Mary Swank: Salon-wide Slim-Down
When Healthy Hairdresser contacted salon owner Mary Swank to notify her that she’d won the Aveda Stress Fix Body Care Gift Basket in our February Challenge, “Align Yourself,” we learned a lot about Swank’s salon, Simply Swank Salon and Spa in Hudson, Ohio. Excited and very pleased to accept her gift basket prize, Swank mentioned that being a Healthy Hairdresser “is truly a way of life for me at the salon and a big part of what we are mentoring our younger service providers to achieve.” How so?
Early in 2015 a stylist, Nancy Scheussler, invited the salon team to join her in the 12-week “Swanky Slim Down.” Scheussler already had lost a significant amount of weight and wanted to stay motivated to keep off the weight while also helping her fellow team members to make lifestyle changes.
“Nancy decided that we had to get super healthy,” Swank explains. “She based the Swanky Slim Down on the ‘Biggest Loser’ concept of calculating percentage of weight loss rather than number of pounds lost. This worked very well, since all of us had our own personal goals that we needed to achieve. The weigh-ins were done in private with just Nancy and the scale. Nancy also wrote a weekly newsletter with tips about eating well and working out.”
About 10 stylists opted in, paying a fee so that the winner would have a cash prize. Some stylists were trying to take off their “baby weight” long after the baby was born, while others were just trying to look good in time for the arrival of spring. The weigh-ins took place every Friday, so weekends were a little more relaxed and then the competitors got serious during the week. Swank bought a water cooler for the salon to make it easy for the team to fill up a water bottle. By the end of the competition, stylist Mallory Cooper had edged out the others to take home about $400.
During the contest Swank was a leading contender, dropping 16 pounds in the 12 weeks. “I was going through menopause and putting on weight,” she says. “I couldn’t seem to lose 15 pounds. So I started logging my food. I hadn’t realized how much I’d been grazing and how little water I’d been drinking. I started watching my consumption of processed foods, bread, pasta and alcohol, and I stopped skipping meals, because when I skipped I would later gorge. I began carrying my food in a mini-lunch bag with a cooler pack, so I’d always have healthy snacks like cucumbers, carrots, grapes and yogurt. For protein, I’d pack a boiled egg or some nuts. I also bought a Fitbit. Working on my feet as a hairdresser, I’d always considered myself active, but standing isn’t moving. With my Fitbit I do 15,000 steps a day.”
Swank’s target was her 50th birthday in May. “When I turned 50, I felt good about the way my clothes were fitting,” she says. “I hadn’t been at my comfort level for a while.” At home, Swank loves to cook, so she threw away her oversized dinner plates and now serves dinner on lunch-sized plates to help herself and her family maintain portion control. She does half-marathons with a group of women friends.
The benefits have been long-term. Swank reports that the stylists have changed the way they eat, more of them are active and even those who didn’t participate in the competition have lost weight because the culture of the salon changed. Setting up a support network of like-minded people is key, Swank says.
“We all have friends at the gym who support us now,” she explains. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, you weren’t at Zumba! I missed you.’ When you surround yourself with people who want to be healthy, you find this community of health that’s out there.”