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Working together, losing together

Co-workers set goals and lose weight together

Co-workers set goals and lose weight together

February 13, 2006|by KRISTIN WILSON

kristinw@herald-mail.com

Employees at Hagerstown-based Tristate Electronic Manufacturing have developed some rather unusual ways to pull together and work as a team.

Their work, however, has nothing to do with manufacturing. Eight of the company's 22 employees are working together to lose weight. And lose weight they have. Since their weight-loss program began in August 2005, the group has collectively lost 70 pounds.

But they're not done yet. The first six months was "just practice," Tyler French says with a laugh.

The group's weight-loss program is a competition based on NBC's reality-based show "The Biggest Loser." Employees are weighed once a week, always on Wednesdays, and they put $1 into a communal jar each time they get weighed. If employees gain weight from the previous week, they must put 25 cents into the jar for each pound gained. Every four weeks there is a final weigh-in, and the person who loses the most weight for the month wins the jar of cash.

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Last week, French went home from work $38 richer, after she was announced the biggest loser. She beat out her co-workers by dropping 8 pounds in a month.

"I'll probably buy a new pair of jeans," French says when asked what she's going to do with her winnings. "I like to shop, so any kind of motivation to do more shopping is good."

While the Tristate employees enjoy the competition of their weight-loss club, they find most of their motivation comes from the changes they see in their bodies and in their lifestyles.

"I feel better, that's for sure," says Curt Fazenbaker, who has lost 15 pounds. "The jeans are definitely looser."

"It can be discouraging sometimes when you don't lose weight," adds Dave Denn, who has lost 22 pounds. "But you just have to keep fighting it. Plus your co-workers help you stick with it."

Denn, 36, was told by his doctor that he needed to get serious about losing weight to help with his high blood pressure. Helping Denn reach his weight-loss goal has partly spurred the group to start the competitions, says Carolyn Lane.

Between 2002 and 2004, Denn struggled to find a full-time job. He gained a lot of weight and, under constant stress, he started to experience chest pains. He's now taking medication to keep his blood pressure under control, but he shares with his co-workers how hard it is to be faced with weight-related complications.

"Now I'm paying for those two years of being down and out and stressed," Denn says. "I'm not in the shape I should be for my age, plus with the medication it doesn't take long to get winded." Still, he's sticking with an exercise program - walking his dog and using a treadmill or stationary bike most evenings. Denn's co-workers are motivated by his efforts, and he says his fellow employees help him stick with it.

"I couldn't ask for a better group of people to work with," he says.

"No cake for that comment," Fazenbaker quips.

Tristate Electronic isn't the only company encouraging employees to use the workplace as a starting point to lead more healthful lives.

In March, Summit Health, the company that operates Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals and the Summit Health Center, will kick off the "spring olympics" as a fitness challenge to its employees. Tennis, volleyball and basketball tournaments are planned as well as a healthful food cook-off, says Nickie Hockenberry, community health coordinator for the company.

To participate in the spring olympics, employees form teams with the goal of accumulating enough points to win prizes. Points are awarded based on how much individual team members exercise.

"I think, when people have a team to back them up, they're more likely to keep on track with their exercise," Hockenberry says. "We're a hospital, so we know how exercise and good nutrition help people. We want to help our employees have a healthy lifestyle."

Healthy Communities Partnership of Greater Franklin County just kicked off a 20-week challenge to county residents to "shape up," says Jan Crudden, executive director of the partnership. "Shape Up Franklin County" dovetails with the statewide program "Shape Up Pennsylvania," which runs through June 28, encouraging teams of people to lose weight and increase the time they spend being physically active.

Franklin County is participating in the competition this year for the third time and Crudden has found workplace groups are "some of the more successful teams" in sticking with the 20-week program.

"We're more and more focusing on the work site" to encourage people to participate in Shape Up Franklin County, Crudden says. "They tend to be the groups that stay together the best. If there are other people doing it, it seems to be easier to keep it going."

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