasn’t easy. In recent years, Decker has relied on donated spaces for meetings. When no one else opened their doors to her, she began meeting in Crossings Park in Colony, then in the Hall space at 433 River St., Troy, run by her son, Sean Wilcoxson.

Better U also includes personal coaching from instructors at the Guilderland YMCA and nutritional advice from student dietitians as well as Ellie Wilson, senior nutritionist at Price Chopper supermarkets.

The formula worked for Garrison, who said she looked forward to group workouts because it was a chance to see her new friends.

“I’m better at work, better in my relationships,” exclaimed Garrison, following a glamorous session at the Grit and Grace salon, where all the red-clad women and stylists did their hair and makeup for free before. the Go Red. for the women’s lunch at the Albany Capital Center on Friday.

Rebekah Brisbane, in a long red dress with off the shoulders and a crown of curls, praised the “brotherhood” of the women standing. Beyond friendships, Brisbane said the body awareness she learned would stay in the long term. Stress is a major factor in poor health. Now, says Brisbane, when she feels the stress going up, she knows how to bring it down.

“I know how to turn in on myself, be grateful, and neutralize external stressors. I focus on the light within me, and it’s that light that helps me turn away from the refrigerator and the chain. fast food, ”Brisbane said.

A total of 12 women completed the program and entered the Capital Center to a standing ovation. Decker, who received the Jane Golub Crystal Heart Award at the luncheon, cried as he announced them. Leader of Better U for 10 years, Decker forges close relationships with “his daughters” every year. But no one else, she said, has suffered from a pandemic together.

Andrew B. Reiter