Beyond the Card: Northern Michigan Communities Win by Losing

Julie Bitely

| 4 min read

Losing weight can be hard, but doing it with someone else makes the journey a little easier. Having a whole community supporting you and striving toward the same goal? That’s a recipe for success. For the past five years, that’s what’s been happening in the lakeside towns of Petoskey and Harbor Springs in northern Michigan. Through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Win by Losing program, local businesses and their employees are shedding pounds while engaging in a little healthy competition with each other. Each year, the Health Care Task Force, a committee of the Petoskey Regional and Harbor Springs Area Chambers of Commerce, promotes the program to local companies. Last year, their efforts resulted in a total of 18 teams comprised of about 250 employees. They lost an impressive 1,661 combined pounds. This year, 23 teams have signed up with 275 participants taking part in the competition that started Feb. 29.
Dan Rasmussen is the Managing Partner at Rasmussen, Teller, O’Neil and Christman, an accounting firm in Petoskey. In 2015, their team took top honors locally and statewide for businesses with 10 employees or less, with a 6.6 percent weight loss and a combined total weight loss of 92.8 pounds. Rasmussen personally lost 17 pounds. The amazing thing about the group’s efforts? It happened during the height of tax season, when most accounting offices are overflowing with comfort food to accommodate the long, stressful days and nights that lead up to April 15, the deadline for filing taxes. “We’re a bunch of CPAs. We love to eat and go out and when it gets to be tax season, we find our waistlines bulging,” Rasmussen said. “Tax season is my least favorite time of year with long hours at work, little sleep or free time. We might as well be dieting too.” The accountants and office staff who’ve participated in the program over the past two years banded together to make sure everyone experienced success. Nutritious snacks replaced sugary ones, lunches out were split to save calories, and a standing team dinner on Monday nights became an opportunity for people to showcase their favorite healthy recipes. While 15-hour work days spent together could have derailed progress, Rasmussen said it actually built camaraderie. “We policed ourselves,” he said. “We also encouraged each other. We’re together so often that we all stayed on the same program.” After the challenge and tax season ended, Rasmussen was happy to report that long walks to lunch and an uptick in physical activity thanks to warmer weather continued a positive trend of health for the office. He also noticed taking part in the competition during tax season makes for a happier and healthier office environment. “Every tax season seems to get busier and more productive,” Rasmussen said. “By eating right, we have the energy to finish on a high note.” Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce president Carlin Smith said the Win by Losing program provided the perfect structure to offer a local weight-loss competition. “It was very easy for us to plug our local competitors into this existing platform,” he said. “Workforce wellness is a big issue for nearly all businesses, and business owners need to begin to think more about how they can care for their workforce and to create environments where their employees are healthy and happy. The Win by Losing program gave us, as a chamber of commerce, an easy tool to share with businesses as a team-building program, while also promoting healthier lifestyles.” Blue Cross employees Lynne Harvey and Donna Ludwig both serve on the local health care task force. “The Win by Losing program is just one of the many avenues that Blue Cross has been able to use to support the communities,” Harvey said. Win by Losing is a no-cost, nine-week weight loss challenge open to companies of any size that have health care through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or Blue Care Network. Sessions run in the spring and fall. This post is part of a storytelling series we call, “Beyond the Card.” These stories will feature Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members, employees, and communities who are making meaningful differences throughout our state. We invite you to follow Beyond the Card stories here at and through the hashtag, #BeyondtheCard on our social channels. If you have a story you would like to share, please feel free to contact us at Photo Credit: Christopher Peplin
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association