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If you have ever tried to make a major life change like losing weight, you know support can make a huge difference.

Nursing staff in our residential program monitor individuals’ weight because of the relationship between excess weight and long-term health conditions.

In the past, nurses connected people who needed to lose weight with nutritionists and gym memberships. But, Rebecca Lepel, Registered Nurse at Starbridge, noted that alone was not enough to make a significant difference.

Researchers say that social support – family, friends, and housemates – can make it easier to stick to a weight loss plan and reach long-term goals.

The team asked, “How can we change our approach so that people who need to lose weight have better support to succeed?”

Their solution: introduce an eight-week weight loss competition that included staff and housemates in teams.Image showing words weight loss challenge above photo of person tying exercise shoes

Each residence formed a team, competing to lose the highest percentage of weight. The prize for reaching that goal? A house party.

To include everyone who wanted to join the challenge, nursing staff adjusted competition goals for any person who needed to gain weight.

Rebecca sent weekly newsletters to the teams with updated standings, nutrition information, and increased step goals. Teams were enthusiastic about making changes – small or large – to reach goals:

  • A staff member introduced 20-minute ab challenges, which anyone could join.
  • Another staff member who runs regularly would accompany anyone else who wanted to run.
  • Program staff started a twice-weekly walking group to empower individuals to begin meeting on their own.

In the end four of the five teams lost weight, and 65 people total participated. The Nursing team’s hope was that 200 pounds would be lost. The final result:

240 pounds!

The Nursing team has observed positive, promising changes:

  • Awareness of healthy food choices, such as fruits and vegetables over fried foods
  • Interest in ways to be more active, including using pedometers or other exercise trackers
  • Empowerment of residents to ask staff to accompany them on a walk, rather than waiting to be asked to exercise

Beyond that, people have been encouraging friends outside of Starbridge to join them in being healthier.

That ripple effect has positive, powerful impacts on our community.


This article originally appeared in Champions, Issue 4, in Fall of 2018.