Environmental Factor, October 2006, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
"Biggest Losers" Are Lifestyle Winners
By Eddy Ball
If NIEHS employees reflect the national trend toward bigger and heavier, then as many as two-thirds, or more than 800 of the people who work for the institute could stand to shed some weight. Thanks to a recent NIEHS Wellness and Fitness Program, many of the 84 participants of "The Biggest Loser Challenge" are now looking for new clothes to fit their new bodies and striving to keep up the good habits the program encouraged. The program was created by NIEHS Program Manager Diane Crawford, Health and Fitness Program Manager Stephanie Bullock-Allen, and Health and Fitness Specialist Jennifer Cordani.
The group lost a total of 309.6 pounds during the eight-week regimen of exercise, diet modification, team spirit and education. Third place team winner Elliott Gilmer, the challenge's top individual loser, deserves special kudos for his dedication. Named after the television show of the same name, "The Biggest Loser" program helped Gilmer, a contract employee with Raven, bid farewell to 16.3 pounds.
At the beginning of the program, competitors were assigned to groups of six to 14 teams for the competition and took weight and girth measurements. Teams chose their own catchy names for the teams, such as "Soul Man and Serious Sistahs" and "Fatty Acids," to build team spirit and kept records of their activities, along with a requested weekly weigh-in. Fitness Room staff helped the competitors achieve manageable goals each week. Tasks included walks around the lake, set times using exercise machinery, walking as fast as possible from the cafeteria to F Module and back, placing daily calorie limits on snack consumption and bringing healthier lunches from home once a week.
According to Bullock-Allen, the response to "The Biggest Loser Challenge" was much greater than initially expected. "We were hoping for four or five teams, and we ended up with 14," she said. Not everyone came just to lose weight. Average team member weight averaged between 157 and 226 pounds, but several people participated more as a preventive measure than because of concern about their current weight.
Bullock-Allen is planning already for an encore program in January or February - "Just about the time people realize they are not keeping those New Year's resolutions," she explained. In the meantime, she encourages NIEHS employees to take advantage of the Fitness Room and the professional staff there. Living proof of the benefits of exercise and healthy eating, Bullock-Allen is a professional fitness expert, adjunct professor at North Carolina Central University and personal trainer with a Master's in Recreational Administration.
The Fitness Room is open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM and staffed by Bullock-Allen and Health and Fitness Specialist Jennifer Cordani. NIEHS offers several incentive programs to help employees improve health and fitness. In addition to the on-site fitness equipment and programs, the institute sponsors discounted memberships at two area gyms and spas with locations throughout the Triangle.
For more information about NIEHS Health Fitness Programs, contact Diane Crawford, Stephanie Bullock-Allen or Jennifer Cordani by e-mail or call Crawford (541-0124) or the Fitness Room (541-3291). For information online, visit the Health and Fitness page.