Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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The final weigh-in

Nancy Arcayna
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The JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa at Ko Olina started an employee wellness and weight-loss program about one year ago and has signed up 60 of its workers in the “Associate Biggest Loser” contest. Yoga instructor Katherine Garner leads an employee yoga class at the hotel.
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The JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa has started an employee wellness and weight loss program. Here, Yolanda Campos works out in the hotel’s employee fitness center.
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Spa director Robin Desha participates in an employee yoga class at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa at Ko Olina. The employee who loses the most weight by Friday will win a Marriott weekend getaway on Kauai.
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Edel Dela Cruz works out in the employee fitness center at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa at Ko Olina.

Luana Resuello has young children, works full time and manages a lengthy to-do list. A healthful lifestyle and taking care of herself often fall by the wayside as other duties demand her attention.

"I have two little ones. Once I get home, I’m so tired. I need to cook dinner and take care of them," said Resuello, 46, who works in the human resources department at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa at Ko Olina.

She is one of 60 employees participating in a company-sponsored "Associate Biggest Loser" contest. The final weigh-in is Friday, and the male and female "associates" — or workers — who have lost the most weight during the 12-week program will win a weekend getaway for two to Kauai.

To help employees meet their weight-loss and healthful living goals, the Ihilani Resort provides a 24-hour fitness facility, yoga classes and nutrition sessions led by HMSA. With a tight economy and limited access to health clubs on the Leeward coast, the resort’s fitness facility provides employees with a workout option that might not otherwise be available to them, according to spa director Robin Desha, a driving force behind the "Associate Biggest Loser" campaign.


Meet the winners of JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa’s "Associate Biggest Loser" on July 6 in the Star-Advertiser.


Resuello said she joined the program to make her first real go at establishing a regular exercise routine and to squeeze in a little "me" time during her hectic day.

She visits the fitness center two to three times a week before heading home and schedules her workouts with co-workers, which makes it easier to stick with the plan.

"I feel more energized and can stay up later. I haven’t had lots of weight loss, but my clothes are noticeably bigger and I feel better," she said.

Desha said she relies on good nutrition and exercise in her own life to manage stress and urges others to make eating well and fitness as much a part of their daily routine as getting out of bed and brushing their teeth.

"Preventive medicine is what it’s all about. The competition part was just for fun," she said.

"We were hoping that a couple associates would incorporate the program into their lives. I figured if we only touched a few people, it would be worth it."

Ihilani’s director of human resources Christy Nakano said encouraging employees to stick with healthful lifestyles is a win-win for both the resort and its workers, who will be less likely to call in sick or have accidents.

"The associates should have less doctor visits and they can pass on the knowledge to their children," Nakano said. "If people are healthy, they are less likely to get injured."

ONCE THE COMPETITION ends, the resort will continue offering programs to help its 450 employees improve their health and well-being, she said.

"Ihilani is taking the steps that employers need to take in order to prevent chronic diseases long term. These steps help to create a culture of healthy living," said Gary Allen, executive director of Hawaii Business Health Council, a nonprofit group focused on improving the health of employees for its nearly four dozen member companies.

Diabetes and cardiac disease are the two biggest health challenges in Hawaii, he said, and obesity and lack of exercise are major risk factors for both.

"The number of individuals with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases is growing at the rate of 8 percent per year. That means every 12 years the number of people with diabetes and cardiac will double," Allen said. "This is why health care costs are going up and we cannot stop it. As long as we don’t focus on helping people live healthier lifestyles, we will never solve our health care cost crisis."

Spa employee Tanya Candido, 36, a mother of two, reports she found motivation to make lifestyle changes through the "Biggest Loser" contest and has lost 7 pounds so far.

"This is the first time I tried dieting since the babies were born. The contest gave me incentive to get started. My dress was ripping apart at the seams. It was definitely time," she said.

Candido said the program encouraged her to become more active with her children, ages 2 and 3. "We spend more time outside playing … we swim more. We also go on hikes with my husband," she said. "My schedule is so up and down; it’s hard to schedule a regular workout routine, so I bring my clothes and walk around the lagoons before work."

CANDIDO’S HEALTHIER eating habits at work are catching on at home, she said.

"I’m a big snacker, but the types of snacks that we buy have changed. We have gotten rid of the doughnuts and cookies and are eating a lot more vegetables," Candido said. "I’ve also tried to cut out lots of salty foods and stay away from rice."

Ihilani catering sales manager Raymond Donato said that two years ago when he tipped the scales at 350 pounds, he dropped a lot of weight, only to see it return as quickly as he had lost it.

"This program has helped keep everyone on track. We hold each other accountable," he said. "Fellow co-workers are rooting for each other, which makes a huge difference. It’s exactly what I needed — a good support system."

More healthful food choices in the employee cafeteria, including a full salad bar, are making it easier for Donato and others stay on course. And flashing lights on cafeteria signs remind them to make good choices.

"I might not get up early to make a salad, but here, all of the veggies are clean and available," Donato said.

The resort also is looking to add nutritious alternatives in its food vending machines.

"We want the employees to learn to use food as a fuel, not as a part of socializing and entertainment. We want people to get excited about getting in shape," Desha said.


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