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The City Journals

West Jordan’s bringing healthy back

Darin and Rachelle Peterson are participating in the “Way to a Better Life Contest.” (Amy Green/City Journals)

By Amy Green [email protected]

Lots of things happen at West Jordan City Hall during the week, even into the night. One can hear concert bands practicing or see efficient janitors spiffing up the hallways. On Thursday evenings, a quiet yet important event takes place: the “2018 Way to a Better Life Contest.” 

The contest is open for anyone 18 years and older (who registered by Jan. 18) to make permanent lifestyle changes. The challenge is not about getting six-pack abs or an insta-bikini bod. Weight loss is one aspect but only part of the big picture of health. Starvation dieting, pills and eliminating entire food groups are actually contest disqualifiers. Contestants might end up with rippling pectorals, Jillian Michaels glutei or on the cover of (insert favorite health magazine here). Who knows? Sculpted biceps are not the point. The challenge is about creating a better, balanced and healthier you.

Entrants come to City Hall once a week for a quick weigh-in, over a 13-week span. They show up with commitment and determination. Cathy Clark said, “I had a hip replacement surgery last May and gained about 20 pounds, so now it’s time to take it off. I was hoping by weighing in, it would be the catalyst to start my weight loss.” Trying not to over-snack is one of her goals, as Cathy has lost 8 pounds already.  

All hopefuls receive a printed copy of the “Contest Participants Packet.” This is a booklet to keep track of nutrition, eating, exercise and drinking water. There are no extensive food logs to take and no measurements by a tailor’s tape. You don’t even need a smartphone or health app. A body composition analyzer is available at the weekly check-ins to determine fat percentage and other calculations, simply by standing on it. It seems the only thing the machine can’t do is detect a lie.

Amy Stroup, a seasoned competitor, has done the challenge many times with her husband, Jeremy Stroup. 

“Every year, we look forward to it,” Amy Stroup said. “It’s something we do together. It keeps us going. My husband is competitive, and that competitive spirit jumps in.” Even though the Stroups have moved away from West Jordan, they continue to participate.

Walking in, participants see Katie Prawitt and a committee of upbeat organizers there to assist. Linsey Miller, community health education coordinator, has a wealth of knowledge about the contest, and she is there to help track, encourage and monitor everyone’s progress. 

 “The hardest part is finding time to exercise,” said elementary school teacher Rachelle Peterson. “I needed some motivation. I wasn’t drinking much water. I wasn’t eating lots of fruits and vegetables.” 

A switch to healthier beverages has now rubbed off on Peterson’s students choosing water too. Her husband, Darin Peterson, signed up with her and admitted, “The water has been the hard part. I got off soda.” He described his new daily habit saying, “Before I get up and do other things, I drink 32 ounces of water.”

The challenge has a (fruits encouraged) cherry on top. There are gift cards and cash prizes to look forward to when winners are announced on April 26, a celebration of stick-to-itiveness. However, none of the contestants focused much on that just yet. They mostly talked of feeling better, motivating family members, having more energy and using a doable method.

The scale, as most rude scales usually do, only shows steady incremental improvements. However, early and obvious results are showing up in attitudes. Contestants spoke in positive tones. Their optimism matched the cheerful pitch of brass ensemble heard beyond the lobby weigh-in. This is a program they can maintain. 

The overall goal of Way to a Better Life, is to help start permanent changes that will continue long after the contest ends. 

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