Monday, March 22, 2010

Biggest Loser -- Our Second Team Challenge

Our Biggest Loser Teams completed their second Team Challenge. Again, there were lots of smiles and laughter and participation was better than for our first Team Challenge. We did have a few people asking us what the activities would be, but we decided to keep the specifics under raps much like the show. We did however let folks know that there would be a speed and agility challenge, a strength challenge, and a balance challenge much like last time. The activities were all things the participants could do dressed in their casual Friday attire and no one forgot their tennis shoes this time. Again, we declared first, second and third place with bragging rights being the prize.

True Athlete Performance planned and executed the event for us. Here are the descriptions of the challenges.
Hurdle Relay Challenge:

Fitness Components Tested: Speed, Agility, Quickness, Coordination

For the hurdle relay challenge, team members completed footwork drills through 6 small hurdles down and back before teammates would perform the same task. Total team times were recorded and then averaged in order to determine the overall winner. The drills included doubles and doubles to Hurdle Weave. In each of these drills, the goal is to keep your feet moving quickly while staying under control to make sure the drill is done correctly.

Abdominal Bridge Challenge:

Fitness Components Tested: Total Body Strength, Core Stability
For this challenge, partipants from each team all performed an abdominal bridge for as long as possible. The highest individual time for the team was recorded, and then team bonsues were added for benchmarks met by other members of the team in time. One of our most fit participants, Diane, actually held a bridge for 10 minutes and 15 seconds.

Balance Relay Challenge:

Fitness Components Tested: Balance, Coordination, Core Strength, Ankle/Knee Stability

This was probably the most difficult challenge of the three. The challenge began with each member of the team walking on to a piece of balance equipment. Each time a person fell, 1 second was added to the total challenge time. Once each team member was at a station, 5 medicine balls were passed from one end to the other. Once every medicine ball was moved to the other side, the time was recorded. The lowest time, with penalties added, was the winner.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Unintended Consequences – What effect might the Biggest Loser have on women with anorexia or bulimia?

We kicked off our Biggest Loser program in an effort to get staff members that were significantly overweight, sedentary, and otherwise uninvolved in our wellness program engaged. The program has been pretty successful with this targeted group. People are losing weight, moving more, reducing the need for medications and dropping dress sizes. I’ve mentioned before that the level of participation exceeded our expectations. We currently have 95 people actively participating in the program. That’s almost 40% of our staff. With that many folks involved, it’s shifted our organizational culture to be much more focused on what we eat and how much we move. For most of us, I think it’s a good thing, but I’m starting to worry about a small group of staff.

It was obvious from the beginning that we had some women sign up to participate that didn’t appear to need to lose weight. Some said they wanted to improve the way they eat, lower their cholesterol or drop just a few pounds. We hadn’t set any biometric criteria to enter the program so everyone was welcome. I’ve had a chance to listen and observe over the past two months and I just finished reading the Locker Room Diaries -- a book about women and their body image.

It’s been interesting watching people weigh in each week. Some slim women step on and off the scale checking and double checking the number. Some stop by every day to weigh themselves and worry if the official scale is calibrated with the scale in our locker room and their scale at home. People have observed some eating habits of slender participants that seem rather unhealthy and some of the team conversation also has caused some people to worry about their teammates and whether some might have an eating disorder. Given our population of well educated women, I think it’s reasonable to assume that some of the women participating do have an eating disorder. So, is this program good for them? Is the constant focus on weight, what we’re eating, and exercise bombarding them with messages that are unhealthy for them? Should we have set some biometric criteria for participation?

Oddly enough, it was something Tyrone Wells said as an introduction to Baby Don’t You Change at a concert I was at Friday that made this come together for me. He basically said that women are most beautiful when they’re comfortable in their own skin. He’s living in LA and talked a little about the unrealistic images that are held out for women in magazines and on TV. I was sitting next to a good friend who has a beautiful daughter that has struggled with an eating disorder. I thought, “Am I making things more difficult for women like her?”

Friday, March 12, 2010

From 500lbs to Fit and Fabulous with Amy Barnes -- Guest Post by Cheryl Russell

Unfortunately, I was not available to attend the program we offered this week with Amy Barnes. Cheryl Russell, our Convention and Meetings Director and the team leader of the Healthy Divas our leading Biggest Loser team, agreed to introduce Amy and write this post. Thanks Cheryl!

Janet asked me to be a guest blogger about yesterday’s presentation by Amy Barnes. First, I need to acknowledge Janet and ASHA for providing such a great program for staff – The Biggest Loser, has not only helped many folks get on track with healthy eating and exercise, it has also brought about a new team spirit that we have missed for awhile.

Amy Barnes is a young woman who weighed 495 lbs 4 ½ years ago. She didn’t share with us her current weight, however, she did say her goal was to fit into a size 10, which I’m sure she has and maybe a size 8! She simply told her story, which is much more than a weight loss story. She shared with us a timeline of her life and weight gains – pregnancy weight that was never lost with her two sons, divorce stress weight gain, and then an abusive relationship. She felt the only thing she could control was what she ate and found comfort in food. This part of her story was hard to hear – she was in and out of a relationship with a man who beat her. At one point she had gone back with him after he promised to change. During this period she left her sons with him while she went out of town for a few days. When she returned the boys were gone, they were with her mother because child protective services removed them from the home. Her boyfriend had beaten them. While telling this part of her story she became emotional and held back tears, and I noticed others in the audience physically upset. She was almost killed before she finally ended up in a woman’s shelter and set out to change her life. Her goal was to get her sons back and become healthy.

