Obesity is a leading cause of preventable death, and more than 60 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese.
That’s why when Bonnie Barczykowski asked SSM DePaul Health Center to partner with her in a weight loss challenge in the fall of 2010, SSM jumped at the chance to get involved. Barczykowski owns several Curves’ locations in the St. Louis area.
“We were very excited,” SSM spokesperson Rachel Peine said. “The program she proposed did not advocate any particular method of weight loss, but provided the accountability and motivation that people need to make healthy changes.”
At that time, it was called the North County Lose to Win Challenge, and sponsors included SSM DePaul Health Center, Curves, the Suburban Journal and the YMCA.
“We created a website, Facebook page and Twitter site to help publicize the program but also to create a weight loss community and provide regular motivation,” she said. “We publicized the challenge in the Suburban Journals (our media sponsor) and through flyers, posters and word-of-mouth.
The first launch at SSM DePaul was held in January of 2011. Peine said that more than 300 participants participated.
“Together, they lost over 2,000 pounds and the feedback was incredible,” she said. “We were already getting calls from individuals who lived outside of North County but who wanted to participate. So we decided it was time to expand the program so that we could impact more people.”
"We also expanded this from a SSM DePaul sponsorship to one that included all of SSM Health Care – St. Louis, with weigh-in sites at each of our adult hospitals," she said. "For this past challenge, which began in September and ended in December, we maxed out at over 1,100 registrations in just 3 days and had to stop taking registrations."
Peine noted that only 860 people actually started the program, and that there is generally a 20 percent non-completion rate among participants.
“We have dozens of weigh-in sites across St. Charles and St. Louis Counties,” she said. “At the end of the last challenge, participants who completed the program lost a total of more than 4,000 pounds.”
Meet a Winner
Angelia Kemp, a mom of two who works part-time and is working on her teaching degree, said she decided to join Lose to Win to get herself under control. She took second place in the most recent Lose to Win Challenge.
“I had lost 26 pounds before joining but I was at a standstill,” Kemp said. “I needed the weekly weigh-ins to keep me on track.”
She said that during the program, she changed her habits and her diet. Before the program, she said she ate two large meals a day, the first around 4 p.m. and the second on her way home from work at 11 p.m.
“Fast food five nights a week, then I’d go directly to bed,” she said. “I started eating six small meals a day with the first in the morning with my sons. Then I’d eat again every three hours.”
Kemp said that in addition to changing her eating habits, she joined a gym and went every morning.
“I would spend about 90 minutes doing cardio machines,” she said. “After about eight weeks, I started doing the classes and even signed up for five personal training sessions so I could learn how to weight lift.”
During the program, Kemp said she went from 251.5 pounds to 188 at her last weigh-in.
“Before the program, I weighed 277 in February of 2011,” she said. “I am happy to say that I have made it through the holidays and I am now at 178.”
Kemp said she plans to lose 35 to 45 more pounds, depending on how she feels when she gets closer to her goal weight. She has gone from a size 24 to a size 10.
A Veteran’s Advice
Kemp said that in order to succeed in losing weight, you have to make yourself a priority.
“Exercise is a must and it is easier with a buddy or a group to stick with it,” she said. “Make small goals and do not have them all be based on weight loss.”
She said one of her goals during the challenge was to run a 10K, which she successfully did halfway through the program in week six.
She said that keeping a food journal, weekly weigh-ins and realizing that this is not a diet, but a new way of life were key in her success.
“And most important is not to beat yourself up about missing a workout or overeating at a meal,” Kemp said. “It does not mean you can never have pie or pizza again, but when you do make sure that you adjust your eating for that day to allow it.”
She added that even when her husband teased her about not eating pie at Thanksgiving dinner in November, she wasn’t deterred from her goals.
“I told him the truth about how I felt about that pie,” she said. “Becoming healthy and thinner felt so much better than that pie could ever taste.”
Learn more and get involved
The kick-off and celebration events will be held at SSM hospitals, and Peine said participants will be offered a number of healthy resources and classes provided by SSM Healthcare and its sponsors, in addition to free blood pressure and body fat/BMI screenings.
While the program is volunteer-run and has no paid personnel, there is a $10 fee to participate. The funds are used to offset the costs of the contest, including printed materials, health screenings and prizes.
“We also find that charging a nominal fee increases the commitment level of participants to the program,” Peine added. “This program is designed to improve the quality of life for residents in the St. Louis and St. Charles region and help them lose the weight they need to become healthy.”
Pre-registration for the next challenge began this morning at 8 a.m., and space will be limited to the first 1,200 entrants.
To pre-register or to learn more, visit the St. Louis Lose to Win Challenge website.