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GRAND RAPIDS -- A free community wide weight-loss program launching this month aims to put West Michigan on track to a healthier lifestyle. Grand Valley Health Plan, which has run a weight-loss challenge for its members the past two years, is now opening the program up to the public at no charge.
Grand Valley Health Plan is offering a free weight loss challenge to all West Michigan residents in 2012.
Who can participate: Those 13 and older with a BMI of 25 or more who are at least 12 pounds above a healthy weight.
The results from the first year of the program showed it made a difference in many people’s lives, Cichon said. Program organizers say they deliberately avoid setting high goals because they want to encourage sustainable lifestyle changes in eating patterns and exercise.

But even losing small amounts of weight can have a big effect on health, reducing the risk of developing diabetes or health disease. Boutell said if patients set a weight-loss goal, he encourages them to set small, reasonable goals, such as a half-pound to a pound of weight loss a week.
Because most people tend to gain some weight each year, just staying the same weight can be a victory. Participants in the program get two vouchers for free one-on-one sessions with a Grand Valley health coach. That rise in weight carries a host of health problems, including diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, cancer, and kidney and heart disease. When she counsels patients, Brookhouse said they often tell her their goal weight is to return to their college weight, when they were much more physically active.

More than twice the number of Michigan adults, 1.6 million, are obese today compared to 745,000 a decade ago. Rather than thinking she needed to lose weight to be happy, she realized she needed to be happy to be healthy.
Rick Snyder -- who announced his own 10-pound weight-loss goal -- says obesity is behind about $3 billion in medical costs in Michigan.

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