LIVINGSTON, NJ — Members of the Livingston Police Department (LPD) and other township employees are in the midst of a Saint Barnabas Medical Center-sponsored “Wellness Challenge,” a 12-week program designed to “help participants lead a healthier lifestyle by providing realistic and accurate nutrition and exercise information as well as help with food choices, diet and exercise behaviors,” according to Margie Heller, Administrative Director of Community Health and Outreach for Saint Barnabas.

The challenge also offers participants support and accountability including a free, 12-week West Essex YMCA membership and a group consultation with a nutritionist. After the first week, 65 pounds in total were lost by the 20 individuals participating in the competition.

Livingston Police Captain John Drumm explained that the program began after Heller and Barbara Mintz, also from Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC), approached Chief Gary Marshuetz with the challenge and he thought it would be a “good team-building experience.”

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According to Drumm, the four teams of five people each and their captains include: Team Chief (Chief Marshuetz), Team Smith (Captain Thomas Smith), Team Mayor (Al Anthony) and Team Hammer (Captain Drumm).

Drum also explained that not all contestants are from the police department, as the teams also include Livingston Public Library personnel and other township employees and community members. Team Mayor, for example, is comprised of Anthony’s wife and son, Department of Public Works Superintendent Mike Anello and Chief Marshuetz’s wife.

“It’s a lot of fun participating in the LPD Challenge," the mayor said. "I’ll be with my family and friends learning about how to live a healthier lifestyle. What a great way to spend the summer, and with a little luck, maybe we can give the police and library teams a good run.”

Every Monday and Thursday between 6:45 and 7:15 a.m., nurses from SBMC are conducting weigh-ins and Eileen Bauer, administrative assistant at the police department, weighs participants who can’t make it to the precinct at that early hour. Weigh-ins also include body fat measurements.

Blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) were recorded in the beginning of the contest and will be taken again at the end of the contest.

Bauer reported that the mood at the police department has been happy and cooperative over the first few weeks and that it has truly been a team-building exercise. She also said participants are committed to losing weight and improving their health, but that there’s also a bit of good-natured teasing in the form of sabotaging one another.

“Everyone’s excited about the competition,” she said. “People in the office ask each other how they are doing with their food consumption.”

Bauer said fattening treats are appearing in the office, but she’s been trying to reroute them to departments that aren’t part of the challenge.

“Someone left M&Ms and licorice in our office today,” she said earlier this week. “Earlier in the week pizzas found their way into our department. I took them to another part of the building but someone brought them back.”

According to SBMC and RWJBarnabas Health, future wellness challenges are currently being planned other organizations.

The team members are setting a great example for all of us. As the Police Wellness Challenge flyer proclaims, “Whatever doesn’t challenge us doesn’t change us.”

Pictured above are some of the participants during Week One weigh-ins, including the Livingston Police Department, Mayor Al Anthony, his family, and Margie Heller and Lauren Norcross from Community Health & Outreach at Saint Barnabas Medical Center.