ADDISON – Domtar knows its employees are its best asset, and it will do everything possible to keep them happy and healthy.
That’s why Beverly Simek, human resource and safety adviser at the company’s Addison location, brought in NutriFit, owned by Glen Ellyn resident Cathy Leman, to present the 12-Week Take Charge Challenge, which is a comprehensive nutrition, fitness and wellness program.
“This isn’t a weight-loss contest,” Simek said. “It’s about how to get stronger, better and healthier at your own pace. This is about a lifestyle change, not losing weight. She’s giving us the tools to make healthier choices.”
Leman, who is a registered dietitian and has a master’s degree in health psychology, will meet with the employees every Thursday through July 2, with each week focusing on a different topic.
The program kicked off April 16, and employees weighed in and got their measurements taken. Simek said most of the employees are very excited about the program.
“The employees seem to respect her [Leman] and have asked a lot of questions and really seem to listen to her,” she said. “[Leman] doesn’t preach or judge or shame you for what you eat, and the employees really feel comfortable talking to her.”
Joe Boyd, Domtar plant manager, is hoping to learn more about nutrition to help him achieve his goal of running a marathon. He hopes that Leman shows the employees how important nutrition is for living a longer, healthier life.
“We’re a close-knit bunch,” Boyd said. “This is about caring for our employees, and if we can positively affect one or two people, that’s an accomplishment.”
Simek said Domtar’s corporate headquarters promotes employee health and wellness through various programs and incentives, but she wanted employees to feel more connected to a local resource. After “digging around,” Simek found NutriFit.
“I wanted someone the employees can get to know and trust,” she said. “[Leman] is very easy to talk to, and she’s very warm and concerned. You can tell she loves what she does, and she loves to get people healthier. “
Leman said the topics she plans to focus on over the next three months include emotional eating, how to eat healthy in social situations or dining out and how to fit in exercise. Every week, the employees will have “homework,” which Leman said includes things like food journals and creating a change plan worksheet.
“I’m trying to focus on behavior, awareness and thought patterns so people can be as healthy as possible,” Leman said. “If we get people to lose weight on this program, that’s great. But it’s more about health and prevention.”
Leman said preventing disease is highly emphasized in her program because she said it often takes a crisis or health scare for people to want to make a lifestyle change.
“Prevention is huge. I want people to take better care of themselves before they get to a crisis point,” she said. “People need to make self-care non-negotiable. Especially women, they tend to put themselves at the bottom of the list.”
Leman attributes unhealthy lifestyles to society and a fast-paced environment. She believes people have the knowledge to make healthy changes but don’t always have the tools or time to put that into practice in their daily lives.
“People have to value above all else what it means to take care of yourself and making the commitment to stay healthy takes effort,” she said. “A lot of people have unhealthy relationships with food and use it for punishment, celebration or as a coping mechanism rather than for fuel for their body.”
Leman began NutriFit in 1998 and works with individual clients, as well as with corporations, on wellness programs.
“When I first started, corporate wellness programs weren’t common,” she said. “But this is a wonderful thing to do for employees. When they’re healthier, the workplace is happier.”
Leman said both Boyd and Simek have been very supportive of her program because they know how important it is to have healthy employees.
“I’m really looking forward to the next 12 weeks and getting to know these people and having them get to know me,” she said. “I get to see them every week for three months and keep them accountable and focused on the goal, which is the more people take care of themselves with fitness and nutrition, the better off they’ll be. It’s powerful stuff.”