Dec. 4, 2012—Jessica Lenhardt, billing production technician in the Bursar's office, will soon celebrate her one-year anniversary using the Weigh and Win program offered by the University of Denver's health care provider Kaiser Permanente and well@du, the new employee wellness program. Yet Jessica's remarkable story of wellness started several months before she signed up for the program.
The birth of her second child, a daughter, in February 2011 inspired Jessica to change.
"I wanted to be a role model for my daughter in terms of self-esteem and body image," Jessica says. "I asked myself if my daughter would be proud of me when she got older, but my body mass index was 50, I had type 2 diabetes and I knew the answer was no."
She started changing her diet soon after the birth, with an original goal of losing "baby weight" from two pregnancies. When she returned to work in June 2011, she put more structure around her wellness transformation. A co-worker mentioned the Weigh and Win program later that year, and Jessica signed up. By that time, she had lost 60 pounds and had achieved not only her first goal, but a second goal she set to get her weight under 200 pounds.
"I had reached a plateau, and the idea of getting paid to continue losing weight sounded great," she says. Weigh and Win rewards quarterly cash incentives to participants who start out with a BMI above 25, and go on to successfully lose weight and improve their BMI. All Weigh and Win participants are eligible for monthly prize drawings.
This month, Jessica will mark one year as a regular Weigh and Win participant. She has earned more than $250 and is sure to earn the maximum cash incentive from the program. Since beginning her journey in early 2011, she has lost half her body weight, cut her BMI to 24.6, normalized her blood sugar, and through her example, helped others such as her husband and daycare provider. Her husband has lost 40 pounds even though he didn't start out with a weight-loss goal; her daycare provider began her own wellness program based on Jessica's example, and has so far lost 20 pounds.
"I have more energy, and in the last year I've had about a third fewer sick days," she says. "I do cheat now and then, but I've learned to move on and not stress about it, which actually helps keep me on track."
Jessica shares some secrets to her success:
- Break it down—Jessica set what she calls little goals, and as she reached each one, set a new goal. "I never set out to lose half my body weight, which would have seemed unattainable if I had made that my goal."
- Write it down—She notes that it's one thing to set goals, but writing them down makes you accountable. And speaking of writing, she strongly recommends keeping a food journal and checking calorie counts instead of assuming something that appears healthy is a good choice.
- Mix it up—Jessica stays motivated by changing her workout routine every few months. "Exercising was a chore when I started, but I took it one day at a time, and broke it down to as few as 10 minutes at a time to make it doable for me. Eventually I got up to as much as a total of two hours a day."
Jessica's most recent challenge was competing in a CrossFit challenge Nov. 10. "I never thought I could do something like this; it makes me proud of me."