JoAnne and Mark Keen after the Healthy Hearts challenge.
By Andy Kriege, YSN
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It all began in January with a simple realization that JoAnne Keen had at a family gathering in Florida.
The Keen’s had all packed on a few too many “COVID pounds,” and the group was feeling the effects of being locked down for too long. JoAnne surveyed the gathering and concluded that collectively they were an unfit and unhealthy bunch. The result of too much food and drink and not enough exercise was noticeably beginning to sap the life out of them all.
“We realized we had to make some lifestyle changes if we were going to be around long enough to enjoy our retirement years and spend quality time with our grandchildren,” said JoAnne, who, along with her husband Mark, is a co-owner of Frank’s Appliance Center & Sleepsource in Bradley, Ill. What she didn’t realize, however, was that her epiphany would be instrumental in reshaping (literally) the lives of so many of her family members and co-workers.
JoAnne floated the idea of a family weight-loss challenge before her husband, hoping that the group could inspire each other to look better, feel better, and hopefully live longer. Mark’s answer was to “Go for it.”
To her surprise, JoAnne was able to convince 10 skeptical family members to sign up, although it took some arm twisting for most to get past the notion of sharing their starting weight with others. Eventually everyone was on board, and each participant was able to pick their own weight goals.
The members, whose ages range from 26 to 65, appropriately referred to themselves as the “Healthy Hearts” support group, and each kicked in $50 to participate. The rule was that if you hit your target weight by the end of the 10-week challenge, your entry fee would be refunded.
“We all picked our own methods for losing weight,” JoAnne recounted. “Some chose Weight Watchers, some counted calories, and others enlisted the help of personal trainers to help them achieve their goal.” But regardless of the approach, she said, “We all shared our secrets and built some very special relationships with each other that have continued beyond the end of the challenge.”
The dreaded weigh-in came every Monday morning. “We all joked that if we gained or didn’t lose any weight, our scales must be broken,” JoAnne quipped. Nevertheless, participants had to pony up a dollar for every extra pound and add it to the kitty.
At the end of 10 weeks the group collectively shed an incredible 250 pounds. “As fate would have it, the family member who had been the most skeptical ended up winning by dropping a whopping 25 pounds,” JoAnne said. “She was ecstatic!”
The first round of the Healthy Hearts challenge went over so well that other family members clamored to join in. So the group staged a second competition, this time with 16 people taking part and losing a collective 350 pounds.
“The coolest part about all this is that if you see any of us on the street these days, we are all smiling ear to ear,” JoAnne said. “It was really fun motivating each other and pulling together as a team.”
Since then, the Healthy Heart followers have all embraced their 10-week regimen as a permanent way of life, and plan to continue on their fit-and-trim path for a long, healthy lifetime.
YSN salutes JoAnne Keen with a tip of the hat for her newfound Healthy Heart initiative.
BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, furniture, mattress and CE dealers.