DALLAS — "Lighten up" has new meaning for Stream Energy, a power company that keeps the lights on for millions.
"We were going super-fast to an unhealthy lifestyle," admitted 40-year old Lorene Viquez. "That means that we were on our way to our deathbeds. I had diabetes, high blood pressure... just a mess."
Viquez is busy. She and her husband both work full-time and manage the hectic schedules of their three children. They admit exercise was tough to squeeze in, and fast food fit in with their life on the run.
They and about 100 other Stream workers decided to turn their health around by joining the company's “Lighten Up” weight-loss challenge.
For eight weeks, they dedicated themselves and supported each other losing weight. The company provided weekly nutrition classes and weigh-ins.
Stream also provided access to a nearby gym, encouraging employees to work out during the lunch hour.
As a group, employees lost about 1,000 pounds. CEO Mark "Bouncer" Schiro rewarded their efforts with $5,000 in cash awards, plus a cruise to the biggest loser.
Schiro (who lost 32 pounds himself) said the company is also a big winner in health care savings and employee morale.
"How can it be a loss leader for your employees working out more and eating healthier?” Schiro asked. "You can't put a price on that. I mean, we've changed people's lives."
Lorene Viquez took off 14 pounds, and she no longer has high blood pressure.
Her husband John, who also works at Stream, dropped 27 pounds.
And they took their better habits home, where their 13-year-old daughter lost 17 pounds.
The Viquez family now seriously limits fast food, and opts instead for fresh fruits and vegetables. Lorene Viquez concedes that the changes were surprisingly simple.
"I think in the last eight weeks I accomplished a lot of things that I told myself I never would be able to" she said through tears. "So I just lied to myself this whole entire time. And I feel like... like, see it now."
That, says Viquez and her lighter electric company colleagues, is true power.