Employees Maintain, Lose Weight Over Holidays

Annual holiday program helped faculty and staff make healthy choices

The holiday season has never been easy for Heather Tipaldos, with chocolates, cakes and sugary sweets being shared at parties and by coworkers.

This year was a little different.

Tipaldos, along with about 500 other Duke faculty and staff, took part in Duke's annual Maintain Don't Gain program. It was Tipaldos' first time in Maintain Don't Gain, which offers helpful information, healthy recipes and more over the holiday season from November to New Year's. Participants submitted weight each week to "check in." It worked so well for Tipaldos, she lost two pounds over the eight-week program.

"I need somebody who's looking over my shoulder that I have to answer to," said Tipaldos, administrative director at Duke's Population Research Institute. "As I was going around to parties with friends and family, I had Maintain Don't Gain in the back of my brain saying `Heather, you're going to have to report what is going on if you gain weight.' "

Of the roughly 500 employees who participated in Maintain Don't Gain, 88 percent reported maintaining their normal weight within two pounds during the holiday season. A third of participants said weekly email reminders from LIVE FOR LIFE, Duke's wellness program which sponsored Maintain Don't Gain, kept them on track.

"The most-used strategy we saw from employees was creating ways to eat healthy, despite all the junk food available to them," said Liz Grabosky, fitness manager with LIVE FOR LIFE. "It's easy to do that by eating before a party so you feel full or simply focusing on fruits and vegetables instead of desserts."

It wasn't just a focus on eating - Tipaldos also tried new ways to prepare food, like using apple sauce as a sweetener instead of butter or sugar. She also tried yoga for the first time.

"I'm glad I did Maintain Don't Gain because it seemed like holiday food was worse for you than ever this year," Tipaldos said. "The program helped me stay focused."

Ultimately, Grabosky said, it's a matter of keeping health and wellness choices simple so focus can stay on what matters most.

"By maintaining exercise and eating routines throughout a time of year when many find it easy to break habits, it keeps you healthy and your stress low," she said. "Since stress has a relationship to eating, it's easy to combat holiday weight gain."