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The Healthiest Community in the Nation Begins with Me

The Healthiest Community in the Nation Begins with Me

Okay…so you might say that maybe that title is a little conceited. But when the West Orange Healthcare District proclaimed their goal “to be the healthiest community in the nation” I was sure I wanted to be part of that! Five generations of my family have lived here. I would love our community to be known as the healthiest in the nation! I wanted to be part of “Healthy West Orange.”

So last year, IDEAS competed and won an RFP to help that cause come to life. With our StoryJam™ process, we created the Healthy West Orange core story, their brand charter, their new logo, and created a webpage that would help people understand how to get started on making that goal into a reality for themselves…one step at a time. We recently created their new website ( and we are now working on plans to activate the brand. Part of that effort includes the “Healthy Leaders” program that started in January, and I AM part of that. I am one of about 150 people in West Orange County selected to be a “Healthy Leader.” It’s a role I took very seriously.

There was a kickoff breakfast, where motivational speakers got us going. We all had blood pressure measurements, blood tests, weigh-ins, waist measurements, and the In-Body test which is a comprehensive summary of what shape our bodies were in. Those served as the baseline measures for each of us. We had six months of opportunities ahead of us to improve! I was provided with a coach to help me make goals for myself: lose a pound a week and improve my cholesterol levels. Weekly I met with my coach to be guided toward those goals, and to understand that when I stumbled, it was not the end of the world. Any progress was better than no progress. It was truly a journey.

I had recently bought myself an Apple watch to track my daily activities. I’m not really too competitive, but I am a bit obsessive, so the watch let me compete against myself every day by exercising 30 minutes and to keep moving throughout the day to keep my metabolism up. I publicly proclaimed my commitment on Facebook by posting my “close the rings” picture daily. I was doing it! I was getting healthy. In fact, I lost seven pounds in as many weeks. And then…

While out walking one morning, I turned my ankle and got a pretty nasty sprain. BAM… I was looking at no exercise for the next eight weeks! Should I give up? I mean, I couldn’t even walk. No…I had committed to myself. I would somehow go on, but I needed to be realistic. My new goal was to log everything I was eating daily and to simply not gain back the 7 pounds I had lost. It worked. And then…

I started traveling for work. Weekly. For twelve weeks in a row! I love to travel and meet new people, but, oh boy, this was difficult. My schedule was not my own, and by about week eleven, I was pretty discouraged. I had gained two pounds back! And knowing I still had another week of travel to go, that weekend I decided (those are key words there) to try a new way of eating. I made another commitment…this time to a vegetarian diet for at least six weeks. I got on Netflix and searched “vegetarian” and “vegan.” Lots of documentaries popped up. I watched one of them that first night. Another the second night. I was convinced that this would be a new beginning. BUT…I was still traveling…and it was a big change for me…so I decided that the first two weeks of this change, I would NOT worry about my weight at all, and instead I concentrated on just eating well. It was a good change of pace.

That first two weeks, I gained yet another pound. BUT…for the first time in my entire life, I was not hungry! For real. I’ve “dieted” for what feels like forever, and I’ve always felt hungry. But not now. I guess all that fiber in the fruits and vegetables and rice and bread I was eating really did satiate me. And I noticed another thing. I didn’t ache anymore. Not really at all! Could it be that eating well and exercising was really doing my body good?

Week three of the vegetarian experiment, I started tracking my food intake again. I know this helps to make me more mindful of my food choices, and between that and my Apple watch helping me to be aware of my exercise, I was turning into a pretty health-minded person! Now I’m a little past the week four marker. Yesterday I weighed in for the end of my Healthy Leader six month program. I lost those three pounds I had regained plus one more…for a grand total of eight pounds lost. You might be thinking…eight pounds in six months…that doesn’t sound like much. Well, I can tell you, it was eight pounds more than I lost all last year! And although my total cholesterol level didn’t change, my HDL went up and my LDL came down. Both good markers. And the big deal…like I said…I feel better. I’m pretty sure that over time, these lifestyle changes that I have begun to incorporate into my body will help me improve my overall health. Thanks, Healthy West Orange, for the boost!

I’m just one person, but I am a member of #TeamHWO. You can be, too. Go to and “Join the Movement” to become a better you. Together, we can become the healthiest community in the nation.

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Kelly brings more than two decades of experience in education, training design and development, organization development and executive coaching to the IDEAS team.