It’s hard not to be inspired by Dr. Mehmet Oz, the handsome cardiologist-turned-television personality who urges viewers to forgo fattening foods and make exercise a priority. It is also hard not to be inspired by Gail Olivia Everett, the local fitness instructor who operates Olivia’s Wellness Connection out of the Princeton YMCA.
Starting in January, the two will join forces, in a manner of speaking. Through weekly meetings at the Y, Ms. Everett will head the Princeton arm of “Transformation Nation: Million Dollar You,” a free national program sponsored by Dr. Oz, Weight Watchers, and Sharecare Fitness designed to promote health and weight loss in a 12-week session. Participants will meet weekly to work out, learn about proper nutrition, and share tips on maintaining an active, healthy, lifestyle.
All participants must register on the Transformation Nation website, and will be required to get a free assessment of their weight and body mass index (BMI) at any local Weight Watchers location between January 2-9. The program ends the week of April 2. According to the website [www.doctoroz.com], someone will win $1 million at the end of the session.
“Gail had come to us with her Olivia’s Wellness Connection, which has been very successful, and we got to know each other,” says Kate Bech, CEO of the Y. “I knew this would be a perfect fit.”
Ms. Everett, who has been running workshops at the Y including “Wellness in the Spirit,” “Jammersize,” “Gail’s Body Rejuvenation,” and “Walk Aerobics,” was familiar with the TV doctor. “Everyone knows Dr. Oz,” she says. “And the seven steps he has on the program are exactly what I talk about at my classes. He’s trying to get the whole nation healthy, and I’ve been trying to do that here.”
In addition to weighing in and calculating BMI, the seven steps of the program include telling a friend, connecting with one’s doctor, learning family health history, getting more sleep, assessing stress, and starting new fitness habits. After participants take the “FInal Health IQ Quiz,” the public votes for the most transformed and inspirational participant, who, in addition to receiving $1 million, will appear on Dr. Oz’s television show.
The national program is based on the premise that losing 10 percent of body weight can decrease the risk for diseases like cancer and diabetes. Ms. Everett, who refers to her own program as a “wellness ministry,” is well acquainted with the dangers of an unhealthy lifestyle. Her mother Olivia G. White, died of a stroke at the age of 47. Three of Ms. Everett’s four siblings have suffered from serious illnesses. One sister, who suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), is a regular participant in Ms. Everett’s classes. “It has changed her life,” she says.
Ms. Everett’s mission is to motivate people from all walks of life to get control of their health. “For every person I inspire to be healthy, I know that my mother’s death was not in vain,” she says.
According to Ms. Bech, the three top priorities of the YMCA are healthy living, youth development, and social responsibility. “Gail really embraces the message that health is your wealth,” she says. “There is so much synergy between her work and what we do at the Y. We’ve always supported the idea of group exercise. Research says that if you feel like you’re involved and a part of something, you will do better.”
Participants in the Transformation Nation program are requested to get their weight and BMI from Weight Watchers by January 7, in order to attend the first meeting on January 8. During the 12-week session, they will have weekly weight checks and body measurements as well as exercise and discussions about fitness and healthy eating. Ms. Everett hopes that Hashim A. Bulbulia, who runs the Y’s Orchard Cafe, will lead a healthy cooking class.
“It’s a win-win partnership for us,” says Ms. Bech. “It’s all about helping folks from our community live a healthy and better life.”