DIXON – Twelve weeks ago, 514 people from 13 local companies embarked on a journey to improve their health and together lost a collective 3,000 pounds.
They started eating right – controlling their portions, eating more fruits and vegetables and less junk food, and cutting out alcohol and soda. They started exercising, too – walking, running, using machines at the gym, lifting weights and even doing at-home workout videos.
They had an incentive, through Operation: Move to Win, a competitive weight-loss and health-improvement challenge in the corporate wellness program at KSB Hospital: They could win money and bragging rights.
Participating employees paid $15, which went into the pot of prize money. They weighed in monthly and received one-on-one counseling from a dietitian, all on their own time. They also received educational materials, including recipes and tips for making lasting lifestyle changes.
“This was supposed to be a sustainable health-improvement initiative,” said Christine Scheffler, community wellness coordinator. “The competition added another flair to it. We never wanted it to be based on prize money, though. We wanted it to be sustainable.”
The participants together lost 2,920.6 pounds – about a ton and a half.
The winners were:
– Joshua Goff, most dynamic improved lifestyle, who lost 14 percent of his body weight but made lifestyle changes that drastically improved his health. He won $771.
– David Glessner, third place, who lost 19 percent of his body weight. He also won $771.
– Deanne Aldridge, second place, who lost 20 percent of her body weight. She won $1,927.50.
– Bryan Monk, first place, who lost 27 percent of his body weight. $3,469.50.
The organization whose employees dropped the most weight was the Illinois Department of Transportation, with a 4.7 percent loss, or 307.2 pounds. That won $771.
“These folks who won did it the right way,” Scheffler said. “They made improvements at work, at home. They’re exercising, they’re eating right. Their whole families have improved.”
Here are the winners’ stories:
Goff, 32, an engineering technician with the Illinois Department of Transportation, was in poor health, especially for someone of his age.
He has Type 1 diabetes and suffers from transient ischemic attacks, or small, brief strokes. He was overweight, too.
“I knew exactly what I needed to do,” he said. “I just never took it seriously.”
Goff focused first on exercise; he rode the stationary bike at the gym for a half-hour every day over his lunch hour. Then he implemented dietary changes; he quit drinking, started eating breakfast, and watched his portions.
“I ate a lot of vegetables, fruit and chicken,” he said.
Goff, married with three children ages 5, 4 and 2, considers himself much healthier now. His blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar now are at normal levels. And he feels better.
“I didn’t want to go diving into a huge, massive, just-trying-to-lose-a-ton-of-weight-to-win type of thing,” he said. “I wanted to keep it going.”
Glessner, 41, a detective sergeant for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, was sick of his clothes not fitting well. He was ashamed that the “years had caught up” to him; after all, he was a fit, active guy in his younger days.
“I liked the idea of getting in better shape and, if nothing else, feeling better about myself,” he said.
Glessner immediately cut back on his portions and eliminated soda, replacing it with water. He also stopped ordering takeout and considered pizza, fried chicken and burgers as once-in-a-while indulgences.
“One of the things I was known for was, if we went out to a restaurant, I would eat what I ordered, and then, whatever my wife and children didn’t finish, we would rotate plates and I would finish it,” he said. “That had to stop.”
Glessner, who coaches youth baseball, made it a point to get active, too. He runs, rides the stationary bike, and lifts weights. He hopes to enter the Reagan Run 5K this summer.
He appreciated the accountability of the competitive program. He dreaded going to his monthly weigh in and not having completed his “homework.”
“You felt good when you did good,” he said.
He might feel “much better” about himself these days, but he has goals and plans to participate in another round of the program come August.
Aldridge, 31, of Ashton, a direct support professional at Kreider Services, long had yo-yoed with her weight.
“I’d implement something, lose weight, then go back to eating and drinking whatever I wanted and gain it back,” she said.
Aldridge finally decided this year was the year she would drop the weight and keep it off. She was unhappy with her appearance and the way her clothes fit, and she often thought about the heart problems that run in her family, many of which are worsened by excess weight.
Aldridge turned to the practices of Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of “Eat to Live”; she found success with it last year and knew she could easily follow the diet again this year.
“I love eggs, fruits and veggies and beans,” she said. “I don’t miss the other stuff, except cheese, so doing it wasn’t that big of a deal. The hardest part was not picking at whatever was out at home. ... I would eat just because it was there.”
Aldridge also returned to the popular Insanity workout, with which she previously had success, in addition to exercise equipment at home and workouts on the Nintendo Wii.
Aldridge, married with two children ages 5 and 3, liked the competitive aspect of the program – she found it easier to turn down drinks at the bar or sweets at home because she had money on the line – and knows her hard work will stick.
“I’m almost at my goal weight,” she said. “I don’t ever not want to be there.”
Her success has carried over to her family. She has a bet with her brother and sister to lose weight. And she has her children asking for fruits and vegetables, walks outside, and workouts on the Wii.
Monk, 28, an engineer at IDOT, knew he had to lose weight, but he never got the kick in the pants he needed to drop the pounds until the program launched at his workplace.
“I thought it would be a fun thing to do,” he said. “I didn’t even have a second thought about it – I had to borrow $15 to enter – and I just needed to make a change.”
Monk, a former collegiate athlete, was out of shape. He couldn’t run or play basketball; he had little to no endurance, and his stocky frame pounded on his knees and shins. But he slowly got back into shape, thanks to the low-impact elliptical machine, which he did every day, usually on his lunch hour and again after work.
Monk also was not used to eating well. But he embraced portion control and the idea of eating small, frequent meals and snacks to sustain him throughout the day.
“I had a couple cheat days, but I could count them on one hand,” he said. “I really stuck to my diet. I was only eating about 1,800 calories a day, but I was eating all day long. I was just making good choices.”
Monk even quit smoking, a move that was key to his overall health.
He and his fiancée now cook healthy dinners together and spend time walking and playing in the park with their dog.
“I can’t let it not be sustainable,” he said. “I don’t ever want to go back there. It’s not like I wasn’t enjoying life before, but I feel so much better now. I’m enjoying life in a new way now.”
To take the challenge
Those interested in losing weight and improving their health through a friendly, competitive program have another round of Operation: Move to Win to look forward to this summer.
Companies should choose a "champion" to lead the program at the workplace, and champions should call Christine Scheffler, community wellness coordinator at KSB Hospital, at 815-285-5932, to sign up by July 31.
The next Operation: Move to Win program begins Aug. 12.
Prizes will be awarded to the top three men and women.