Fitness Challenge Produces Healthy Lifestyles

At EMJ, we are more than the work we do. We value our people, above all else, and strive to invest in our people and work together effectively as one team.

There are many ways to do that, including friendly office team competition. This, together with the spirit of promoting both healthy competition and lifestyles, is how the People Department created the 2019 Fitness Challenge.

The Fitness Challenge of 2019 was a 3-month challenge that ran January 14 – April 15. EMJ gave a $500 cash prize for both the winning team and each male and female top performer, all based on percentage of weight lost. There were also individual and team prizes for exercise minutes.

While the challenge was definitely a success in promoting healthy lifestyles and building teamwork, it was also the beginning of an incredible fitness journey for some, especially the Dallas Office female winner, Suzanna Trent.

In addition to crushing her competition and helping her team place 3rd, she transformed her lifestyle, allowing her to continue to lose weight even several months after the competition had ended.

We sat down with Suzanna to discuss the details of her motivation, progress, and goals thus far in this journey, which are found in the following Q&A.

What was your motivation for joining the EMJ Fitness Challenge this past year?

Peer pressure. Matt Connors kept trying to convince me to do it. Eventually a few of my co-workers said they would sign up if I did, so I finally gave in. There were several times over the following Christmas break that I debated e-mailing in to say I’d changed my mind, but I didn’t want to go back on my word. Then, once the teams were assigned, I knew I couldn’t let my team down. I was determined to pull my weight — or in this case, lose it.

A few weeks into the challenge, during a meeting, the stats of the leader board were being read and I was starting to move up in the rankings. Nicole Gaiser, our VP of People, commented that she thought she had first place in the bag, but that I was now giving her a run for her money. Beating her then became my new motivation! Once the challenge was over though, I felt so great that I wanted to keep going.

What has been your overall progress?

As of this morning, I have lost 120lbs. and 10 pant sizes! I initially weighed in at 280lbs and I am now down to 160lbs.

How have you gone about losing the weight?

I started a WeightWatchers program and eat a lot of “zero point” foods like chicken, fish, and all sorts of fruits and vegetables. I also began to meal plan and prep my meals and snacks ahead of time –grapes are my go-to snack, I love me some fruit!

I cut out anything with added sugar as well, but I allow myself to splurge every now and then on some cookies and cream ice cream. The key has been getting right back on track. I also started walking eight minutes a day. It was so hard at first just to walk for a few minutes, but I slowly built up my endurance over time. Now, I am jogging for at least an hour every day!

Did you have any goals when you started the Fitness Challenge? Any long-term goals for yourself now?

My only goal when I started the challenge was not to let my team down. Now, my goal is to weigh in at 150lbs on the one-year mark, January 14, 2020. After that, I just want to maintain a healthy weight and continue living a healthy lifestyle. I have never felt better than I do now! I have had so many cheerleaders who have encouraged me along the way, and I am so thankful for the support of my EMJ family!

What would you say to people who are struggling with their weight and motivation?

Make small changes, like parking farther away from work, the grocery store, when running errands, etc. Take the stairs; even if it is one flight a day, it all adds up. Make small weight loss goals. Take baby steps and never look too far ahead.

Be proud when you meet your goals. If you don’t meet your goals (and there will be times you fall short) don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s okay to splurge every now and then, but get right back on the wagon after you do. Know that you are worth every part of this journey and love yourself through it! Last but not least, remember that “healthy” is a goal, not a number. Every bit you are doing matters, and you are good enough!

“We had no idea how much buy-in or what the lasting impact would be when we initially introduced the fitness challenge. It was fun to see the camaraderie and friendly banter amongst co-workers throughout the duration of the challenge. Between both the Dallas and Chattanooga offices we had over 1,000lbs lost and 225,325 exercise minutes logged, so we are excited to see the how the bar will be raised in the 2020 Fitness Challenge,” says Nicole Gaiser, our Vice President of People.

EMJ is planning a second annual fitness challenge. Suzanna hasn’t decided if she’s going to participate, but you can bet she’ll be there cheering her fellow employees on, the EMJ way.

Suzanna (before)
Suzanna (after)

A Hat Tip to Ditch Diggers

Selfless, Trustworthy and Gritty — these are EMJ’s core values which represent who we want to be.

This poem by Eric Borden, recently featured at the 2019 AGC Convention, reminds us of our EMJ employees — especially those in the field — and their grit. As the author says, it’s dedicated to everyone who works in construction or is involved in it in any way.

We are proud of all our all our employees who work tirelessly for our clients. If you want to learn more about our team, check out our Foundation.