This is the second article in a two-part series documenting my experience as a participant in MVP Health Care’s No Gain, Maintain Winter Challenge at Skidmore College.
Christmas, New Year’s, my birthday, and what feels like 74 days of January. In reality, I stepped on a scale only six weeks ago as part of MVP Health Care’s No Gain, Maintain Winter Challenge at Skidmore College. On January 30, 2018, I joined my 63 fellow participants to face the music for the final weigh-in (cue the music – dum dum duuuuuum). My mind started to race. Had I stayed within five pounds from my initial weigh-in? I remembered the glass of wine I drank that past Saturday evening; the chips and salsa I shared with a friend out to lunch while we waited for our tacos; my birthday cake. I shouldn’t have had that second piece of cake. Dawn Larlee, a senior clinical account manager at MVP Health Care, is the face behind the No Gain, Maintain Challenge at Skidmore College. She greets me with a knowing smile. Does she know that I am nervous to weigh-in?
In retrospect participating in this challenge reset my health button. For example, I am more conscious about what I eat at work: the donuts in the office kitchen or the apple I smartly put in my bag. Now, this is a trick question. Of course I want to eat the donut. Instead, I choose the apple (although it helps that all the glazed donuts have already been consumed by others). As the six weeks ticked by it became easier to say no thanks to the bad stuff and a bit easier to say yes to the good stuff. Larlee echoes this message by reiterating that the challenge encourages “healthy habits to stick.” She said, “The challenge was timed to sync with New Year’s resolutions and catching participants at a time when behavior change and beginning healthy habits is fresh on their mind,” she said. “If we can align our wellness initiatives with those factors, the hope is that people will be willing to stick with the end goal and along the way, see a transformation in their health.” The timing of the challenge could not have been more perfect in my life.
Prior to the challenge I was a yo-yo dieter. I checked out Weight Watchers, Slim Fast and low-carb meal plans. I admit Slim Fast shakes don’t taste terrible (I chose the chocolate), but it’s tough to feel full after drinking lunch in literally 35 seconds. I would forget to count my points using Weight Watchers and as Oprah says: “I love bread!” I wasn’t surprised when none of these diets worked for me. MVP Health Care’s Challenge doesn’t promote a quick loss of weight, but instead encourages lifestyle changes. “Consistency is key to keeping weight off,” Larlee said. “The reason why some people fail at maintaining their weight is because they follow unrealistic diets or exercise plans that are not feasible in the long term. Setbacks are inevitable and there may be times when you give in to an unhealthy craving or skip a workout but its ok…tomorrow is another day and we are all human.” Larlee’s words felt like a hug. Yes, we are all human. We make mistakes. Tomorrow will be a better day.
Winter will someday end. Flowers will replace snow. I will not wait for spring to lace up my sneakers and get outside. I’m bundling up and walking during my lunch breaks, even if I can only manage 15 minutes away from my desk. Mom? Friends? Who is going to bundle up and walk with me? I need someone to lovingly tell me to stop whining and take the big hill on Skidmore’s loop road. Larlee stresses that it is hard to maintain weight-loss goals alone. “One strategy to overcome this is to find a support system that will hold you accountable and possibly partner up with you in your healthy lifestyle,” she said. Walking with a co-worker during lunch, packing a lunch instead of eating out, and weekend workouts while playing outside with children are all simple things to incorporate into a busy life. Larlee is willing to remain a resource to Skidmore College employees in the months to come. She is hoping to implement a Couch to 5k program, which encourages people to gradually train their way to competing in a 5k race. Sign me up!
As I stood in line with my colleagues, waiting to take my turn on the scale, I kept hearing the same word over and over again in various side conversations: accountability. It is a powerful word. I gained a pound. However, I maintained my weight and so did all of my fellow participants. According to Larlee, all participants maintained their weight within five pounds. Larlee reported: 36 of the 63 participants LOST weight during the six week challenge – that means 57 percent of those that weighed less in the end. This is great, considering it was not a weight loss challenge. Most participants stated to Larlee that the emails they received weekly and the feeling of accountability helped to keep their focus on healthy behaviors. In total 114 pounds were lost.
In the scheme of things, I will own the pound I gained. That pound is the result of stressful nights doing work late into the early morning hours, graduate school, and writing for the newspaper. The pound represents going out to dinner with my family to Friendly’s this past Sunday and saying yes to the Happy Ending Sundae (with peanut butter ice cream and whip cream – hold the cherry). It is about accountability, but it is also about living life. I’ve learned from the No Gain, Maintain Winter Challenge that I can do both. As Larlee said, “Everything in moderation seems to work well for most people as long as they keep their eye on the end goal of making healthy choices “most of the time.”
Emily Marcason-Tolmie, a Saratoga native, is a writer, researcher, wife and mother. Emily and her husband, Ryan, are the parents to two wonderful little boys, ages 4 and 1.