Cortez Airport technician Efrain Vaquera lost 75 pounds in 2014. He attributed replacing sugary drinks with more water for his weight loss success.
“I decided I didn’t want to be chubby,” said the 38-year-old father of four. “I found a plan, and stuck with it.”
Altering his lifestyle started with changing his eating habits and incorporating daily physical activity. At 272 pounds, the trickiest aspect was giving up salty snacks, he said.
“Eating is such a simple thing to do, so it’s the hardest thing to avoid,” said Vaquera, who now weighs 192 pounds. “It’s still a challenge, especially this time of year.”
Vaquera was among some 80 municipal employees to participate in the city’s yearlong “Moving and Improving Wellness Program.” Consisting of five eight-week challenges, the program promoted and encouraged all employees to seek a healthier lifestyle through exercise, nutrition and wellness contests. Vaquera was the top male contestant, winning a full paid day off and a $100 Cortez Cash certificate.
“About two-thirds of all our employees participated,” said City Clerk Linda Smith. “It was a great success.”
Spearheading the campaign, Smith explained that employees worked together in rotating three-member teams to help keep them motivated throughout the year. She said dietary lectures from hospital officials, cholesterol screenings from health department officials and exercise programs designed by park officials were all key to making the program successful.
“We had a pedometer challenge over the summer,” said Smith. “Most all of the employees are still wearing them.”
The city also sponsored a geocaching event, which aimed to encourage employees to walk all five municipal parks. Other physical activities incorporated into the program included disc golf and pickle ball.
“We want to keep our employees active,” Smith reiterated.
In 2015, the city hopes to continue and expand its employee wellness program. Plans include providing a bicycle and helmet at each city department with hopes that employees will ride the bikes to meetings, for example.
“The wellness program helps to reduce sick days, and ultimately lower insurance costs to the taxpayers,” said Smith. “It also makes employees happier and improves their way of life.”
Vaquera said he recently launched a separate 14-week program on his own to continue his improved lifestyle. His four sons are also taking part.
“I’m hoping to drop another 30 pounds,” he added. “I’m really excited.”
Asked what advice he’d give others with a desire for a healthier lifestyle in the New Year, Vaquera quickly said, “Don’t wait for a start date. Just do it.”
Citing he felt better physically, Vaquera said the greatest benefit was being able to spend more quality time with his family, and ultimately improving his father-son bonds. He’s now helping them, and their friends, train for next year’s football season via morning runs and afternoon weight room sessions.
“It’s amazing,” said Vaquera. “I have freedom now. I’m not a slave to my body anymore. I can do what I want to do.”