With great humor she then described how she began to lose weight and exercise. Most of us could relate and laughed. She lost the first 100lbs exercising in her living room and walking around the block because she was too embarrassed to go to a gym. She described the approach she takes with her clients, which she did for herself.

1. Identify Root Cause of over eating
2. Setting Expectations/Managing Goals
3. Empower & Educate
4. Monitor/Accountability

She went into detail explaining the four parts - some things that stood out for me: draw a picture(s) of why you think you eat, set realistic goals and once you reach them set another; find a support group; know it’s not easy and it’s hard work; there will be set backs but doesn’t mean you stop; you need to eat enough calories; and you might cheat and eat something that isn’t good for you but that’s ok – make it a cheat meal not a cheat day.

Amy also shared how faith in God helped her after turning her back on faith for many years. She told me prior to her presentation that she felt the work she is doing now is her calling and purpose in life. She shared with the audience that through her company – Inside & O.U.T. Fitness, if she can help people get on track and learn to exercise and eat healthy, then she is glad when they go on their own.

She was generous in answering questions, and the first one was about the abusive boyfriend and the hope he was in prison. The answer was no, he served about 90 days and once he was out called her every day for about 1 ½ years. She was frightened and would report the calls to the police who had a log on his calls. She wanted to end his control over her and had been trying to forgive him. Finally she answered the phone when he called, she said he was shocked she answered, and she told him that she forgave him the abuse to herself and her sons. He never has called again.

I asked her what O.U.T. stood for – “once upon a time!” I didn’t want or need any further explanation.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Biggest Loser -- At the Halfway Point

Lifework Strategies is keeping our “official” records and they just sent me the results of our midpoint screenings.  89 participants completed both the baseline and midpoint screenings. They have recorded a total weight loss of 356 pounds or 4 pounds per participant. Here are the results of the other statistics we collected at midpoint.
I’m not confident in the validity of the waist circumference. There seemed to be inconsistencies in the measurements. For example, a coworker’s waist measurement increased 3.5 inches from the baseline to the midpoint screening then dropped 3.5 inches in the next week. In an earlier post I talked about the looseness of the standards applied to sit-ups and push-ups during the initial screenings. I think Lifeworks Strategies set a standard and held to it much more consistently at the midpoint screenings, so any progress achieved in these measures may be understated. 
We also took blood pressure readings at the midpoint assessment and these results are encouraging. 
Interestingly, our self reported weight loss numbers are slightly higher. We have 96 individuals self reporting their weights weekly. According to those records our Biggest Losers lost a total of 440 pounds in the first six weeks of our program. That’s an average of 4.5 pounds per person. One half a pound per person more than the official records indicate. Our leading team, the Healthy Divas, have lost on average 8.6 pounds per person where our lagging team lost only .6 pounds per person.  Both these teams have 9 team members, but the Healthy Divas started out weighing 345 pounds more, so they have more to lose. Rewards will be based on the percentage of weight loss and the Healthy Divas have lost an impressive 3.85% at the halfway point.
Participants just reported their Week 7 weights and I was pleased to see an 82 pound loss. We had recorded disappointing numbers three weeks in a row, so it was great to see that we’re back on track. So although the midpoint statics showed a less dramatic improvement than I had hoped, I’m still encouraged.
We will repeat all these screenings at 12 weeks when our Biggest Loser campaign officially comes to a close. At that point we’ll also be doing a blood draw to evaluate lipid panel and glucose.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Is it more effective to make radical or incremental lifestyle changes to improve your health?

There was an article in yesterday's New York Times that has brought this question to the forefront of my mind. In Obesity Epidemic, What’s One Cookie? 

Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett, the author of Waistland, advocates that radical changes are necessary and, fortunately, are biologically easier than small or gradual changes in diet. She says it's a basic physiology of substance addiction that your hormones will readjust and your cravings will diminish after you get through an initial withdrawal period. 

In Change or Die, Alan Deutschman talks about Dean Ornish who also advocates for radical change. In part, because people can actually see improvements over the course of a month that reinforce the positive lifestyle changes that they've made. It makes the healthier choices worth making. This makes me think of a quote I've seen attributed to Kate Moss. "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."

We have some people in our Biggest Loser program that have taken a radical approach. I know one person lost 18 pounds in six weeks. She has clearly done more than switch to diet soda. Another participant went from playing some golf when the weather was nice to taking an exercise class five mornings a week and then doing some cardio on his own in the afternoons. They are both in it to win it.

Other people have chosen to make some modest changes, adding one more hour of exercise a week or trying to cut back the calories they consume by ordering dressing on the side. These folks are not seeing big results and some of them are getting discouraged. Why bother making the sacrifice if you're still wearing the same size jeans?

Are the modest changes easier to sustain over time?  The article in the New York Times points out that, "Cutting out or burning just 100 extra calories a day — by replacing soda with water, say, or walking to school — can lead to significant weight loss over time: a pound every 35 days, or more than 10 pounds a year." Maybe this is a good approach if your goal is to lose 10 pounds and you are patient enough to spend a year doing it. If your goal is to lose significantly more than that though, a radical overhaul to your diet and level of activity will yield must faster results. This may make the sacrifices seem worthwhile and encourage you to keep going.

Have you made and sustained a significant lifestyle change? If so, tell me how you did it and I'll share your experience with our Biggest Losers.