DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Karen Harp, assistant to the dean of students at Chaminade, began losing weight last year after taking advantage of a Hawaii Medical Service Association program offering members free visits to Weight Watchers. Harp and her pet dog, "Ginny," take a walk in front of her Hawaii Kai home.
Partnership melts away pounds
A Chaminade staff member benefits from an HMSA and Weight Watchers program
EVERYONE who walks up three flights of stairs to her office at Chaminade University "is huffing and puffing," says Karen Harp. "And I don't," she adds with a touch of pride.
Harp, 51, assistant to the dean of students, lost 25 pounds last year after the Hawaii Medical Service Association offered members free visits to Weight Watchers in a pilot program.
It was so successful, HMSA offered a 16-week program in July. About 2,300 HMSA members called Weight Watchers to register and more than 1,500 are attending weekly meetings, said HMSA spokesman Chuck Marshall.
HARP, in a recent interview, said she's "still very healthy." Her weight had stabilized at about 132 pounds, 20 pounds less than it was before the program. Her original goal set at Weight Watchers for her 5-foot-2-inch height was 137 pounds.
After reaching her goal she was given lifetime membership, requiring her to weigh in just once a month and hold her weight to no more than two pounds over her original goal.
"What I found was, if you just attend once a month, it's easier to go astray than if you attend weekly," she said. "It's still much more motivational."
She said she allowed herself to eat during a trip to Germany but walked so much she only gained two pounds. "I was so impressed."
She has since lost those pounds and is down to 130.
"Exercise is the key," Harp said. She walks (including three flights of stairs daily to and from her office) and has a trampoline and a library of exercise videos. "I like the dance type routines," she said, especially Latin rhythms. Her 12-year-old daughter, Salya, joins in.
Her daughter had complained that they didn't have a lot of good snacks at home, but Harp said, "I have found good-tasting, lower-calorie snacks, and she's responding to that."
Harp was surprised to hear from two friends from her past, one from teen years and another from her 30s: "I was curious why they were Googling me so many years later."
They found her after a Star-Bulletin story in October reported her achievement, she said.
She had been on a maintenance program but joined a Weight Watchers group that started Sept. 18 on Chaminade with a goal to slim down more.
Every one of the 25 people in the group has lost weight, she said. A Marianist brother lost six pounds in one week, she said.
The meetings are held at noon, so it's convenient to everyone, and instructor Katie Choy is a Chaminade graduate who met her husband there, Harp said.
"What really motivated us is having all of our friends doing this," she said. "Some are bringing in recipes they do at home and are testing them on other people."
With more than half of Hawaii adults overweight or obese, HMSA teamed up with Weight Watchers to encourage members to shed pounds and improve their health.
Weight Watchers promotes a healthy diet and physical activity and incorporates behavior modification and support to help people lose weight safely.
HMSA members are offered free registration and three free weekly visits to Weight Watchers meetings and a discounted rate of $10 per visit for the next 10 visits. After the 13th visit, members receive the last three weekly visits at no cost. The total cost to HMSA members for 10 visits is $100.
Some Kaiser members also are participating in Chaminade's Weight Watchers program, she said. The cost is $70 for HMSA members for a 10-week cycle; $114 for Kaiser members for 12 weeks, and $119 for non-HMSA members.
If they need more inspiration, she said, they can go to Weight Watchers anywhere locally for free. "So if we wanted to go every day, theoretically we could. But once a week is a good thing."