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East Rockaway pastor drops weight with Jenny Craig after friend dies

"When a friend of mine, who was overweight, dropped dead of a heart attack at age 50, it was a wake-up call for me,” the South Africa native said.

Sharon Hurkens, 58, of East Rockaway, is pictured

Sharon Hurkens, 58, of East Rockaway, is pictured in August 2016, when she weighed 209 pounds, and in a more recent photo, showing off her more than 60-pound weight loss. Photo Credit: Hurkens family; Steve Pfost

Sharon Hurkens

58, East Rockaway

Occupation Pastor

Height 5-foot-3

Before 209 pounds, August 2016

After 148 pounds, December 2017

Sharon Hurkens, who immigrated from South Africa in 1988, says weight issues are viewed differently here than in her native land. “Here, when people gain weight, they cover it up. In South Africa, putting on weight is thought of as shameful,” she says.

Hurkens says her profession as a pastor is full of emotion, and that she was an emotional eater. “Plus with the ministry, I seemed to be around food and eating all the time. Food is social.

“I wanted to lose this extra weight I had carried around for 20 years,” she says. “I wasn’t happy with who I was, and my blood pressure and sugar were up. When a friend of mine, who was overweight, dropped dead of a heart attack at age 50, it was a wake-up call for me,” Hurkens says.

She turned to Jenny Craig, which she had tried previously but without success.

“I thought differently this time. I knew I was worth the investment,” says Hurkens.

She started the program in October 2016 and lost weight right away. “I had a wonderful consultant who cared for everything about me. I went to weekly meetings and used the support and advice. They helped remove the excuses. And, man, can we come up with excuses,” she says.

“I haven’t been this weight since 1988. My life has changed so much. I’m Sharon again.”

Hurkens ate Jenny Craig’s food products for 10 months, while losing the bulk of her weight, and has since weaned herself off them. Now she starts the day eating either one egg on whole wheat toast or a two-egg omelet with either salsa, tomatoes or a vegetable. Lunch is grilled chicken or turkey on whole wheat bread or a low-fat 3-ounce burger. Dinner can be grilled chicken, a baked potato and vegetables. She treats herself to desserts like a slice of pound cake with fresh strawberries and yogurt or sugar-free Jell-O with fat-free whipped cream. Snacks include apples, pears and oranges.

At the height of Hurkens’ weight-loss period, she was walking four miles 5 to 7 days a week. Now that she’s near goal, she’s cut back to four days a week.

“I like walking outdoors. It’s good for me. It clears my head and I can think and plan better. I don’t use a treadmill because it’s too easy get off. If you walk outdoors and decide to stop, you still have to walk more to get home,” says Hurkens.

“People need to realize how unique and valuable they are. No one can make healthy choices for them or lose the weight for them. Accountability is vital. As a pastor, I advise people to live a life of fulfillment, yet I wasn’t doing it myself. We must walk the talk.”

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