News and Press
Healthy mind, healthy body
by Christi McEntyre
Dr. Tom Ford has long known that one of the keys to lasting mental health is a healthy body, and the high self-esteem that comes with it.
So, as CEO of Lookout Mountain Community Services, when marketing director Theresa Varos approached him with an idea to not only boost employee morale, but hopefully see the staff retention rate go up by helping their weight go down, he knew it would be a worthwhile program.
Three years ago, Jack Bell, owner of Absolute Fit in Fort Oglethorpe, began running a personal weight loss and wellness program for local groups and companies called J-Blast. For the past six weeks, he has been working with 46 Lookout Mountain Community Services employees, who have already lost a total of 283 pounds between them. And that’s only halfway through the program; they still have another six weeks to go.
"Basically what we're doing here is a nutrition restructuring program,” Bell said. “And so far, we've got some pretty big numbers."
Bell was inspired to create J-Blast as a separate company when he realized that many of the people coming into his gym were over-exercising, and thought they were eating healthily, but were not seeing the weight loss they desired.
“We've had so many people come in the gym and they'll just try to work out and work out and not lose any weight,” he said. “So J-Blast was branched out to get more of the education to change the thought process."
His own years of experience in the nutrition and physical fitness field helped Bell to see what his clients were missing — namely, that what passes for healthy on the front of a product label often doesn’t match the nutritional facts in small print on the back of the same label.
Furthermore, Bell specializes in changing unhealthy thought and behavior patterns around food as well, which is especially helpful in boosting self-esteem and for those who, either knowingly or not, use food as a form of self-medication or comfort.
"Basically it was to really just change how people look at and deal with food," he said.
For the 46 Lookout Mountain Community Services employees who signed up for the program, the results, both mentally and physically, have already been phenomenal.
In addition to the nearly 300 pounds the group has already lost, Varos notes that local habits around the agency’s office have also changed dramatically, and for the better.
“We used to bring cookies in” for the employees to snack on, she said. “Now it’s carrots and cucumbers and tomatoes.”
A group of participants have also started using their lunch hour to go out walking together, and find that they come back refreshed and ready to work hard the rest of the afternoon.
“It’s been really great to see the camaraderie,” Varos said.
In six weeks, the group as a whole has managed to drop its body mass index a total of 1.5 points, and the group’s total percent body fat has decreased by 1.8 percent. Varos herself has lost 15 pounds so far, and others are seeing similarly staggering benefits both on the scale and off.
And the best part is, that thanks to Dr. Ford’s understanding of the mind-body connection, the entire program is free of charge to the LMCS employees.
Dr. Ford promised the LMCS employees that as long as the LMCS participants attend one of the four weekly group sessions Bell is offering to the agency, the program as a whole will not cost the individual employees a cent.
"We said, we'll pay for this,” he said. “It's going to be free to use. It's an option, it's something the agency's offering, but you've got to come…If you don't come 11 out of 12 sessions, then you're going to have to pay for some of it. So there's a consequence to that...I'm not going to charge them a huge amount. I didn't want their money. I wanted them in the group."
“I am so thankful to work for an agency that is committed to helping its employees stay healthy and fit,” said utilization manager Heather Jarrell. “I am making healthier choices which has also benefited my family. Special thanks to Lookout Mountain Community Services agency for aiding those who spend their days helping others to remember also the take care of themselves.”
“My background is mental health,” Dr. Ford said, “and I’ve always found that people who essentially take care of themselves physically and do things, it affects them in a positive way. You get that positive cycle instead of a negative spiral. You can do all the things in the world for your mental health, but if you’re not taking care of yourself physically, you’re fighting an uphill battle… that positive reinforcement affects people so they don’t have as much depression, as much anxiety.
“The primary thing for some people is losing weight, but for me, it’s the mental part,” he said.
As passionate as Dr. Ford is about the mental well-being of both his agency’s clients and employees, Bell is equally adamant about getting better nutritional health out to his community at large. His J-Blast program is available to any individuals or companies who might seek to better themselves. He can even tailor the program to suit specific needs or limitations.
“We deal with people who have pacemakers, we deal with people who have stints, who have had knee surgery, hip replacements…we can show them how to lose weight when they can't physically exercise, and the weight's coming off three to five pounds a week.”
He has also seen tremendous success with helping clients overcome their need for medication for seemingly incurable ailments.
"We've had people who are Type 2 diabetics that's come off their medication in seven weeks, and they were on it for five years,” he said. "We've had people who have come off their blood pressure medication. We've had people who have been relieved of acid reflux within two weeks. Pain medication has been reduced since people have been going through the program.”
Seeing those kinds of results, and the happier people that come from them, keep Bell going every day.
“It’s my passion,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years…I love and truly enjoy what I do on a daily basis.”
Located at Absolute Fit, 3012 LaFayette Road, Fort Oglethorpe