OMH program encourages healthy lifestyle

Onslow County’s population is shrinking — and that’s a good thing.

Onslow Memorial Hospital officials announced last year that county residents have lost 12,000 pounds taking part in Lighten Up Onslow, its free health and wellness program. The fitness competition gauges how much teams of four have lost over the course of four months, from January to May; and the team that loses the most weight wins a prize package.

Carobell’s team has participated for at least four years, Carobell CEO Vanessa Ervin said. One of the best things about the program is that families can participate too.

“For me, it was wonderful to use some of the strategies with my husband and with my son,” she said, going on to say that her husband took part with her last year and this year, her son would too.

Teammate Jennifer Flores also took the health tips she learned through the program and incorporate them at home with her family.

“It brings us together as a family and gives us something to do as a family,” she said.

In the past, their team leader has been Mary Butts, a woman they affectionately call “gestapo” for her drive to keep the team pushing themselves and sticking to a healthy lifestyle. The three women laughed as they remembered many Saturdays waking up to texts from Butts about going to the gym. While they’d hoped to sleep in even 30 minutes, Butts was adamant they prioritize exercise.

Butts said she loves to take the exercises on the Lighten Up Onslow website and mix them up. It’s a great way to continue to lose the weight, she said.

This year, Flores said she plans to buy an outfit and gauge her weight by trying it on every week — something she’s learned from Ervin.

Ervin said she likes to find an initial outfit from her closet that she wants to get back into, then find the next size down that she wants to get into.

“I think that’s going to be one of my motivation goals this year,” Flores said.

The teammates had different ideas of what they thought were the best or most rewarding parts about the program.

“I love the camaraderie of the team,” Ervin said, going on to say Carobell has an in-house competition as well. “We want to make sure at the end of the competition who is going to have bragging rights for the next year.”

Butts said she likes seeing people get healthy and make a lifestyle change.

For Flores, the best part was simply the weight loss.

“You’re accountable to someone else, so it’s not as easy to let someone down,” she said.

The hardest part, however, Flores and Ervin agreed, was living up to Butts’ expectations they said, laughing. They recalled preparing folders where they wrote down their exercise and what they ate. Those folders, they said, came back to them marked in red pen, similar to grading by a third grade teacher.

“I know they have it in them,” Butts said simply. “My favorite part is emailing them a special quote that will motivate them (each day).”

The three had words of advice for community members who may be considering giving Lighten Up Onslow a shot for the first time.

“Go for it,” Flores said. “It’ll be one of the best things they have done for themselves.”

“I would say that you’re worth the effort,” Ervin said.

For more information about Lighten Up Onslow or to register, visit