Weight loss means less stress with Oneida health coaches’ program

Retirement couldn’t stop doctors Maggie and Lenny Argentine of Oneida from continuing to reach out to share their own healthy living practices, hoping they might inspire and educate others to move toward those same goals.

From left: Maggie and Lenny Argentine. Their weight loss program prioritizes stress reduction, portion control and other healthy alternatives to crash dieting.

From left: Maggie and Lenny Argentine. (Mike Jaquays/Syracuse New Times)

There is a lot more to living healthier than simply going on a diet, Lenny stressed. “We avoid the word ‘diet’ because diets don’t work,” he said. “Our approach is significantly different.”

Maggie is from Lockport, and studied at the Buffalo General Hospital School of Nursing, the State University of New York Institute of Technology, and Syracuse University. She has a Ph.D in higher postsecondary educational administration, and retired as an adjunct instructor in nursing from Utica College in 2014.

Lenny, a native of Canastota, is an M.D. who studied at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine. He retired from his position as medical director of the Extended Care Facility at Oneida Healthcare in 2014.

The couple met in the mid-1960s at the Buffalo hospital where they both worked. For their first date in 1966, they went to a Buffalo Bills-New York Jets football game.

Their own path to living a life of optimal health started in the summer of 2009, when Lenny learned of their now-parent company Medifast. When he began Medifast’s “5&1 Program,” after a few weeks of weight loss his colleagues began asking him what he was doing to look so much better. Maggie also started the program, with the same positive results.

Both of them reached their weight-loss goals by early 2010. Lenny had lost 46 pounds, and was able to get off all of his medications, including prescriptions for high blood pressure and cholesterol. Maggie lost 30 pounds. They have since maintained within five pounds of their target range, and are now going into their ninth year of the program.

They decided to pay this gift of wellness forward, and became certified health coaches. The business started out as Argentine Health Partners, and they rebranded themselves as part of the Maryland-based Optavia community of healthy lifestyle advocates last December.

Lenny discovered their driving inspiration in 2009, when he was researching the work of Wayne Scott Anderson, a physician who was frustrated with the cycle of treating the symptoms of patients without any real lasting results. Anderson developed a lifestyle management system that creates an overall healthier life approach, to prompt people to rethink their own lives and make healthier choices. He stresses a healthy body, a healthy mind and healthy finances, with a program that focuses on stress reduction, exercise, portion control and getting enough sleep.

Maggie has been involved with studies of childhood obesity since 2001. She collected some of the first data on childhood obesity, she recalled, even before the subject was as much of an issue as it is today. She made growth charts for her students, and encouraged them to come to her if they needed to talk about their weight.

That work continues, as Maggie offers Optavia’s obesity program for people ages 13 to 18. The program features a supervised weight loss outreach for teens, combined with a small community and an online support network, she explained. 

With an international global obesity epidemic gripping both adults and children, the Argentines are exploring ways to position their outreach to grow globally, Lenny said. A single health coach can personally support an average of 23 to 26 clients directly, so they are in need of many more coaches within their community to achieve their mission “to get America, and soon the world, healthy.” 

“Health coaching work is a one-to-one relationship,” Maggie said, “and not all of us have been blessed with the gifts to listen empathetically while celebrating the small victories losing weight requires. For those of us who share those gifts, the rewards are enormous.”

She pointed to recent Facebook Live stories of a client using the pseudonym “Nassandra,” meaning “hope.” Nassandra’s story was the inspiration for Maggie’s revised mission statement, which now reads, “I am a certified health coach whose personal mission is to bring health and hope to those who feel invisible, and are struggling.” 

“Nassandra has never seen herself as healthy, and is most comfortable remaining invisible, while desperate to improve her health,” Maggie explained. “Down 77 pounds since October, sleeping better, reducing her work stress and more, we can actually hear the hope in her voice. The rewards of working with folks like Nassandra are examples of the work we do.”

The Argentines agree they are now in a better position than ever to have even more impact on people in need of a healthier life, focusing on the three main targets of body, mind and finances. “If someone is in need of improvement in any one, or all three, we can help them to achieve what is important to them,” Lenny said.


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