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NutriFit program challenges Addison employees to take charge of health

ADDISON – The results are in and Cathy Leman, owner of Glen Ellyn-based NutriFit, couldn’t be prouder of the employees at Domtar in Addison.

They recently completed the Take Charge Challenge, a fitness and nutrition program that not only helped Domtar employees lose weight, but also taught valuable lessons that will help them stay healthy.

“I know we made a difference in their lives and I am very pleased,” Leman said. “When we change behavior, which was our goal and our outcome, it will serve them best in the long term. We know that by changing behaviors and elevating lifestyle habits, you get the biggest return.”

The 12-week challenge began in April and ended July 2. The participants had the option having their weight and measurements taken at the first meeting and also at the last meeting.

Leman said the 17 employees who had both starting and ending measurements taken lost an average of six pounds and reduced their blood pressure by double-digits.

“I had them create personal goals, and told them to find their ‘why,’” Leman said. “I wanted them to find what drives them. I wanted them to think about what makes a happier, healthier work force that leads to higher productivity.”

Every week, Leman or one of her colleagues held a program for Domtar’s employees that focused on a different health or nutrition topic. Leman said the focus of the program wasn’t on weight loss, but on changing behaviors.

The meetings were voluntary, but Leman said a majority of the employees participated.

“I had them identify thought patterns, eating habits and lifestyles, and food and fitness awareness,” she said. “We knew weight loss would be a side effect. But it can be too intimidating or overwhelming for some people to say it’s all about losing a certain amount of weight.”

Leman spent a few weeks teaching the employees about portion control and the importance of reading ingredient labels. She also discussed strategies that the employees could use when eating out, or attending a social gathering or holiday celebration.

Beverly Simek, Domtar human resource and safety adviser, said several employees were surprised when Leman discussed the importance of reading food labels.

“Cathy talked about serving sizes, portions, sodium amounts and it was eye-opening for some employees when they started paying attention to that,” Simek said.

And judging from the feedback Leman received from the employees, they loved attending the program just as much as she loved presenting it. Leman said one employee wrote on the evaluation that he began swapping out a daily donut for two oranges.

“Another person wrote that they started eating breakfast, and another wrote they were cooking at home more often,” she said. “Most of them said they felt comfortable with the group and liked how interactive it was. They felt open with the discussions and they just were supportive of each other.”

Simek agreed that the evaluations about the program, and Cathy, were very positive.

“She’s just fantastic, and clearly very passionate,” she said. “She just wants to help people. She’s not the food police and she doesn’t make you feel like you failed.”

Leman said her experience at Domtar was very rewarding. She got to know the employees and was happy to help them reach their health goals.

“It takes about a year to fully implement the information and apply it, but 12 weeks is enough to see the benefits,” she said. “They were amazing and I feel privileged to go there each week. They were very motivated and engaged and full-on participating. That was fun to watch.”

Simek hopes to work with Leman again, perhaps as soon as this fall. She said they’re discussing a program that would cover healthy eating habits over the winter and the holidays.

“This 12-week program was never meant to be one-and-done,” Simek said. “Domtar offers a lot of wellness programs. We know our best asset is the employees and we want to take care of them. We want them to be healthy.”

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