Three of six members of the “Weight and See” team participate in the monthly weigh-ins as part of Grunau Company’s “Biggest Losers Weight Loss Challenge.” Design engineer Jessica Rauch (left) and HVAC engineer Rachel Donnelly (right) look on as CAD coordinator Brian Buske weighs in 10 pounds lighter.
OAK CREEK, Wis. - Grunau Company employees want to be big losers - big weight losers that is. Grunau's Healthy Living Committee organized the "Biggest Losers Weight Loss Challenge," a new initiative to promote healthy lifestyles and employee involvement.

On January 17, four teams of Grunau employees, a total of 27 people, volunteered to start losing weight. The teams were comprised of employees from different functional areas and with varying levels of responsibility and seniority, which has helped build camaraderie throughout the company. Each team's hope was to be the team to drop the largest percentage of weight in three months and be named Grunau's "2005 Biggest Losers." The team names were "Weight and See," "The Fat Pack," "Been There, Done Fat," and "Six Pack."

The results are in from the April 18 final weigh-in. The winning team was "Been There, Done Fat," consisting of participants Lisa Smith, Dave Brown, Carmen Vazquez, Don Mateicka Jr., Sharon Marifke, Christine Owens, and Brian Zwiebel. Their total team weight loss was 5.9 percent or 81 pounds (an average of 11.5 pounds per person over four months). The biggest single loser was Eric Bobinski with a total weight loss of 28 pounds.

Collectively, participants from all of the teams (a total of 25 people) lost 270 pounds.

The contestants held weigh-ins at the company every four weeks. To lose weight, many participants increased the amount of time they spend exercising, while others changed their diet. Some avoided second helpings at meals, drank more water, ate more fruits and vegetables for snacks instead of chips, and watched portion sizes. Sandy Rapant, receptionist, said, "I actually look forward to eating fruits and vegetables now."

Don Mateicka Jr., tool and equipment manager, is amazed by his weight loss. He lost weight by avoiding his daily doughnut habit. "I was surprised by how much junk food I really ate. Now I'm going to eat fruit instead of junk food," he said.

The competition was sprinkled with hijinks as participants were allowed to tempt other teams with not-so-healthy treats. Christine Owens, executive assistant, said she received multiple Snickers bars in her mailbox from other teams. Owens didn't give in to temptation, though, sending the candy bars back to the offending party each time.

All contestants received T-shirts proclaiming them "2005 Biggest Losers."

Grunau's Healthy Living Committee formed two years ago and has organized several activities to promote health and wellness. In September 2004, Grunau employees participated in "Light the Night Walk," benefiting the fight against leukemia and lymphoma. In April, they raised money and participated in a multiple sclerosis walk. Grunau also started a "10,000 Steps a Day Program," which encourages people to track the number of steps they walk per day with the goal of reaching 10,000, and holds brown bag lunch seminars to learn more about health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors. Employees' spouses or significant others are invited to participate in the seminars.

Grunau hopes that its focus on health and well-being will benefit employees and the company.

"We want our employees and their families to learn from these programs and understand the benefits of a healthy lifestyle," said Paul Grunau, company president and CEO. "The company will benefit from employees' improved health through increased productivity and efficiency. Hopefully, in the future, we all will benefit from reduced medical insurance premiums."

The contest is similar to NBC's reality television show "The Biggest Loser," where 12 contestants lost weight to win $250,000.

Grunau Company, established in 1920, employs 500 people and is headquartered in Oak Creek, Wis. It installs and services mechanical systems, including HVAC, plumbing, fire protection, and specialized electrical systems. Grunau Metals, a separate division of the company, offers specialty metal fabrication services. Grunau has offices in Wisconsin, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Publication date: 05/09/2005