Overland Park Regional Medical Center employees are at halftime of a competition they take as seriously as their commitment to delivering high-quality patient care at one of Johnson County’s healthcare leaders. Titled the “OPRMC Biggest Loser,” the 11-week program that kicked off on February 4 isn’t just about saying “no” to unhealthy food or sedentary lifestyles; it’s about saying, “yes” to healthy choices and lowering stress for a healthy work-life balance.

John Brackle, physical therapist at Overland Park Regional Medical Center (OPRMC)—part of HCA Midwest Health System, Kansas City’s largest healthcare network—decided to help colleagues shed excess holiday weight and wiggle into a new frame of mind for 2013. He took the concept of television’s popular reality weight-loss show, “The Biggest Loser,” and applied some of the same principles to a work environment.

But Brackle’s interpretation of the show that sensationalizes losing weight is not so much about duking it out over the scale but about accountability, adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and learning to manage everyday stress—while creating esprit de corps at work.

“We have 138 participants who joined the OPRMC Biggest Loser,” says Brackle, who works every day helping patients regain their health after surgery, accidents and illness. “We divided into 39 teams and each person must attend weigh-ins, at least three workshops and have an attitude of supporting and reaching goals with coworkers.”

To date, the OPRMC Biggest Loser participants have shed nearly 500 pounds.

Brackle recruited Overland Park Regional Medical Center’s dietitian to present lectures on healthy eating and diet myths. Local grocery retailer Hy-Vee conducts cooking classes and store tours to help participants understand the importance of reading labels and how to shop heart-healthy or on a budget. Element Fitness offers a reduced rate on classes and a certified trainer. Brackle covered his bases, and then some.

“Part of living a healthy life is taking care of psychosocial needs, so we also have someone who gives workshops on managing stress,” says Brackle. “The OPRMC Biggest Loser is about treating the whole person—just like we treat patients here at the hospital.”

Katie Aldis, director of the OPRMC laboratory, is a pied piper of motivating employees when it comes to sporting events. Her office door is decorated with medals she’s won from more than 50 triathlons, two marathons and myriad competitions. So it was natural when Brackle announced the OPRMC Biggest Loser for Aldis to gather colleagues to form Katie’s Crusaders—a quintet of coworkers with something to lose.

“I’m training for a full Ironman next fall and want to keep the weight off,” says Aldis, who admits a weakness for sweets. “Ten years ago I lost 65 pounds and it changed my life. Now I eat to live—not live to eat. Others on the team want to lose weight, learn how to eat healthy, reduce stress and to make exercise a habit.”

Aldis joined Weight Watchers in 2011 to help her lose weight. Eating a balanced diet and exercising four to five times a week help her manage stress. The OPRMC Biggest Loser is helping Aldis boost her resolve to be prepared for competition.

“And build team spirit here at work,” says Aldis.

“At OPRMC, we have a culture of family and part of this family is striving for a healthy work-life balance,” says Damond Boatwright, OPRMC president and chief executive officer. “Happy and engaged employees translate to high patient satisfaction so seeing the energy, enthusiasm and competitive spirit with the OPRMC Biggest Loser creates an even better culture and higher patient satisfaction at the hospital.”

The OPRMC Biggest Loser concludes the week of April 22 with a final weigh-in. Although the winning team will ultimately be determined by the highest percentage of weight loss from the preliminary weigh-in, Brackle says the competition’s byproduct is about building camaraderie around a common goal—and learning how to manage stress for a healthy life.

“No one can experience a quick fix in weight loss or stress management,” says Brackle. “We’re walking the talk we give physical therapy patients—success comes with a large helping of perseverance and dedication.”