Dean Carucci, Linda Watson, Melanie Farney, Tonya Ely, Angela Busch: 1st Place individual overall as well, John Brackle

by Kimberly Winter Stern | Reprinted courtesy of Johnson County Lifestyle Magazine

As snow piled up faster than we could shovel last March, a group of Overland Park Regional Medical Center (OPRMC) employees were at halftime of a competition they took as seriously as their commitment to delivering high-quality patient care at one of Johnson County’s healthcare leaders.

Titled the “OPRMC Biggest Loser,” the 11-week program kicked off February 4—and it wasn’t just about saying “no” to unhealthy food or sedentary lifestyles. It was also about integrating healthy life choices and lowering stress.

In other words, the friendly competition boiled down to a prescription for self-care.

John Brackle, physical therapist at OPRMC, decided to help colleagues shed excess holiday weight and wiggle into a new frame of mind for 2013.

He overhauled the concept of television’s popular reality weight-loss show, “The Biggest Loser,” and applied some of the same principles to a work environment.

But Brackle’s interpretation of the show that sensationalizes losing weight was not so much about duking it out over the scale but more about accountability, adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and learning to manage everyday stress—while creating esprit de corps.

“We had 105 participants who joined,” says Brackle, who helps patients regain their health after surgery, accidents and illness. “We divided into 39 teams and each person attended weigh-ins, at least three workshops and adopted an attitude of supporting and reaching goals with coworkers.”

Brackle covered his bases, and then some.

“Part of being healthy is taking care of psychosocial needs, so we also have someone who gives workshops on managing stress,” says Brackle. “The OPRMC Biggest Loser is about treating the whole person—just like we treat patients at the hospital.”

Katie Aldis, director of the OPRMC laboratory, is a pied piper of motivating hospital employees when it comes to sporting events. Her office door is decorated with medals she’s won from more than 50 triathlons, two marathons and myriad competitions.

So it was natural when Brackle announced the OPRMC Biggest Loser for Aldis to gather colleagues and form Katie’s Crusaders— a quintet of coworkers with something to lose.

“I’m training for a full Ironman next fall and want to keep the weight off,” says Aldis. “Ten years ago I lost 65 pounds and it changed my life. Now I eat to live—not live to eat. Others on my team wanted to lose weight, learn how to eat healthy, reduce stress and make exercise a habit. And build team spirit at work.”

The OPRMC Biggest Loser concluded in late April with a final weigh-in. Although the winning team was ultimately determined by the highest percentage of weight loss from the preliminary weigh-in, Brackle says the competition’s byproduct is about building camaraderie around a common goal—and learning how to manage stress for a healthy life.

When the final quarter was played mid-April, Brackle totaled up the teams’ combined weight loss: a whopping 850 pounds.

Damond Boatwright, OPRMC president and CEO, says the culture of family at OPRMC strives for a healthy work-life balance.

“Happy and engaged employees translate to high patient satisfaction so seeing the energy, enthusiasm and competitive spirit with the OPRMC Biggest Loser creates an even stronger culture and higher patient satisfaction,” says Boatwright.

Brackle says the key to the Biggest Loser: there’s no quick fix for weight loss or stress management.

“We walk the talk we give physical therapy patients—success comes with a large helping of perseverance and dedication,” he says.