One hundred days is all the time that Utah mayors and city officials were given to prove they were the healthiest competitor in Intermountain Medical’s My Heart Challenge.
But it wasn’t just about losing weight. The challengers also had to eat right, track their calories, report their exercises and measure changes in health markers like body mass index.
In the end, Midvale City Attorney Craig Hall, who lost 12 pounds, came out the healthiest, and Salt Lake City Councilman Carlton Christensen, who lost 43 pounds, was the most improved.
Both Hall and Christensen were awarded $1,000 checks from Intermountain Medical to be put toward improving the health of young people in their cities.
So, how did they do it?
“It was not as difficult as I thought it was going to be because it turned into a lifestyle change instead of something I have to do,” said Hall, who is 62.
He wasn’t overweight to start with, and he’s always been an active person. But when the competition began, his stress levels were high and he didn’t enjoy running, he said.
Now, at the end, he looks forward to getting on his treadmill and his bike.
To put it simply, he won because he was consistent.
Christensen also learned the value of consistency.
“You can’t let yourself go even for a day,” he said.
When the competition began he was “frankly a little bit depressed” about improving his own health, so he jumped at the opportunity to participate in the challenge.
“Finally I resigned myself to the fact that if I didn’t take care of myself, I wouldn’t have anything to take care of,” Christensen said.
His secret to success was working every day, little by little, and also including his family in the challenge.
He and his wife and daughter decided to work together to become healthier. They looked for more opportunities to exercise, by walking to the store when they needed milk, for example, or by catching up with his wife during walks at the end of the day.
“Combine it with something that you ought to be doing anyway,” Christensen said.
And just like Hall, Christensen made a commitment to the challenge.
“I think like any addiction or thing you struggle with, you have to make a determination because no one is going to force you to go out walking or make you healthier,” he said.
The challenge wasn’t just a success for the winners though. All together, the seven mayors, two city council members and a city attorney and city manager lost 179 pounds.
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon lost 25 pounds. He said since he began running for office eight years ago, he has slowly been gaining weight.
Corroon described how on some nights he’d end up eating three dinners because of all the different events and functions he attends as mayor.
But he, too, learned that being healthy isn’t all that difficult.
“I learned staying in shape isn’t as hard as you think. There are a lot of little things you can do to stay in shape,” he said.
Corroon started to pay attention to his calorie intake by using an application called livestrong.com.
“It doesn’t mean I can’t eat everything I want. I just have to eat less of it,” he said.
Taylorsville Mayor Russ Wall, who lost 13 pounds in the competition and 40 before it started, said it’s about balancing food intake with exercise.
“You don’t have to give up stuff,” he said. “If you’re going to eat more calories, you have to exercise more, and it works.”
Wall wants to tell people that putting out the energy to stay healthy is worth the effort.
“Once you get in the habit, you miss it when you don’t do it,” he said. And after a total weight loss of more than 50 pounds, “I feel like I did when I was in my 20s. I feel so much better.”
It’s all about the investment, said Murray Mayor Dan Snarr.
“We all look forward to a retirement because we think we’ll really be able to enjoy life,” he said. “And you can if you’ve taken care of your health. Invest in your health.”
By the end of the challenge, all of the competitors became healthier and happier.
Take it day by day, they said.
“My message is that even one small change in your life can make a difference and once you make one small change, it’s easier to make another small change,” Corroon said. “It all adds up.”
“You do your best and you start a little each day, each time you make just a little improvement,” he said. “It’s really the consistency as much as the quantity.”
But in the end, it’s all up to the individual.
“We are in charge of our lifestyle, and exercise and eating right does make a difference,” said competition winner Hall. “It’s made a difference in my life.”
All together now
The mayors and city officials collectively lost 179 pounds.
Total cholesterol dropped by 14 points.
Triglycerides dropped by 40 points.
Blood pressure went down by 13 points systolic and 7 points diastolic.
Body fat dropped by 3 percent.
Waist circumference went down by 2.6 inches.