Sharon Tate made the same New Year’s resolution each year for 15 years — to lose weight. It’s the same resolution that millions of other Americans make every year, along with getting more exercise and quitting smoking.
But in 2010 Tate not only kept her resolution, she made up for the years when she hadn’t by losing more than 72 pounds. The difference? She had some help along the way.
“I’d done all kinds of diets before like the Atkins diet; diet pills when I was younger; joined gyms and I owned a lot of exercise equipment that I never used and had to give away,” said Tate, 42. ” It would all work a little, but I didn’t have any direction or any program and I’d start feeling deprived and I’d give up.”
Tate’s success story started at her place of employment — Blue Shield of California in El Dorado Hills. In 2008 Blue Shield launched a comprehensive, integrated wellness program for its employees called Wellvolution.
“We noticed we had a population at Blue Shield that was challenged with risk factors and it was a problem for their health and our costs,” said Cathy Murphy, Blue Shield of California vice president of Human Resource Operations and Wellvolution. “We developed a program that meets people where they are, gives them the tools they need to make changes and goes there with them — providing environmental, social and leadership support.”
Taking advantage of one of the many Wellvolution programs, Tate and five or six of her co-workers formed a team, “Campwannawinnapriza,” to get moving and to eat healthier in July 2009.
The team underwent a biometric screening as part of the program, had a physical from their own physicians and set an achievable goal of walking 50,000 steps a week, breaking it down to 10,000 steps a day. They walked the track at Blue Shield together or individually and walked after work at home, tracking their steps on a spreadsheet. Once a week they met at work and shared healthy snacks and receipes. By September Tate’s clothes were getting loose and she got on the scale for the first time in a long time.
“I’d lost 20 pounds,” Tate said, “and that was a big bonus since weight loss wasn’t the goal.” Wanting to continue her progress through the holidays she shunned all holiday cookies and treats, including chocolate. ” It was my heroin,” said Tate, “and I gave it up cold turkey.”
Healthier foods in the cafeteria and in vending machines, walk stations so employees can walk while doing their jobs, workout rooms, online classes in stress and financial management, clinical and financial support for smoking cessation, health days off and a reduction in insurance premiums for those participating in one of the Wellvolution programs were part of the environmental support offered at Blue Shield that facilitated Tate’s choices. Then she joined the Weight Watchers At Work Program and lost 52 pounds.
“I knew nothing about Weight Watchers and I was skeptical,” said Tate. “I would never have joined Weight Watchers out in my community, but I tried it because it was available at work and that made it easy.”
Tate learned about portion control and didn’t have to give up her favorite foods — she just counted their point value and figured out when she could eat what she liked and how much. “I went for a few weeks before deciding on an achievable goal for myself and we also tracked a group weight loss goal of thousands of pounds.”
Besides losing 72 pounds and dropping from a size 16 to a size 6, the Cameron Park mother and wife has noticed other changes. Her blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels have all dropped; her resting heart rate has greatly improved. Her elliptical machine gets a workout every day and she’s not only joined a gym, but her family goes to the gym as well.
“My daughter, who is 9, never liked exercise before,” said Tate. “Now she’s taking kick-boxing classes at the gym and playing volleyball and basketball. Because I take her to the gym. I get on the treadmill there and my son and husband use the gym too.”
Her husband who cooks most of the family meals has adjusted his cooking style.
“He’s from the South,” said Tate, “and cooks everything with bacon and grease. Now he’s careful about not using it when he cooks for me.”
As he is diabetic, the new foods in the house are helping him as well. Both her 14- year-old son and her daughter know the point values of most foods and help Tate keep track. They also check with her about dinner choices to make sure they are foods Tate can eat. Healthy foods are now a regular part of her grocery list.
Tate’s advice for those considering making a New Year’s resolution to lose weight?
“Join a group and make a goal,” said Tate. “It’s much more likely that you’ll be successful with a group with the same goal than doing it on your own. And weight loss isn’t a short term thing; it’s a lifestyle and needs a commitment.”
She plans to lose another 5 pounds in January, after the holidays. “I let myself have an occasional treat now, but last year during the holidays I wouldn’t touch anything. I knew one piece of cake would make me backpedal. Now I have more confidence in myself.”