The ‘biggest losers’ at Toledo, Ohio, terminal score a win for healthier lifestyles.
Chris Seyer had lost railroad colleagues to heart disease and heard about retirees losing limbs to diabetes. To top it off, the injury rate at Norfolk Southern’s Toledo terminal, where he works as a locomotive engineer, needed improvement. He wanted to do something to help.
His solution? He challenged co-workers to commit to a healthier lifestyle.
Hoping to reduce injuries and improve employee health, Seyer, local chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, started a “Biggest Loser” contest. The idea stemmed from a conversation he had with Greg Comstock, general manager Northern Region, about a possible link between injury risks and physical condition.
“Extra weight means extra stress on your knees and ankles,” Seyer said. “Many Toledo terminal employees are conductors and engineers. Imagine how much harder it is to climb on and off a train and to walk on ballast when you’re carrying extra weight.
“I thought a weight-loss contest could help promote a happier, healthier workforce, and management was very willing to stand behind the idea,” Seyer added.
Sixty-one employees in Toledo accepted the challenge. They were split into two teams: Toledo East, with 25 employees, and Toledo West, with 36 employees.
Seyer asked Jen Nelson, a registered dietetic technician, health educator, and the wife of conductor Daniel Nelson, for help. Using a specially created Facebook page for participants, Jen Nelson regularly posted weight-loss tips and tricks, menus, and examples of healthy meal choices.
“The teams decided that the person with the highest percentage of body weight lost would be the first-place winner on each team, with 7 percent being each participant’s goal,” said John Turpie, Toledo terminal superintendent.
During the 90-day contest, Seyer said participants invited colleagues to join them on fitness walks at local parks and recreation centers and extended invitations to work out at their local gym.
“The weight-loss challenge started to take on a sense of community support, and it is still going,” Seyer said. “Some employees working here really didn’t know one another, and as a result of this contest, I'm seeing new relationships being built.”
The first-, second-, and third-place winners on each team won a credit of $75, $50, or $25, respectively, to spend at the NS Company Store.
Toledo East team employees lost a total of 227 pounds. Winning team Toledo West lost more than 373 pounds. Seyer said all team members lost at least 4 percent of their body weight.
“Good health is the biggest blessing we all have, and fitness helps with maintaining good health,” said Terry Evans, vice president transportation. “I am so very proud of everyone who was involved in and who participated in this contest.”
Shannon Elston, Toledo’s assistant superintendent, said that this was a fun and effective way to encourage co-workers to improve their quality of life.
“Employees are the company’s No. 1 asset, and employees are their families’ No. 1 asset,” Elston said. “We simply want to help people be around longer for their families.”