PINEHURST – Imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger (approximate weight 235 pounds) standing beside two other men of equal size.
To this scene, add another man – this one weighing 150 pounds.
You now have a concept of 855 pounds, the combined amount of weight that 35 four-person teams lost during the six weeks of FirstHealth’s 2017 Biggest Winner Corporate Challenge.
The program of the FirstHealth FirstFit employee wellness committee began Feb. 20 and ended April 3 with 140 participants representing Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst, Richmond Memorial Hospital in Rockingham and Moore Regional-Hoke Campus in Raeford. As with various other FirstFit initiatives, the Biggest Winner Corporate Challenge was conceived with employee health in mind.
“FirstFit coordinates programs and opportunities such as Sandhills Farm to Table, the FirstFit website and the Farmers Market at Moore Regional Hospital as well as the Biggest Winner Challenge,” says Roxanne Elliott, policy director for FirstHealth Community Health Services. “Each is designed to encourage employees to engage in healthy lifestyle habits.”
The 2017 Biggest Winner competition started with the formation of teams, often from within work units. As they followed their chosen weight-loss regimen, team members had weekly weigh-ins and reported their numbers to their captain for posting on the FirstFit website. A weekly cash prize went to the individual with the greatest percentage of weight loss.
At the end of the Challenge, the team with the greatest weight-loss percentage won a trophy and each team member received an individual prize.
There was a reason that weekly and overall winners were determined by weight-loss percentage instead of pounds.
“Everybody has a different starting weight,” says Challenge coordinator Kristen Cook, a health education specialist with FirstHealth Community Health Services. “If you go by percentage, instead of pounds, it evens the playing field.”
Actually, not every participant was overweight, according to Cook, with some team members admittedly attracted to the Challenge by the promise of prizes – $128, $70 and $35 to the top three performers each week – as well as by the prospect of a healthier lifestyle.
“Money is a really good incentive,” Cook says.
The top-performing team, In It to Win It from the Outpatient Cancer Center at Moore Regional Hospital, lost 6.99 percent of its members’ original body weight (a total of 53.4 pounds). In addition to their trophy, team members Bobbi Clark, Maureen Colthart, Pat McDonald and Joni Carlson got their choice of a FitBit or a Garmin fitness tracker.
Overall top performer Pat McDonald, a patient services representative at the Outpatient Cancer Center, lost 19 pounds (or 10.2522 of her original body weight) over the six-week Challenge, largely by limiting portions and avoiding carbs and starches.
Her “rule of thumb” for portion control was “edge of thumb.” She ate the self-prescribed amount and left the table.
“When you’re really determined to lose weight, you don’t get tempted,” she says.
The second- and third-place overall teams, the Lean Queens and the “Hangry” Birds, came from Richmond Memorial Hospital, where Amy Hamilton-Forester, outreach manager for Community Health Services, served as Challenge champion.
“We were very excited that our staff responded to the Biggest Winner call for participants,” she says. “Our employees love a good challenge, and they pushed each other to do their very best. Not only were we competing against other FirstHealth entities, but we were competing against ourselves. We had two teams to finish in the Top 10 and one individual participant to finish in the top three. This is outstanding, and we can’t wait until next year.”
Team support was especially important for the fifth-place Women Warriors team from the MRH-Hoke Campus. According to Lauren Johnson, a patient services representative at the Raeford hospital, fellow team member Linda Johnson found the diet plan that formed the basis for her group’s challenge and was the team’s “greatest encouragement.”
“Our team definitely worked together on this,” Lauren Johnson says. “It was very difficult to cut out our favorite foods and sugary delights. We continuously encouraged each other to pick healthier snacks and portions. We cut out sugars and made sure to eat correct portions every meal. Protein for breakfast was another big thing we started. No more skipping breakfast for me.”
By the Challenge’s end, the Women Warriors had achieved a 4.52 percent weight loss.
“One of the biggest lessons we have gotten from this challenge is teamwork,” Johnson says. “We have gotten close to one another, and we will always be thankful.”
Team encouragement was also pivotal to overall individual winner Pat McDonald. So was the long-distance support of her son, James, who lives in Virginia.
“My greatest inspiration prior to and during this weight loss period was the In It to Win It team consisting of Bobbi, Joni and Maureen,” she says. “We were cheerleaders for each other each day.”
By promoting healthy lifestyles, the FirstFit Committee hopes to produce healthier FirstHealth employees, according to Challenge coordinator Cook.
“If you feel good, you’re going to be a more productive employee, have fewer sick days and have more energy,” she says. “And, of course, weight-loss is a good way to think about a healthy lifestyle.”