By Jennifer L. Warren

“Our mission is to make Ulster County the healthiest one in New York State.”

These words were stressed by Dr. Deborah Karnasiewicz, as she discussed one of the many purposes behind Saturday’s 11th Annual Women’s Health & Fitness Expo, held at Kingston’s Tech City. The event served as a kickoff of several more to follow; each aimed at placing Ulster County at the zenith of healthy living.

Angela Lopez and Marisol Trujillo, representatives from WellCare, one of several businesses on hand at Saturday’s 7th annual Women’s Health and Fitness Expo, held in Kingston.

“This year is extra special because we are promoting our Healthy Ulster Challenge/Initiative,” said Karnasiewicz. “We are urging all residents to get fit, and move to lose; doing it in whatever way is comfortable.”

Those positive strides could be detected all over Tech City Saturday. Providing over 150 exhibits, 20 free health screenings, a host of informative seminars, workshops and demonstrations, private mini consultations with specialists, a Healthy Cooking Food Court, and a complementary medicine and spa area, the Expo had something for everyone.

The day even offered its share of celebrities. Tina Sloan, a 26-year veteran of the recently canceled Guiding Light soap opera, was on the Main stage, discussing details of her newly released book, “Changing Shoes.” Addressing the art of aging, the actress was faced with an unexpected career wake-up call when Guiding Light was taken off of the television airwaves in 2009.

“I had to suddenly reinvent myself, figuring out what to do with my life all of a sudden,” said the animated Sloan. “I want people to know when they read this book they are capable of starting over their lives in all kinds of ways, not just with a job, but in relationships and other areas”

Sloan went on to discuss the keys behind embracing aging with dignity, love and at times humor.

“I don’t know how I missed getting old,” related Sloan, after telling the crowd about the introduction of her book, the moment she realized she was no longer the one everyone was staring at; rather it was her younger counterpart getting the male glares.

Also gracing the Main Stage with his pearls of healthy lifestyle wisdom was Keoni Teta, who discussed the science of how to eat more, workout less and lose fat while you rest.

Tina Sloan talks about her new book “Changing Lanes,” focusing on aging with style, humor and grace. Sloan was one of several guest speakers at the 11th Annual Women’s Health and Fitness Expo, held Saturday at Tech City in Kingston.

“There’s something wrong with the calorie model,” stressed Keoni, whose talk was met with a moment of shock when he indicated a Kruller Doughnut and a chicken breast with skin have the same amount of calories. “Look at a sprinter’s body; it has far more muscle on it than a distance runner because it’s the sprinters who are burning calories long after the distance runner, showing us we need to train like our hormones matter the most.”

The fruits of those who have followed nutritious labor were visible on the Main Stage. Five members of the hit reality television series “The Biggest Loser” discussed their trek to health via humor and motivation. Ed Brantley, his wife Heba Salama, Michael Ventrella, Tara Costa and Bernardo “Bernie” Salazar came to Tech City to share some of the details behind their calorie shedding. Brantley and Salama could later be spotted giving a cooking demonstration.

“The Biggest Loser experience taught us to really take control of our lives,” said Brantley, who with his wife had just finished cooking up the “Southern Classic,” homemade  Pimento Cheese Dip along with Hummus Tomato Salad. “I lost 139 pounds, while my wife lost 138 pounds; we are here today to give a positive message about weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.” Brantley added, “We have had 200% positive feedback today from those we have talked to; it’s a great feeling.”

That same positive reaction could be found over in the fitness area, where several local gym personnel were holding free classes for Expo attendees.

“We want to show women there are so many ways to get fit in a motivating environment,” said Patty Fitzgerald of MacFitness in Kingston, who just finished leading a Sh’Bam class.

“Hard work and fun can work together.”

Those themes appeared to be the thread of Saturday’s well-attended Expo. Whether it be learning the value of eating whole grains and a protein-laden diet, preventive measures of moving one’s body or beauty behind surrendering to the joys of aging, each woman (and some men) walked away with something that could have perhaps just added years to his or her life.

“This is a start, and an exciting one,” said Karnasiewicz. “However, there is still so much more to do.”

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