Bunbury local Ben Andrew has battled his waistline and emerged 73.7kg lighter thanks to a Curtin University program aimed at helping Rotary clubs fight obesity.
Former security guard Ben shed the weight over 18 months and reduced his Body Mass Index (BMI) from a life threatening 53.9 to a healthy range of 25 and under to be named this year’s biggest loser in the ‘Waist’ Disposal Challenge (WDC). He dropped from 155.7kg to a healthy 82kg.
Professor Samar Aoun, of Curtin’s Faculty of Health Sciences, said the WDC program was in its third year of operation after a successful pilot trial. This community-based program aims to help at- risk participants, particularly the traditionally ‘hard to reach’ male group, lose weight and reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Professor Aoun said there were three key aspects of the program which helped with weight loss.
“All participants were advised on nutrition, exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits through three separate educational presentations at club meetings,” Professor Aoun said.
“Clubs also competed against each other to see which had the largest reduction in BMI to win the WDC Trophy.
“This ongoing competition was recorded on a monthly leader board which helped spur on participants.
“Two volunteers from each club, called ‘Champions,’ were also trained to encourage their peers to adopt a healthier lifestyle and take charge of the competition.
“Lifestyle coaching by telephone was another part of the program that proved feasible in the pilot trial and needs further funding to expand.”
Ben said it hadn’t been just one thing that had motivated him to change his lifestyle.
“I found there were activities I was unable to participate in and the obvious long-term health risk,” Ben said.
“Also my weight was directly contributing to my long-term bachelor lifestyle which I wanted to change. A month beforehand, I had a phone call from the mother of a close friend of mine from high school informing me my friend had passed away from swine flu. This news hit me pretty hard.”
He said the challenge meant he had to completely change his lifestyle. He began by learning how much energy his body consumed each day (his base metabolic rate), cutting out fast food and unhealthy snacks and giving up alcohol.
“I still ate a lot of things I used to eat but I made my own low-calorie versions. The big thing is giving up snacking,” he said.
“Exercise was the next part. I did nothing special, no gyms, just simply walking 40 minutes a day every morning when I finished work. I changed clothes and walked from my office through town and back.
“Doing this before I got home, made sure I didn’t find an excuse to sit in front of the TV.
“My Rotary club – South Bunbury – was planning a trip to Kokoda and although I was not going to do the trek, I trained with and supported those members who did, and now have started to cycle to work and back which is good for me and the environment.”
He said he could not have made the dramatic lifestyle changes without the support of the WCD and his Rotary club.
“Having a support network like Rotary helped to create a perfect environment for me to achieve the mindset that was needed for a lifestyle change,” he said.
Ben said not only had he changed his waist, but his career. He is hoping to move into a new career in a management role with a franchise business and plans to study commerce in the future.
Professor Aoun said Ben’s achievement and those of the other WDC participants had been incredible.
“Overall 93 Champions and over 1,000 club members from 52 clubs across Western Australia took part in the program, which also included the added role of training Champions to be able to implement the WDC in their own clubs without health professionals having to deliver the education component,” she said.
“Most clubs had 50 per cent or more members lose weight, with one club’s members recording an amazing 80.4 per cent weight loss totalling 116.6kg.”
Professor Aoun said she is hoping that her funding application to Healthway would be successful to continue and expand the program. There is much interest in the program the program in other Australian states.