Last year, Steven J. Thompson was swamped, overseeing Torrance Memorial
Medical Center pharmacy’s move to the Lundquist Tower. He’d
return from work late, have dinner, and either plop in front of the television
or head straight to bed.
The pharmacy director, 61, went to college on a basketball scholarship
and had kept active coaching his daughters’ sports teams. But over
the years, his weight had crept up, and he’d become sedentary.
Two things were about to turn Steve’s habits around: His wife started
taking fitness classes at a local gym and Torrance Memorial introduced
the Vitality program.
The Vitality program motivates participants to become healthier by rewarding
activities with points that can be used toward purchase of items such
as electronics and gift cards. Participants complete an online Health
Risk Assessment and the Vitality program generates specific health goals,
along with activities and a timeline for reaching those goals.
Although Steve was too busy to participate when the program launched, his
wife, Eloise (also known as “Weeg”) registered and began exploring
the online educational resources. She took a nutrition course to earn
points and was pleasantly surprised by how much she learned.
“It really made me think about what I put in my mouth,” she
says. Weeg began trying the recipes and substituting whole-grain bread
for white bread and brown rice for white. “We were eating healthier
and in moderation, but we were more satisfied and snacked less,” she says.
She started racking up points from her sessions at the gym and 5K runs,
including those sponsored by Torrance Memorial. One of her favorite runs
benefits Evelyn’s Breast Friends Forever. Founded by Torrance Memorial
nurse Evelyn Calip, the organization raises money to fund breast reconstruction
surgery for uninsured or underinsured women. Another run, Wings for Life,
starts at 4:30 a.m. and is held simultaneously in 35 cities around the
globe to raise funds for spinal cord injury research.
Steve saw his wife having fun and getting impressive results: She lost
about 50 pounds and could fit into an evening dress she had worn more
than two decades ago.
With the pharmacy’s move behind him, Steve was ready to get started.
The Thompsons used Weeg’s points to purchase Fitbit monitoring devices
and began tracking their steps. “It was startling to see how little
I moved, especially when I was in meetings all day,” says Steve.
“Now, I make sure to walk 10,000 steps just about every day.”
The couple’s Fitbit devices sync with the Vitality website so not
only are they motivated to reach their daily goal for steps, but they
also get rewarded with points for doing so.
Steve’s challenge was to lose 5% of his body weight. “When
I hit my goal, I felt better and had more energy. I could bend over and
tie my shoes again,” he says.
He also joined Weeg in running 5Ks—he’s completed six so far.
During a recent run, Weeg placed second in her age bracket and Steve came
in third for his.
Steve has lost 40 pounds and in June 2015, he and Weeg both attained platinum
level, the Vitality program’s highest.
Steve, who has worked at Torrance Memorial for 39 years, believes the Vitality
program illustrates how caring an organization it is. “They care
about us as employees,” he says. “They take care of their
employees so their employees can take care of the patients.”