By STEVEN PENN
— The Hendricks Regional Health (HRH) Fresh Start Challenge at its core is designed to give a company the resources it needs to accomplish its overall goal of having a healthier workforce.
Recently, representatives from HRH were able to tailor the program specifically for Wood-Mizer, 8180 West 10th St., Indianapolis.
“Our director … decided to do some kind of weight management, weight loss program at the beginning of the year,” said Brenda Moeckly, registered dietician at HRH. “‘The Biggest Loser’ style is kind of how it started, but we kind of wanted to tailor is toward Wood-Mizer’s needs and wants.”
Moeckly said the 16-week program started in January and featured many components.
“We did weekly weigh-ins to provide that accountability,” she said. “We started off with lab draws and did all the blood work so that we could track from the beginning to the end.”
She said she would visit Wood-Mizer every Tuesday with her “team,” which usually included Exercise Physiologist Emily Sample to track how the employees were doing.
“I’d have information on nutrition and something different every week,” she said. “(Sample) would have some new exercises or stretches, different things like that, to provide hands-on, or at least something to take away for everybody. We answered questions that everybody had about nutrition or exercise. Sometimes, one of the wellness nurses would come with us too for any questions on health conditions or medications.”
She said the weekly visits allowed the employees to get a well-rounded approach to their health.
“Every week we were doing the weigh-ins and that’s what we were measuring, because it was the easiest,” Moeckly said. “But by doing the variety of measurements at the beginning and end, and then (we were) just talking each week as far as what healthy changes each week they had made in their diet and exercise. So you can focus on the increased energy and just the healthier feeling from the lifestyle changes that it’s more than just the number on the scale. We’re hitting it from every angle.”
On Wood-Mizer’s end, the company allowed interested employees to create their own three-person teams, to compete for cash prizes based on who could lose the most weight in team and individual categories.
The winning team was Dave Mann, Stacy Wiggington, and Jim Brown, who lost 13.8 pounds, 35 pounds, and 61 pounds, respectively. Brown said since the contest has ended, he’s lost another 20 pounds.
For winning, Mann said as a team, they won $600. Brown added that he took home another $400 for winning the individual weight and individual measurement categories.
Mann, an already avid runner, said he didn’t have as much weight to lose, which didn’t make him a popular pick as a teammate in the beginning.
“(I told them) I’ve only got about 10 I can lose,” Mann said. “I knew there was potential here (with Wiggington and Brown), because these guys have done it before. We knew for this to stick, it really meant a lifestyle change and not just a diet program or weight loss. I was onboard to help keep these guys accountable.”
Brown said even his wife was surprised of the choice.
“I get home and my wife says, ‘Who is on your team, Dave? What did you pick him for?’” he said. “I couldn’t tell him no, we travel all over the country together.”
Brown said the best part about the program was the team aspect because it made it easy to keep everyone accountable.
“I had been wanting to do something … and never could seem to do it (on my own),” he said. “The fun thing of the competition and teamwork (made it easier) once I got my head wrapped around it. I think I’d be well over 300 pounds if it wasn’t for the competition because I was too busy, didn’t have time.”
“It’s very helpful to have somebody (to do a program like this with),” he said. “Having these guys here at work, I was always accountable. They’re a little bit more in your face (with checking on how you’re doing). That’s the thing I think that helped me the most. We worked together, but we also had to answer (to each other).”
Mann said there was plenty of friendly competition from within their team and the other employees who were participating.
“We had a little friendly, on the side incentive that was if you gained, it cost a buck a pound,” he said. “The dollars went to charity, which is good, but for these guys, to get a buck out of them it’s pretty tough. We were going to do everything possible to not have to (pay).”
He said teams were always keeping track of what everyone else was doing.
“There were guys checking that because they posted it, and it was on our internal Intranet site,” Mann said. “These guys knew … we kind of jumped out in the lead a little bit. They were watching us all the time. We were in here late at night or early in the morning, hitting the elliptical (to stay ahead).”
Mann said exercise has been a part of his routine for years.
“For me, these guys called me the skinny guy,” he said. “I have run the mini-marathon for several years (21 straight years). It was kind of natural coming out of the winter, the more dormant months, where you do pick up a few pounds … to head that way (of getting back in shape). I always feel better when I’m down about 10 or 15 pounds. If I get that back, each time, I try to keep it off and through the summer I’m eating better.”
For Wiggington and Brown, the exercise aspect doesn’t come so easily — but they still managed to do it.
“I don’t feel like working out, but I always, always feel better after I go for a long walk — four or five miles,” Wiggington said. “It’s always worth it. I think people that say they enjoy working out say that because they know they feel better at the end of it. That’s what I think.”
Brown said he feels the same way.
“I always feel terrible when I’m working out, but when it’s over I always feel good,” he said. “I like working out in the morning because there’s nobody done working out when I get there, so everybody’s starting. If you go in the evening then there’s guys that are done and (you wish you were done). I feel a lot more energy, I feel better in every way.”
Brown added the other important aspect was learning to count calories and knowing what types of food to eat.
“I don’t go around hungry,” he said. “I told Brenda when I started that I can’t eat cauliflower and broccoli. I have to eat what I like and I did. I found good alternatives. I eat frozen yogurt and I really think it’s as good as or better than ice cream. If I have the calories, I’ll eat it.”
Wiggington said meeting with HRH wellness professionals was a huge help in getting healthier because “that’s the kind of thing we got from the outside professionals, they were able to supply us with information … that helped. Our HR people just aren’t going to be able to research and help us like that with true details.”
Mann agreed and recommends the program to other businesses.
“We certainly encourage and recommend that other companies think about doing the same thing,” he said. “I think it was the total, team approach, with Hendricks Regional Health too, because I think we could have been a little bit successful if we had tried the whole program. The concerted effort to make it as official as it was is what made it successful.”
He added that it was a smart decision for a company to be invested in its employees’ health.
“I think certainly, as a company, we realize the value of healthier employees, produce better workers,” he said. “It helps keep our corporate cost for health expense down. It’s an investment from their standpoint too, to say that they get a better employee at the end of the day.”
Wiggington said based on the numbers, Wood-Mizer definitely got healthier as a result of the program.
“The total weight loss for the Indy company was 366 pounds,” he said. “(The company lost) 230 inches, which includes neck, chest, waist, hip, and lost over 4 percent of their weight as a group.”
For more information on the Fresh Start Challenge, call the Hendricks Regional Health Wellness Department at 718-8160.