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As Her Stress Came Down, The Weight Quickly Followed

Metabolic Health in Small Bytes: Aetna Employee

Kellie Gregg wasn’t looking to lose weight when she enrolled in eMindful’s Metabolic Health in Small Bytes class. That she lost 20 pounds and kept it off was just one of the benefits she found. Her biggest challenge, she says, was dealing with stress—and the many ways it crept in and corroded how she slept, worked and ate.

“I started to take the class for the stress relief; the weight reduction was just an added bonus,” says the 54-year-old health plan sponsor liaison with Aetna. “I work at home, tons of hours a day. I was just becoming very stressed.”

When Aetna promoted the class to employees, and how it can help with stress and eating, it caught the attention of the Tampa, Florida resident. She admits to being reluctant, she says, because of how busy she was, and concerns that she might not have as much privacy as she wanted while taking the class. Those concerns were put to rest quickly.

“I didn’t want to be in a situation where people were judging me. This was personal, so in the beginning I went along, but not as a happy camper,” she recalls. “I was busy, and I felt it was taking away from other things I want to do. But by about the third week, I’m like, ‘this is great. I’m sleeping better, I’m less stressed.’

“I had this hour to myself, with nothing intruding on it. And we used numbers to identify ourselves instead of our names,” she recalls, as an added measure of privacy. As well, she liked the control that she and other participants had during the class in being able to instant message the entire group or just the instructor. “It was almost like it was 1 on 1, but there were other people present,” she says of the program. “You didn’t have to share w/ them (other participants) if you didn’t want to. And the instructor, Linda Duda, had this wonderful calming voice.”

Ms. Gregg’s breakthrough came during a coaching session. She found herself beginning to have what felt like a panic attack because she was overwhelmed with her workload, and email messages coming in faster than she could process them. Her coach told her to get up, walk away from the computer, and find something in the room she could focus on instead of her ruminations. She looked at a picture on the wall, and concentrated on her breath. Within a few minutes, she was back in control of her emotional state. That brief experience changed entirely how she now works.

“Now I manage my work much better; I learned how to turn away, just breathe, and that I can come back and just focus. I’m much more productive.”

Ms. Gregg found the breathing exercise so helpful that she now begins each day with it. “Now I wake up, lay in bed, and just breathe instead of getting all worried and stressed about what I have to do during the day. I just start the day calm.”

In her role at Aetna, Ms. Gregg works with corporate leaders of HR and benefits—an audience she now finds herself promoting eMindful to. “I started telling people about the program, that it’s the most wonderful thing you could imagine, and that they should offer it to their employees,” she says.

Ms. Gregg says the most significant benefits that she has realized from the eMindful course are a reduction in stress and an improvement in her ability to focus, and how that has made her more productive at work.

“The whole getting away from the computer, the stress part of it. That was the most helpful of everything, because otherwise it just starts to be a downward spiral. It never stops; you just keep going and going, but you never get anywhere. I find my work much more efficient than before I took the class. You’re more productive, because if you’re getting upset about something, it adds more to the work, because you’re working harder but not smarter.”

With her work stress reduced, Ms. Gregg found herself becoming more aware of how food had been a source of coping with that stress. She found that as she noticed her real hunger, or lack of hunger, she ate less snack food that was highly salted or sweetened.

With her stress level down, she has maintained her weight loss, and finds herself sleeping better. “I think I’m happier; I’m not quite as angry as I was. I can still go that way,” she admits, but then adds that she now has the skills and tools to better cope when she feels overwhelmed.