In annual fitness challenge, less is indeed the better fit

By on April 6, 2017
Pictured are Garden Spot team members (from left) Jodi Lefever, Lauren Graber, Christine Smith, Carla Adams, Fred Brownlee, Tonya Coon, Ginger Beiler, Linda Dodge, and Melissa Freed. Brownlee is a father of six girls and doesn’t mind being the only male in the challenge. Photos by Michele Walter Fry

Pictured are Garden Spot team members (from left) Jodi Lefever, Lauren Graber, Christine Smith, Carla Adams, Fred Brownlee, Tonya Coon, Ginger Beiler, Linda Dodge, and Melissa Freed. Brownlee is a father of six girls and doesn’t mind being the only male in the challenge. Photos by Michele Walter Fry

It’s an unusual competition when the teams involved are seriously trying to lose the most.

But this isn’t an athletic contest and these teams are not vying to lose points —they’re geared up to lose pounds and get stronger in the process.

Teams of committed individuals have psyched up for the Fifth Annual 10 Pound Throwdown Challenge, a Wellspan Health Initiative, rallying co-workers and friends around making healthier choices to their daily lives.

The challenge seems specific by the title, but participants aren’t necessarily goaded to lose 10 pounds, but instead help each other in changing eating habits and being more active as part of a lifestyle.

The challenge started last week and will continue until the end of May.

If there is one team that has the most up against them as far as a challenge, it’s Garden Spot Village, made up of employees. From one end of a building to the other, they daily encounter heavenly aromas of restaurants, creameries, cafeterias, functions being set up with food. Food is everywhere.

Lauren Graber, director of wellness and team captain, admitted to wearing horizontal stripes for the “before” photo, possibly to make herself look leaner in the “after” challenge photo.

She had lots of advice, and what stood out was to concentrate on getting in shape first, and then try to lose weight —not the other way around, or to do both together. This way, one doesn’t step on the scale after a low — calorie eating day to see the number has gone up.

“You have to exercise and eat healthy,” said Graber. “You pick one of them the first month. Either exercise or eat healthier. I suggest exercise because you’ll feel better and then you’ll make better choices. It’s a stress reliever.

“You have to put it on the calendar, getting it into your schedule and sticking to it. Treat it like any other appointment. If you can’t do it at a certain time, you have to reschedule it.”

What is the 10 Pound Throwdown Challenge?

Participants have access to weekly healthy living tips, tracking tools, progress charts. Each week, there are two mini-challenges where participants can earn a badge for reaching their goals. Team captains keep participants motivated for accountability with healthy eating and physical activity. Weight is also tracked.

Prizes motivate participants

Individuals who earn both healthy eating and physical activity badges are eligible to be in a weekly raffle drawing.

Six participants will receive prizes from a grand prize raffle at the end of the challenge.

Teams get prizes based on the greatest percentage of weight loss at the end. The employer or friend group with the greatest percentage weight loss will receive the “traveling” trophy.

Garden Spot participants share their goals and problem areas

At 34, Melissa Freed is the youngest on the team. She’s a homemaker in skilled nursing.

“I prepare meals for 20 residents,” said Freed. “We’re encouraged to taste-test everything and I don’t have a problem doing that! Weight has been an issue my whole life.”

Freed said it’s depressing to see photographs of herself and has gone through weight loss and gain before.

“Coming from over 250 pounds and size 24, I went down to a size 10/12 on my own,” said Freed. “For me it’s not really a number but how I feel. I have three children and I just want to be healthy and active with them for as long as possible.”

For Freed, it’s not about being “skinny.”

“I want to feel good about myself,” “When I was in my 20s, it was more of a self-image. I want to look good and I would rather had been a certain weight. A lot of illnesses run in my family — cancer, diabetes, heart failure — and if I can hold that off as much as possible, I’ll do the best I can.”

Freed is not afraid of exercise.

“Today I can tell I did not exercise, my mood is different,” said Freed.

Linda Dodge is the fundraiser for Garden Spot and has been preparing to walk the Garden Spot Half Marathon.

“If you would have told me 30 or 40 years ago, that I’d be walking a half marathon, I would have laughed,” said Dodge. “It’s a beautiful and peaceful course. A lot of people don’t think they could do it, but they’d be surprised.”

Dodge, in her 60s, has chosen to follow the 17 Day Diet recommended by her doctor, Jacqueline Evans, gynecologic oncologist.

“My cancer doctor is the one who shared with me that this is a healthy diet to do,” said Dodge.

“It starts out as low carbs and eating two fruits before 2 p.m. and you go through a phase of 17 days and then in the next 17 days, you can add more back in,” said Dodge. “And you go through another 17 days. You reach the point where you can eat almost anything.”

Fred Brownlee drives residents to appointments, shopping, and the airport.

“About 10 years ago, I weighed 215 or so and I was able to get down to 195 and I’d like to get to 185 and I keep struggling with that, it’s not movin’,” said Brownlee. “This will be a good incentive.”

Lauren Graber said the retirement community tried “Biggest Loser” but said she found out that in a team, people are more successful.

Graber also said that it takes three weeks to form a habit.

The Cocalico team was started by a group of friends

Lorenzo Bonura is from Ephrata and owner of Two Cousins Pizza in Reamstown.

“I want to get in shape with some friends and make smarter choices,” said Bonura. “Weight has always been a struggle, and if we do it all together, it will be easier. I plan to stick with it this time, keep doing what we are doing. In my case, I need to find a healthier stress food to eat.”

Bonura says working in a restaurant is not the problem and there are a lot of good choices at his restaurant for people trying to lose weight such as salads, wraps, and tuna.

He lost 89 pounds in the Biggest Loser challenge at the Ephrata Rec Center.

“It’s hard to stay on,” said Bonura. “It’s a life change. Being that I’m only 30, I want to be around for my kids.”

Amy Bock is from Reinholds.

“I’m doing this because my boss talked me in to it,” joked Bock, referring to Bonura. “I’m supporting my friends because I want to get my own self-motivated.”

Bonura joked that Bock wants to get a “Melania Trump body.”

As a busy mother, community volunteer, and worker, Bock is looking forward to using this challenge time for herself.

Melissa Gordner echoed Bock in that they are busy working and raising families.

“We’re going to support each other and I want to learn better recipes and healthier living for my family,” said Gordner. “It’s too easy to pop frozen breaded chicken in the oven.”

Sandy Roth is a well-known fitness instructor in the Cocalico area.

“Basically, I get people moving,” said Roth. “Be out, be healthy, look forward to something. It will be a little competitive with the challenges between the teams.”

Roth is team captain and is eager to motivate her friends and have them keep her accountable for her choices in eating as well.

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