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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Apr. 27, 2017 1 year ago

Local leaders get in the health game through Healthy Leaders program

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Healthy West Orange’s Healthy Leaders program is hoping to turn leaders from around the West Orange community into ambassadors for a healthy lifestyle.
by: Steven Ryzewski Senior Sports Editor

The Healthy Leaders program launched with a kick-off breakfast Jan. 17.

Part of the Healthy West Orange campaign to make our community the healthiest in the nation, the program outlined at the breakfast called on those present to take the lead and live by example.

And several of our community’s leaders are taking the initiative and running with it.

Some places, such as Professional Opportunities Programs for Students Inc., have instituted friendly wellness competitions within the workplace. 

“The thing we found here at the office is that, with all of us participating, it made us all accountable.”

— Dorcas Dillard

The staff at POPS already had been discussing getting something wellness-related going in the office, and once Dorcas Dillard attended the Healthy Leaders breakfast, she had found the perfect outlet. Dillard, the district manager for POPS, said the Healthy Leaders program’s goal of contributing to a workplace environment of wellness makes sense because healthy workers tend to be happy workers.

“We know that we’re all much more motivated when we’re healthy,” Dillard said. “The thing we found here at the office is that, with all of us participating, it made us all accountable.”

That accountability includes weekly check-ins — and it already has had a success story, with POPS staffer Gladys Quinones losing 22 pounds in a healthy manner in just three months.

“I’m so proud of her,” Dillard said. “I’m bragging about her like she’s my daughter.”

Kelly Pounds, of IDEAS Orlando, also has gone all-in on the program. 

Pounds posts regularly about her journey on social media and has taken advantage of a grant the program has utilized to provide wellness coaches for some participants. Through that coaching, she said she was was able to better understand some of the barriers to her success, including stress triggers that alter her eating habits and how to combat them.

“The big thing for me was to write everything down that I ate,” Pounds said. “Everything. That really does work for me. It makes me very mindful.”

Pounds has dropped 10 pounds while participating in the program, an impressive number when considering an ankle injury has sidelined her recently and — rather than putting the weight she had lost back on — she has continued to progress.

“Even getting invitations to events I can’t attend still keeps it (the program) top of mind that, ‘Hey, this is a community of people, and we are Healthy West Orange.'"

— Kelly Pounds

Pounds said she also had been encouraged by the emails the Healthy Leaders program sends each week, included among which are tips, recipes and invitations to events.

“Even getting invitations to events I can’t attend still keeps it (the program) top of mind that, ‘Hey, this is a community of people, and we are Healthy West Orange,’” Pounds said.

Those examples aren’t unique, either. Former Winter Garden commissioner Robert “Bobby O” Olszewski has lost 30 pounds while participating in the program — all the while being a dad to a newborn and launching a campaign for the state Legislature.

Collectively, they all are examples of why the Healthy Leaders program was launched, Orlando Healthy’s Lee O’Donnell said.

“We felt there was a great need to involve the community leaders — whether it was from businesses, education, church organizations and individuals — to have them participate in a program where they could experience healthy improvements, personally,” O’Donnell said. “(They can) be ambassadors in the community and grow the groundswell of support for Healthy West Orange by encouraging not only their employees, but their families, neighbors and friends to get involved as well.”

Steven Ryzewski is the Senior Sports Editor for ObserverPreps.com, as well as all three of Observer Media Group's print publications in Orange County. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida....

See All Articles by Steven

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