Manatee County YWeight? program totaled 5.4 tons in lost weight

vmannix@bradenton.comOctober 25, 2012 

PALMETTO -- They acted and sounded like a game show audience, but their enthusiasm was for something quite important.

Their health.

Between 75 and 100 Manatee County employees cheered and waved on cue at the Bradenton Area Convention Center last week. They were being recorded via Skype for part of "The Doctors," a daily talk show on CBS.

The segment -- "100,000 Pound Weight Loss Secrets" -- will air today at 3 p.m.

It will include a glimpse at Manatee County's successful yearlong and ongoing YWeight program that promotes a proactive means to healthy living and weight loss and drew the show's attention.

Of 2,138 participants, 996 lost 10,875 pounds -- a combined 5.4 tons -- an average of 10.9 pounds per person.

They did it through a regimen of diet and exercise, augmented by constant communication, weekly reminders and tips, workshops and programs.

"Everybody here should be thrilled about what we've done," said Wendy Kilby, a utility department worker and one of two people who dropped more than 70 pounds.

The results are impressive:

n Two people lost between 60 and 69 pounds.

n 17 lost between 35 and 59 pounds.

n 225 lost between 10 and 14.9 pounds.

n Almost 340 people lost at least 2 percent of their body weight and 1,033 lost 5 percent or more.

Consequently, the county saw an overall drop in preventative Type II diabetes. Cholesterol and blood pressure numbers are down, too.

"There's a real sense of accomplishment and camaraderie at work and you can see that in people's faces," said Kim Stroud, the county employee health benefits manager.

Vicki Comarsh-White lost nearly 40 pounds.

"It's gone, I've got good habits and goals and I'm not going to gain that weight back," said the Lena Road landfill scale operator.

Rob Brown lost 55 pounds after weighing 250 for almost a decade.

He couldn't have done it alone.

"The issue is it's difficult to lose weight by yourself," said the natural resources department division manager. "Here everybody's in on it, a big support mechanism to help you."

The YWeight program was an offshoot of the county's shifting emphasis toward prevention and risk assessments for controlling health care costs, guiding the employee health plan and creating an environment that puts good health at the forefront.

"When we started this program last October, I questioned what would be the outcome," Stroud said. "We had over 3,000 people initiate interest, but we were crossing our fingers in July when we had our weigh-out. When we saw how many came back, we were excited."

That includes Ed Hunzeker, the county administrator, who dropped eight pounds.

"I'm so proud of everybody here, what they've accomplished and the money they've saved the taxpayers and the county," he said.

According to Christine Fritz, the wellness programs/communications coordinator, the initiative was amplified with "health bucks."

YWeight participants could earn up to $400 in health bucks if they maintained a healthy body mass index or if they lost a certain percentage percent of body weight.

Those health bucks could be used to reduce insurance premiums or drawn from a spending account for medical expenses like co-pays.

"People are always trying to lose weight and this program provided an incentive to participate," Fritz said.

Financial incentives notwithstanding, nothing beat feeling better and looking better, too.

Take it from Wendy Kilby, who was proudly flexing her 'guns' with sister Darlene Weatherby, a parks & recreation employee.

"I did the gym and bootcamps and Zumbas, dieticians and nutritionists," she said. "It's been a process, but it's a great process."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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