Michelle Shimmel is making 2019 the year to get healthy.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) employee joined a Healthy Weight Challenge at the beginning of the year and hasn’t looked back.

“I lost 30 pounds, and I continue to lose weight after the challenge,” Shimmel said. “I used the challenge as a jumping off point for exercise and healthy eating.”

The three-month challenge consisted of teams of four competing to lose the greatest percentage of weight to win cash prizes.

“The challenge is about making changes in the way that you think about losing weight in general,” said Shimmel. “Not trying a fast fix, but really making a change in the way that you not only see yourself but the way you think about the way you eat.”

Shimmel didn’t set any caloric restriction. She used wellness information about healthy eating and lifestyle to guide her.

“When I made changes to the way I eat, it didn’t mean I was starving myself,” she said. “I’m eating whole foods. I’m not going out to eat as much, and I don’t have junk food in my house period.”

Exercise was also a major part of the program.

“I started five days a week then transitioned to 3 days a week over lunch and two days at home,” Shimmel said. “My manager helped me make my workouts over lunch a priority, which was really helpful.”

Shimmel had participated in other weight-loss programs. A change in mindset pushed her forward this time.

“I made myself a priority and to do that I needed to get that work out in and eat healthily,” Shimmel said.

The challenge was also specifically designed to harness positive peer pressure to work towards a healthy weight. The teams motivated and held each other accountable.

“The group structure allows the opportunity for support and accountability that ‘going it alone’ doesn’t provide,” Kathy Nellor, BCBSNE’s Health Transformation Leader said. “Groups can exchange exercise and diet tips and workout together. When you are part of a group, you don’t feel alone, and you share a commonality with others.”

“If I put that investment in myself, everything else falls into place,” Shimmel said.