MARQUETTE - Twelve weeks, 280 regular participants and 759 pounds lost. The Healthy Weight Journal Community Wellness Challenge wrapped up last Thursday, celebrating the successes of all the participants who spent the summer eating and exercising their way toward healthier lifestyles.
The program challenged community teams from Gwinn, Ishpeming, Marquette and Negaunee to log how many servings of fruits and vegetables they were eating (at least five per day) and how many minutes of exercise they fit into their schedules.
"The people who kept track were very successful," said George Sedlacek of the Marquette County Health Department and one of the team leaders.
Gwinn team members cheer their victory in the Healthy Weight Journal last week. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Of the 280 regular participants, 98 people recorded 1,800 minutes of exercise over the 12 weeks. Sixty participants consumed over 300 cups of fruits and vegetables. Twenty-seven of the program participants lost 10 pounds or more.
For Suzanne Price of Marquette, taking part in the Healthy Weight Journal helped her lose 37 pounds.
"This program was awesome," Price said, adding she felt she would not have been as successful in losing weight on her own.
The challenge asked participants to not only log their activities and food, but also offered weekly group meetings that provided nutritional information and hour-long exercise sessions with YMCA trainers.
"We would work with the trainer. What she taught us I would try to incorporate at home," Price said. "They were key for me."
Mostly through regular walking and the added strength training, Price said she saw the weight come off, putting her within 7 pounds of a healthy Body Mass Index rating.
"If I can do it, anybody can do it," she said, adding she planned to use what she learned during the challenge to continue her weight loss.
The competition aspect of the challenge helped get the teams excited about weekly meetings and cheerfully trying to outdo other communities. That competition can be carried over even now that the challenge is done.
"The challenge made it a lot of fun," said Patricia Smith, a dietitian with Marquette General Hospital who helped coach several of the teams. "But what I think is really important is that your competition is your old self. You're working to better yourself."
Participants said being in the challenge motivated them to pay more attention to what they were eating and how they were spending their time.
"It made me very aware of eating better than I ever have," said Marquette team participant Chris Belanger. "Now it's in my (daily) program."
Organizers of the challenge said they were pleased to see how well it was received and how hard participants worked.
"All the participants have been amazing," said Jane Hutchins of The Mining Journal. "We're so happy this has come to this point."
An important aspect of the challenge is that the tools provided can be used by anyone to improve their health.
"A lot of people make it so complicated. What's nice about this program is it's so basic," said Brett Peterson, a Bell Hospital dietitian. "All these things are basic tools you can use to lose weight."
Organizers of the challenge will be meeting in the coming weeks to discuss the future of the challenge and how it can become a sustainable program for the area.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.