LSU AgCenter Holds Weight-Loss Classes For Minden Wal-Mart Staff

Joan Almond, Van Osdell, Mary Ann  |  9/11/2007 2:07:09 AM

Dena Smart and Pippey Toney, both associates at the Minden, La., Wal-Mart, take waist measurements as part of the Smart Portions class, designed to help people learn healthy eating habits and taught by Joan Almond, LSU AgCenter agent. (To download larger image, click on photo.) (Photo by Mary Ann Van Osdell.)

News Release Distributed 08/08/07

Forty-two employees at the Wal-Mart in Minden, La., are learning to eat healthier – on work time – by participating in a series of “Smart Portions” classes taught by Joan Almond, an LSU AgCenter extension agent.

“They came to me,” said Almond, who specializes in nutrition and health issues and teaches healthy eating as one of her responsibilities in Claiborne and Webster parishes.

A Wal-Mart associate, Lynn Baldree of Minden, heard about Almond and Smart Portions after her husband participated in a similar program and lost 55 pounds. She suggested the idea to Roz Zappa, a team captain of Wal-Mart’s Personal Sustainability Project (PSP), which is an effort to bring sustainability to the personal lives of Wal-Mart associates by getting them involved in a change they can be passionate about.

Scott Harnden, store manager, said he chose Almond at the suggestion of the PSP team. “All Wal-Marts have a PSP team,” Harnden said, “but this one is the only one participating in a program like Joan’s, that I know of.”

Harnden was so enthusiastic about the program he asked Almond to change the class dates to Friday when he could attend.

“He didn’t want to miss,” Almond said. “He was the first one to volunteer for waist measurement at the first class.”

Associates post color-coded cutouts on the bulletin board with their PSP goals. Many involve becoming more healthy.

“They want to live a healthier lifestyle and get in better shape,” Harnden said of his co-workers.

Other items on the bulletin board include smoking cessation, recycling, saving energy and fire ant management.

“This is a win-win,” Harnden said. “The associates win because they’ll be healthier, which will make them happier. We win, too, because they will be healthy, happier, more productive and safer.”

Of the seven Wal-Marts at which he has worked in 15 years, Harnden called the teamwork at the Minden store the best he has ever seen.

Participants are to keep a food and activity journal for the eight weeks of the class, which includes recipes. If 30 people participate and five do so regularly, those will lose the most weight, Almond told the 42 in attendance.

“Write down what you eat faithfully,” she stressed.

Smart Portions is not a diet but advocates learning healthy weight management techniques, Almond explained.

“If you don’t do anything but change one negative habit, that’s going to be an improvement,” she told the participants.

Almond’s take-home rules were these: Take in fewer calories than you burn; exercise one hour a day (walk, mow, mop, dust); and make one change a week that will save you 100 calories. Women require 1,600 calories a day and men, 2,800 to meet their metabolic needs, she said.

She said participants could start with 30 minutes of exercise a day and work their way up and suggested consulting their physician if they had any questions about the program.

The store has a break/lunch room that includes a treadmill, exercise bike and glider. Purchasing the equipment wasn’t management-directed, but associate-driven, Harnden said. The room was formerly a smoking lounge.

Almond had exhibits of 5 pounds of fat and 1 pound of fat that participants could hold and feel.

Almond is participating in the program along with the associates. She had gastric bypass surgery 16 years ago and can relate to how they feel.

“Don’t be judgmental and critical of other people,” she said.

“I’ll be cautious when I buy my groceries here,” Almond said with a grin, noting that employees will begin recognizing her when she shops at the store. She is tracking their habits, food intake and exercise and also wants to be a good example.

The Minden Wal-Mart is open 24 hours a day, and all three shifts will participate. Daytime PSP members will pass on what they learn to the other shifts.

Zappa said as PSP captain she believes choosing this project can help not only associates, but family, friends, customers and future generations.

The series includes taking height, weight, waist measurements and body mass index. Almond said weight-related illnesses include diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

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Contact: Joan Almond at (318) 371-1371 or jalmond@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer: Mary Ann Van Osdell at (318) 741-7430, ext. 1104, or mvanosdell@agcenter.lsu.edu

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