Weight Witch-ers: Salem “Losers” are big winners

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With so much focus on all that public schools lose when charter school supporters throw their weight around and try to stuff a district with schools that really do not measure up, it is nice to hear of a district in which losing is actually a good thing!

This past year, nearly 50 teachers and other staff members in Salem participated in a school-based version of the popular weight los program “The Biggest Loser.” Instead of feeling isolated (as people trying to change habits and lifestyles often do), the Salem staffers banded together, creating a good-natured and well-intended competition that ended with hundreds of pounds lost and many years of better health gained.

According to program organizer Ruthann Hart, participants are asked to pay $10 initially. At the end of the session, if a participant has not lost any weight in a given week, they are asked to put in another dollar, with a maximum expenditure of $19.

“At the end of the competition,” Hart explains, “the winner will get 70% of the pot, second place will get 20% and third place gets 10%.”

As the pay-in is small and the benefits great and as participants are able to keep their respective gains and losses anonymous, the program proved so popular that it has already been extended past its originally planned 12-week session. As each new round is started, more teachers and staff participate and more losses make for even larger benefits.

In addition to the participants gaining, the school nurses also gain by having their roles magnified and their importance to the schools and the community emphasized. In fact, as the weekly weight-ins are conducted in nurses’ offices, they have become the centerpiece of the vital program.

“I joined Biggest Loser knowing that I would not be able to exercise much this semester,” says new teacher Lauren Noyes, who notes how the demands of her first year in the classroom made it difficult to maintain healthy eating and sleeping practices. “I decided…to make better eating habits. Specifically, I ate healthier breakfasts, which I tried to prepare ahead of time. Some days, I had berries and cheese.  Sometimes mini-omelets.  While I didn’t have much of a net loss on the scale, I feel healthier and more in control of my health.”