This holiday season, those who decline a second helping of stuffing or avoid that third reindeer-shaped cookie stand to gain prizes for not gaining weight.
The Town of Morrisville is holding its fourth annual Maintain, Don’t Gain contest, in which people who don’t gain any weight between now and early January can win free tennis or golf lessons, running shoes, massages and other health and fitness goodies.
“We are always, always looking for ways to get people interested in their health and taking more responsibility for it,” said Scott Knox, the town’s fitness specialist. “And this is a way to make sure people are accountable for their weight.”
The contest is open to all residents, even those who don’t live in Morrisville. People had to sign up by Nov. 26 for at least one month’s membership at the Morrisville Fitness and Aquatic Center to be eligible for prizes.
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New members will get their membership extended until Jan. 9, the date participants come for a final weigh-in. If they have lost weight or even simply maintained their weight, they’re eligible for a prize.
Knox said there had been rumors of people packing on the pounds just before the weigh-in to ensure they don’t go over in January, a tactic he strongly discouraged.
“Although we do give away some prizes, we try to remind people this is really about their health,” he said. “So if you try to game the system, you’re only hurting yourself.”
Participants seem to be comfortable with letting staff weigh them and take body fat measures, Knox said. He said the process is confidential and that participation has risen from 30 or 40 in the first years to 75 this year.
Among the 40 Town of Morrisville employees who participated in the program last year, Knox said, 35 showed up for the January weigh-out, and 29 found they had succeeded.
“Most people find it pretty easy to do,” he said. “As long as you take the time to recognize where you are at the start, and take the time to come back, most people are successful. It’s the people you never hear from again who you wonder about.”
The Town of Apex has a similar program, although it’s only for town employees.
The Triangle Business Journal named the Town of Apex the healthiest employer in the area, town spokeswoman Stacie Galloway said, in part because of the holiday program. Last year the town’s employees had a net weight loss of 104.2 pounds between Thanksgiving and early January, she said,
Holly Springs used to have a similar program but won’t be doing it this year, said the town’s public information officer, Mark Andrews.
Even for people not in official contests or programs, it’s still important to be thinking about healthy eating and exercise habits, Knox said.
And it doesn’t even have to be anything as life-altering as only eating kale, or working out multiple hours every week, he said. Even little things, such as parking at the opposite end of parking lots or drinking water when craving a snack, can help keep off some of the pounds that tend to creep up this time of year.
At parties, Knox said, people should pay more attention to friends and family than to the trays of cheeses, desserts and hors d’oeuvres.
“We remind people to not hover around the buffet table when they’re at holiday parties,” he said. “Go and get one snack and find something that’ll keep you full"