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February 7, 2008

Tales From the Scales: 12-week weight race launched

And they’re off!

Have you noticed more walkers out at lunchtime? A proliferation of pedometers around campus? Fewer treats in your office’s break room? No more pizza deliveries to your department? More colleagues carrying gym bags to work?

Credit the MyHealth Weight Race.

More than 1,300 Pitt staff and faculty have divided into 260-plus teams to take part in the weight race, a 12-week competition launched last month to see which teams best achieve weight-management and safe weight-loss goals (not to exceed 25 pounds during the race).

According to John Kozar, director of Benefits, the overall goal of the weight race is to establish healthy eating and physical activity habits in order to create a healthier, more productive, less stressed workforce, which in turn cuts down on absenteeism and eventually lowers health care costs.

Initial confidential weigh-ins were held last week across the Pittsburgh campus and at the regionals, with a few make-up weigh-ins for latecomers taking place today (Feb. 7) at the Bellefield Hall fitness center. (For a schedule, visit

Contestants also will be weighed at the race’s mid-point (March 4-7) and end (April 15-18) by graduate students in the Department of Health and Physical Education. Interim self-reported weigh-ins, online or by phone, are a weekly requirement.

Contestants were provided with pedometers at the initial weigh-in by UPMC Health Plan, the weight race’s sponsor. Weight race participants are supported by Fitness for Life champions, volunteer employees who are available for information and encouragement. UPMC health coaches can be reached by phone at 1-800/807-0751. Exercise and nutritional advice and healthy recipes will be provided online in weekly installments at

On the Pittsburgh campus, the top 10 teams that achieve the highest percentage of their members’ weight-loss goals will receive gift cards (ranging from $10 to $100), which also will be awarded to the top four teams on the regional campuses.

(The vast majority of participants are current Pitt employees, but spouses/partners and UPMC employees also were eligible to join the weight race. However, since prizes are considered taxable income according to the IRS, only Pitt employees are eligible to receive prizes. Winners must be employed at the time the prizes are awarded.)

Weight race teams were required to secure a sponsor, typically a dean, director or department chair, and to designate a captain.

But motivations, goals and strategies vary by team and by individual, as the following sample of teams’ stories shows.

In this occasional series, the University Times will follow the progress of these five teams throughout the weight race, which concludes April 18. Announcement of the winning teams is expected on April 30.

Will Pitt have a leaner, healthier workforce come April? Stay tuned. …

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