When it comes to getting fit and shedding a few pounds, being a "loser" in this instance, is not a derogatory term. In fact, the Zachary city employee who is the biggest loser of unwanted pounds in a fitness challenge of about 100 participating employees, stands to win $1,000. The team that wins - from the city administration, utility, fire or police department - also receives a personal day off from work.
For those seeking a healthier lifestyle, a weigh-in kicking off the 90-day health and wellness event brought sponsors Fitness Design By Women, L.I.F.E. (Fitness Design's non-profit) and Lane Regional Medical Center's WellnessWorks converging in the City Council chambers to measure body mass index, check blood pressure, take measurements, test HDL/LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides and measure glucose levels, as well as offer tips, advice and help on all things health and fitness related.
"We wanted to bring this challenge locally," said Laura O'Brien, Fitness Design by Women owner/health expert and fitness enthusiast. "We recently spent an entire day at the Senate for a Fit to Serve challenge, where senators and state representatives participated in a health challenge, and it was very successful. Zachary City Councilman Brandon Noel thought it would be a great idea to bring the fitness challenge home."
Noel, who has been working with O'Brien on his own personal fitness journey, has already dropped 30 pounds.
More than one-third of U.S. adults (over 72 million people) are obese, reports the Center for Disease Control, and nearly a year to the date (July 7), a report ranking Louisiana as the fifth most obese state in the country was released. (According to the eighth annual F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2011, a report from the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.)
"The benefits of this fitness challenge are exponential," Councilman Noel said. "We are leaders of this city and should lead in healthy ways, as well."
Noel, Mayor David Amrhein and Police Chief David McDavid are joining nearly 100 others in Zachary in taking control of their fitness destiny and committing to a healthier lifestyle - a lifestyle in which O'Brien has dedicated her career and her own life's passion. "Being a gym owner, I realized many people work out because they can afford to, but what about the people who can't afford a gym membership?" said O'Brien. "I want to ensure that everyone, no matter their status or income level, can exercise, get fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle, even if I have to bring fitness to them."
O'Brien's Living in Fitness Everyday or L.I.F.E. - Fitness Design's non-profit - does just that...brings fitness to those who can't otherwise get it. With the help of Tonja Myles, a former client, L.I.F.E. was born.
"I had some health issues, and Laura was my trainer," Myles said, now the program coordinator and a board member for L.I.F.E. "I had experience running a non-profit, and together we realized there was a way to get done what we envisioned."
L.I.F.E.'s projects - Wellness on Wheels (W.O.W.), Plant, Pick & Eat and Fit Girl will be the focus of Part II of this health and wellness series.
*The next article will be published Wednesday, July 18.*