Surrounded by fellow teachers, administrators, friends, family and community leaders, a surprised Winter Park High School Teacher–Meg Pietkiewicz–on June 7 learned she had won the health and fitness challenge introduced by Dr. Mehmet Oz as part of the launch of the Healthy Central Florida (HCF) initiative in February in Winter Park.
Her prize is an all-expense paid trip for two to New York City to participate in a live filming of the Dr. Oz show.
Ms. Pietkiewicz, a popular marketing teacher at the school, has been successful in her own quest for better health, but she also inspired faculty, students and family to join her on the journey.
Her journey began more than 90 days ago when she attended the kickoff of Healthy Central Florida, an initiative founded by Florida Hospital and the Winter Park Health Foundation to make Central Florida the healthiest community in the nation, beginning with Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville.
At the kickoff, Dr. Oz delivered the keynote address and urged community leaders to make healthy changes in the places where people live, learn, work and play to help make the healthy choice the easy choice.
He also challenged residents to take a 3:30:3 Pledge to get active three times a week, for 30 minutes a day for the next three months, and hundreds did. Those who successfully completed the challenge were eligible to compete for a trip to New York City to sit in on the filming of the Dr. Oz show.
Of all the entries, the essay from Ms. Pietkiewicz stood out because she was able to create a healthier environment at home, school and the community. “She also brought to life a key Healthy Central Florida principle, that of making getting healthy fun!” said Jill Hamilton Buss, Executive Director, Healthy Central Florida.
Ms. Pietkiewicz’s pledge was to walk her dogs 30 minutes a day twice a day and to ride her horse three times a week for an hour. The pledge, she said was easy to keep because she loves getting out with her animals.
She lost 12 pounds in the process and inspired her husband to get back to golfing and walking. She also started cooking healthier meals and tried to shop the perimeter of the grocery store as Dr. Oz suggested at the HCF launch event.
At work, she recognized fellow staff members could use an after-school exercise program to relieve stress and improve fitness. She found a leader for the program and it was held once a week and included nutrition information and then exercise. “The leader introduced us to Zumba (which we quickly realized was hard work but a lot of fun), circuit training, interval training and the dreaded band workout,” she said. The combined group lost just over 60 pounds during a 10-week period.
Ms. Pietkiewicz also has been working with her WPHS marketing class students to develop a program called Live.Life.Healthy which will focus on teen fitness, nutrition awareness and clean living. She plans to incorporate the 3:30:3 Pledge into the campaign and get students to participate beginning this fall.
“While we had many excellent entries and have continued to hear success stories from dozens of people who’ve taken the pledge, Ms. Pietkiewicz was our clear and unanimous winner,” said Hamilton Buss. “She exemplifies all that Healthy Central Florida stands for — getting people connected and having fun, moving more, eating healthier and enjoying active, energized lives!”
Healthy Central Florida is using evidence-based strategies, and research supports using a pledge to change behavior. Making a commitment and making it public helps people be accountable for change. Everyone is encouraged to take the pledge and can find it along with other information at www.HealthyCentralFlorida.org.