Holiday hams and homemade treats help spread great cheer for the season — but they’re not quite as good for the waistline as they are for the spirit.

To help avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain, the Bear River Health Department is working with local businesses to “Maintain, Don’t Gain” throughout the month with wellness programs to encourage employees to stay healthy through the winter.

“Getting started with a wellness program around this time of year is a popular idea because of all the temptations people face during the holidays,” said Emily Pugsley, a health educator with the BRHD. “You don’t have to change your traditions completely. All you have to do is supplement those traditions with some healthy choices.”

Pugsley has worked with a number of local businesses in adopting the wellness program, which provides employees with the framework to engage in physical activity and integrate nutritious choices into their holiday meals. Pugsley said the program takes a three-pronged approach to maintaining a healthy weight, including managing stress, eating right and participating in physical activity.

“The program has a list of tasks people can choose from each week to encourage one of these approaches,” Pugsley said. “When employees complete their task for the week, they’re entered into a drawing for prizes. It’s not only educational, but also exciting.”

The Cache School District is one of the organizations participating this year for the first time, according to the district’s health and physical education coordinator, Tera Olson. Employees started the program just before Thanksgiving on Nov. 22 and will continue until Jan. 2, working closely with the BRHD as well as other local businesses to provide additional incentives for the program.

“Initially we just had people participating for bragging rights, but local businesses have donated some prizes to us that everyone participating is eligible to earn,” Olson said.

Olson said the program is a hit within the school district, featuring over 200 employees participating in tasks each week, a major jump from the 75 participants previous similar programs received. Although it was meant only as a special event for the holidays, the numbers encouraged Olson to consider a similar event for the spring.

“We’ve been pretty surprised by the good response every week,” she said. “I think that people are excited to have something to work toward. The program helps give them some motivation if they need it.”

Campbell Scientific employees have also embraced a wellness plan of their own, basing their year-round program on the BHRD’s recommendations and building upon them.

Sherm Conger, human resources director for Campbell Scientific, said employees wear pedometers throughout the year and participate in “virtual walk” events with different rewards, encouraging them to walk enough steps to add up to out-of-state sites like Yellowstone National Park. Nutrition challenges are also provided on a monthly basis.

“We’re planning on providing employees a chance to record their consumption of fruits and vegetables as well, since those are some of the most impactful elements of a diet,” Conger said. “We’ll do recognition for the employees that have the most each month.”

Pugsley said the BRHD offers wellness programs year round could help be a stepping stone to continued healthy choices on a regular basis.

“With a regular program going, you might be less likely to be overwhelmed by all the temptations,” she said.

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cgefre@hjnews.com

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Clayton Gefre is the County Council reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at cgefre@hjnews.com or 435-792-7234.

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