The key to taming an elephant? Training it while it's young, before it realizes its own strength. That piece of advice, courtesy of Tim Terrio, of Terrio Physical Therapy & Fitness, might be odd considering there aren't many elephants in Bakersfield, but when applied to a healthy diet and exercise, the metaphor can make a huge difference.
"The elephant is our emotional side, and the rider is our analytical side," Terrio explained. "The rider says, 'I need to get in better shape.' The elephant says, 'I like cookies.'"
Terrio, one of three special speakers, will discuss his new wellness programs for mothers Saturday at the fifth annual Healthy Bakersfield Expo, presented by The Californian.
The Bakersfield professional will join 80-plus other local health and wellness groups to teach visitors about various programs and services around town, including dental, chiropractics, cardiology, radiology and more.
"It's a really fun, great way to spend the afternoon, especially if you have young kids and you're looking for something free to do," said Mira Patel, Californian marketing manager. "I hope (visitors) learn about the new health and wellness techniques and services that our great city has to offer."
Among the offerings are free all-day health screenings for blood pressure, blood sugar, total cholesterol and body mass index provided by Community Preventive Health Collaborative of Cal State Bakersfield; appearances by Marley's Mutts, McGruff the Crime Dog and a fire engine from the Kern County Fire Department; Dr. Milan Shah of Beautologie will speak on non-invasive surgery; registered dietitian Nicole Adams will suggest ideas for healthy snacks with milk at a talk sponsored by Got Milk; and The Californian's own Herb Benham will sign copies of his book "That Was Easy."
It all begins and ends with mom
As for Terrio, though his latest wellness program is geared toward moms, he said everyone can begin to learn how to tame their elephant.
"If you (the rider) don't tell the elephant what the path is, it's going to veer off," he said.
Terrio, who has 11 locations in Kern County and two in Fresno County, unveiled his latest program following two years of work trying to find a solution to Kern County's obesity problem.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, more than 60 percent of Kern County's population is obese. It also states that Kern County is the least healthy county in California.
The agent for change, Terrio said, is moms. He wants to encourage them to take control of their health, which will trickle down to their children.
"But the last thing (moms) worry about is themselves," he said. "Others are always put first. They should put themselves first for once, (at least) just this one time."
Terrio has been working with a pilot group of eight moms for about eight weeks now but has added two other groups and will continue to do so as demand increases. The group meets four times a week: three sessions for exercise and one for education.
One way his program is different, Terrio said, is that it's more than just an exercise and diet regimen. He said the program is actually set up "backward" compared to others.
"We don't talk about exercising or nutrition for the first few (sessions)," he said. "We talk about dreams and the right goals and mindsets. A goal can be demotivational if it's the wrong kind."
Other programs "wave off" the mental aspect of getting in shape, Terrio said. Working out too intensely, with a "no pain, no gain" mentality, doesn't work for people who have struggled with their weight, he said. He focuses on behavioral change and slow-and-steady exercise with gradual challenges.
Each woman in the group is individually evaluated and given a routine that is tailored to her unique needs and goals. But the moms work out together, keeping the laughter coming and morale high.
"I started out feeling sluggish," said Darnetta Smith, a mother of four. "Now I'm stronger, healthier and making healthier choices. I'm aware of what I eat. Every morning I exercise, and I feel good about it."
Although Smith said her intent in joining the program was simply to lose weight, it quickly revealed an added benefit: the trickle-down effect on her family.
"My daughter is losing weight and exercising daily, too," Smith said. "She has bought into it with me. It's really exciting."
Smith said she talks about the program to all her friends and shares her favorite lesson.
"Even in the office (at work), I have people telling me, 'My elephant is out of control today!'" she said. "'Taming the elephant' makes me mindful (of what I eat)."
Chrissy Farr, a mother of four, is finding support in her family.
"I'm setting a great example for my kids," she said. "They're so excited I'm doing this. My husband is my biggest cheerleader."