BANGOR, Maine — Bill Collins, the administrator for Penobscot County, now weighs 169 pounds, about what he did 40 years ago when he headed off to college at the University of Maine in 1972.
Collins was one of 35 county employees who completed a 12-week weight loss and get-in-shape program called the Biggest Mover sponsored by the Bangor Y. The group lost a total of 439 pounds.
The administrator was considered the biggest loser even though others shed more pounds than he did because success was measured by percentage of body weight lost. The county administrator shed 15.73 percent of his beginning weight.
The program was part of the county’s wellness program, Collins said last week. In addition to employees dieting and changing their eating habits, exercise classes were held in the former third-floor courtroom of the historic county courthouse.
Having the program on site is what made it so successful, said Collins and Tammy Hodgdon, health and wellness director for the Y.
“You are the first Biggest Mover group that we have off-site [from the Y] and the first full workplace to participate in the five years we’ve had the program,” Hodgdon said Wednesday at a recognition dinner for participants.
In the past, participants had to attend classes at the the Y, located on Second Street in Bangor.
The program cost about $8,000, according to Collins. The unions that represent county employees contributed $2,000, another $2,000 came from county funds and the remaining $4,000 came from Cigna, the firm that provides health insurance to county employees.
The program divided participants into teams based on what times individuals chose to take part in the on-site exercise program, Andrea Trafton, office manager for the Penobscot County district attorney’s office, said last week. Trafton’s team, which ended the program with four members, came in second place with a total weight loss of 44 pounds. The team exercised on-site at the end of the workday from 3 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“It was a nice break at the end of the day,” she said last week. “I kind of forgot the stresses going on the office and worked through them. When I got home, I had more energy for my family.”
She said the competitive nature of the program also made it fun.
In addition to the exercise classes, participants met twice with a trainer and twice with a nutritionist to measure their progress during the 12-week program.
Team Hoo-Rah, of which Collins was a member, came in first place with a total weight loss of 199.4 pounds. The team had eight members.
Collins said Wednesday that in addition to increasing employee fitness and morale, one of the long-term goals of the program is to keep down the rising cost of health insurance.
“We’re not just looking at reducing a big incidents such as heart attack but at paying for fewer medications to lower blood pressure and cholesterol,” he said. “More importantly, as a result of the Biggest Mover, people are happy to come to work.”
An early version of this story requires correction. The winning Biggest Mover team was Hoo-Rah, not Hurrah.