Slender prizes await biggest losers in company weight-loss competition


This week, employees find out who are the biggest losers at the Westinghouse Corp.

Eighty contestants, divided into 13 teams, are vying to see who dropped the most weight, which teams met their pound-loss goals and who racked up the most health points during a 10-week program aimed at promoting weight loss through a healthy lifestyle.

Small prizes await.

Bob Kontoff, an engineer manager, went through "HoHo withdrawal," but others on the Fat-Free and Loving It team helped him through. The Pikesville resident had wanted to lose 10 pounds, and although he missed his goal by 3 pounds, he said he's going to stick with the program.

The program is Winning by Losing, the franchised brainchild of a Pennsylvania dietitian. Its goal is to change individual eating and exercise habits for the better through nutrition education and team spirit.

Westinghouse teams -- with such names as Quest for Less and Fat Busters -- worked under the guidance of registered dietitian Mary Gianforte of the North Arundel Hospital Professional Center.

Participants win points for weight loss -- up to 2 pounds a week because, which is considered healthy and sensible -- for exercising for three half-hours a week and for attending the eight weekly half-hour nutrition talks led by Ms. Gianforte.

Participants do not buy special diet foods, but they do learn how to make the most of what they eat by wise shopping and sticking to the food pyramid.

The program costs $40 and also is being offered by North Arundel Hospital and Bethlehem Steel.

Eleanor Hightower-Smith of Baltimore is probably going to be the top loser at Westinghouse's electronics systems group. She admits to dropping 23 pounds, though she fell off the wagon during a recent vacation and thinks she regained a few.

She lost the weight by cutting out sweets and riding a stationary bicycle. She is captain of This Is It, so named because "once we lost it this time, we weren't going to put it back on," the veteran dieter said.

"The idea is that we are all together," Ms. Hightower-Smith said.

Ronald Schinault, a facility drafter from Finksburg who has been leading the Pound Busters, got rid of 14 pounds by cutting his fat intake and limiting his overall intake to 1,600 calories a day.

Co-workers tempted him -- he threw away doughnuts that were left anonymously on his desk -- but he is so encouraged by the program that he is ready to re-enlist in hopes of dropping an additional 45 pounds.

One day earlier this month, he walked the Ocean City boardwalk three times without stopping for French fries, caramel popcorn and other treats. Instead, "I took a banana with me," he said.

He has not given up fast food, though the mayonnaise is history. In learning how to read food labels, he found out how much fat is in dressings and fried foods, and dropped them from his diet.

About half of the people on his six-member team have met their goals, but more important, Mr. Schinault said, they have learned the value of improved eating habits.

Some of the substitutions seemed unlikely, but they worked. Quality engineer Susan Spurgeon of Ellicott City said her evening wine glass no longer holds rose; instead it's diet cranberry ginger ale. "It has the same mental impact as the glass of wine," she said.

A diet plan veteran, she said that for her the test will be to see if she stays in "remission" because "we won't know how successful this is until we are two to three years down the road."

A Westinghouse physician reviewed the eating plan to make sure it was sound before the company allowed it to be run in the cafeteria during lunch hour, said Diane Parker, nursing supervisor.

Carolyn Byrnes said her goal was strictly to learn how to reduce high cholesterol through good nutrition. Dropping a few pounds was a bonus, the newsletter writer said.

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