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March 6, 2008

Tales From the Scales: Team POWER

“We’ve had some detours — (personal pan pizzas at 3 a.m.) and distractions (50th birthday celebrations) — but this team approach is truly working very, very well for us. It’s easier to resist temptation when the consequence of giving in to temptation is letting down the team,” said Provost’s office staff member and team captain Kit Ayars. Other team members are Susan Borowski, Mary Anne Davis and Tonya LaRue Holloman of the Provost’s office and Joyce McDonald of the Center for Philosophy of Science.

“We’re at a point in this experience where we’re hitting a plateau in terms of the numbers on the scale, but doing this as a team has helped us stay focused and positive,” Ayars said of the five women who work on the 8th floor of the Cathedral of Learning. “It was very exciting to see our team listed in the top 10 when the rankings came out at the end of week 3! We’re very enthusiastic. Resoundingly: Woohooo!”

According to week 4 standings posted by Human Resources, Team POWER was No. 3 overall among Pittsburgh campus teams, meeting 61.59 percent of the team goals.

Ayars said the team has a love/hate relationship with their pedometers, which do not measure distance precisely. “On the other hand, they’re a physical reminder to move, a little Jiminy Cricket gadget with an occasional elbow to the belly, and that’s been helpful,” she said. “We take any excuse to move a little bit more: parking a little farther away and walking, taking the stairs instead of the elevator here in the Cathedral, keeping our purses on the second floor at home instead of the first, so we have to run upstairs to put it away or get it again.”

The team has adjusted some of its strategies from the beginning of the weight race, Ayars said, including relying less on keeping daily food diaries in favor of eating the same things each day for breakfast and lunch. “So we haven’t been writing everything down quite so religiously, though there’s definitely a continual mental tracking going on. That notion — ‘Ack! I’ll have to write this down!’ — is planted in our heads and helps guide us to smarter choices. And we’ve noticed that we make healthier choices about what we eat,” she said.

Davis’s plans to dance for at least 20 minutes each evening at home with her husband hit a snag due to their recent shared bout with the flu, but the couple expect to return to their dancing routine when that passes, Ayars said.

For the second half of the weight race the POWER team plans to focus more on moving, including making a commitment to walk together in a local 3K event in early April, she said.

Borowski is motivating the team by helping members visualize themselves as horses in a race. She said, “In these next few weeks, this is where the jockey starts to make some clever maneuvers to get ahead. In April, this is when our POWER team jockey stands up in his stirrups and starts swatting ‘poor Nellie.’ He needs her to work harder! He wants to win the race. We can use this same principle to win our race.”

While she’s not proposing the jockey-swats literally, Borowski said, “I’m proposing that we work extra hard in March and, in early April extra, extra hard! My word for the month of March is ‘extra.’ So whenever we think about slacking off, we just imagine ourselves as ‘poor Nellie’ and give it a little extra!”

Ayars said the biggest lesson the team has learned so far is that “weekends are dangerous. We’re more likely to eat mindlessly on the weekends than we do during the workweek, when our time is more structured. We’re keeping the office fairly clear of temptations — the Girl Scout cookies were dispatched to other offices, and we’ve been indulging in fruit at our staff meetings instead of coffeecake — but home is a different story.”

Still, the team members are all on track or ahead of their weekly goals, Ayars said. “Slow and steady wins the race! In general, we feel lighter and happier and healthier,” she said.

Holloman added, “I am in a size that I haven’t been in since 1994.”

Ayars said, “In addition to the support we get from each other, the public accountability — through these articles in the University Times, through our team name showing up in the weekly standings, through the fact that our colleagues know we’re doing this — has helped us stay on track.”

—Peter Hart

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