DHS loses 2 tons through ‘Choose to Lose’ program

Davis Health System’s commitment to improving the health of its employees and the entire community takes many forms, from smoking cessation and health screenings to encouraging activity and weight loss.

One great example of these outreach efforts is the “Choose to Lose” Weight Loss Program, which has seen employees lose more than 4,000 pounds in the past four years through a variety of customizable options.

“‘Choose to Lose’ is one of our most dramatic and successful programs,” said Wellness Coordinator Marjory Moses, who designs the campaign with input from registered dietician Jim Severino. “For the past four years, all Davis Health System employees have been able to enroll in a three-month, team weight loss challenge with cash rewards at the end for the ‘biggest losers.’ We emphasize sound, evidence-based nutritional plans and a steady ‘diet’ of physical activity.”

The approach clearly works. In the past four years, 658 employees have participated in the campaign. They have lost an amazing total of 4,753 pounds, an average of more than seven pounds per person during the three-month period.

Those figures include records of 186 people and 1,506 pounds for 2013.

“Each year our ‘biggest losers’ lost more than 25 pounds each,” Moses noted. “But one of the most important things is that employees learn what works and how lifestyle change really is key. They cut down on portion sizes, gave up pop, cut down on bread and sweets, exercised more. These are simple things we all can do. And for most of us, those need to be changes we stick with to keep the weight off. That’s what we mean by lifestyle change.”

Moses sends participants weekly updates with exercise plans, healthy eating and other tips, and Davis Health System offers cash prizes to those individuals and teams that lose the most weight. The benefits go well beyond the financial incentives, however.

“I discovered that for me to lose weight, I had to cut back the amount of carbohydrates I was consuming and replace those with lean proteins and lots of fresh vegetables,” said Julie Phillips, registered nurse educator for Women’s HealthCare. “I tried to keep foods in their simplest forms – fresh and unprocessed. Not only did I begin losing weight, but I actually felt better!”

Carolyn Bell, who works at the DMH Pain Clinic, was one of the top weight loss winners. She attributed her success to “exercise and smaller portions with more veggies.” Bell added she plans to keep the weight off with “continued walking and diet control.”

Moses said technology is helping people track their food intake and exercise regimens. Gyvonne Harper and Leslie Elmore both recommend the “Lose It” app for smartphones, which helps encourage them to increase exercise throughout the week. Other participants use pedometers to track their steps and push to increase the number each week.

Leadership for healthy lifestyles and behaviors comes from the top at Davis Health System, Moses said.

“Our CEO, Mark Doak, offers top-down support for the program and is a role model for healthy weight and regular moderate exercise,” she said. “He believes it’s important to help employees – especially in a health care setting – learn how to make healthy choices both on and off the job.”

Flexibility is a key for the weight loss program in particular. Moses said this year participants were encouraged to choose one (or more) system to help them reach or maintain a healthy weight. Options included calorie counting, portion control, entire food plan makeovers and burning more calories.

“Our basic message can be summed up as eat less and move more – every day – to reach a healthy weight,” Moses said. “But an important component is making better food choices. This year, with our ‘Choose to Lose’ program, we really emphasized eating more ‘real’ food – vegetables in particular – and less processed food of all kinds. If your regular diet is nothing but junk food and you eat less of it, you can still lose weight, but you won’t necessarily get healthier. The ideal would be that all your calories are high quality – you really are what you eat, so even when you have snacks and treats, you can choose something that offers you good nutrition.”

Weight loss initiatives are just one part of the overall Community and Wellness Program at Davis Health System. Other aspects, many of which are open to the public as well as employees, include smoking cessation, the popular 100 Miles in 100 Days exercise program, diabetes education, stress management and much more.

For more information on how you can improve your lifestyle, call Moses at 304-637-3139.