In This Section      
Print This Page

Dome - Weighing in Online and by Phone

Dome January/February 2014

Weighing in Online and by Phone

Date: January 1, 2014

With telephone support from her Innergy coach, Anastasia Kezar is steadily losing weight.When she was younger, Anastasia Kezar stayed slim without much effort. Since the birth of her daughter seven years ago, however, she has put on about 3 pounds a year. Kezar, who supervises mental health programs for child psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, says she joined a gym and tried dieting. But by age 49, she was carrying 210 pounds on her 5-foot-4-inch frame.

That’s when she signed up for Innergy, a weight-loss program offered to Johns Hopkins Health System employees. In the seven months since then, she’s dropped 18 pounds and is confident she’ll lose more.

Designed as a two-year program, Innergy is not a diet per se, but instead helps participants develop eating and exercise strategies to maintain a healthy weight throughout their lives. Users track their calories, activity and weight online; receive weekly PDFs with strategies and recipes; and talk by telephone with a trained weight-loss coach who stays with them for the entire program.

For Kezar and others, the system works because it is convenient and personal. “I don’t have to go anywhere or attend groups,” she says. “It’s really all about me.”

Innergy was developed and is offered in a collaboration between Johns Hopkins Medicine and Healthways, a private, Tennessee-based company that provides large employers with tools and programs for improving wellness. Innergy’s combination of telephone and online support is based on research led by Lawrence Appel, director of Johns Hopkins’ Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research, with help from Healthways.

Data from Appel’s clinical trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that telephone coaching and online resources worked as well as in-person counseling. In both scenarios, participants lost at least 5 percent of their body weight and kept it off for two years.

After the trial, Appel and Johns Hopkins Medicine’s commercialization unit, Johns Hopkins HealthCare Solutions, worked with Healthways to bring the program to the marketplace. Steve Libowitz, the senior director of Johns Hopkins HealthCare Solutions, says Innergy advances the institution’s goals of translating research for real-world use and developing new revenue streams.

The program is available to Johns Hopkins Health System employees with a body mass index of 30 or higher. (Employees at Sibley Memorial Hospital, Suburban Hospital, Howard County General Hospital and All Children’s Hospital are not yet eligible for logistical reasons.) As of mid-November, 66 Johns Hopkins Health System employees were using Innergy.

For the first three months, participants talk with their coaches once a week. For the next nine months, these conversations occur monthly. In the second year, when the focus is weight maintenance, calls drop to once every six weeks. Participants say the coaches help them identify their pitfalls and urge them to develop their own strategies after reading the online lessons.

“The idea is, rather than taking time to come to a class, the information is there and you read it. On your call with the coach, you talk about how you’re going to incorporate that specific information,” says Arlene Dalcin, a registered dietician and research associate on the Appel-led team that collaborates with Healthways.

Martin Myers, a 29-year-old systems engineer for The Johns Hopkins Hospital, used to skip breakfast and lunch, then eat too much for dinner. With help from his coach, he eats throughout the day and finds his daily allotment of 1,800 calories is “more than enough, especially when you’re eating things like fruits and vegetables.” His weight has dropped from 260 pounds to 233 pounds.

M. Robert DeJong, technical manager of radiology ultrasound at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, has lost 18 pounds since last March. Though he’s tried other diets, the 58-year-old thinks Innergy works for him, because his coach is positive and encouraging and has helped him develop mealtime strategies like avoiding buffets. “I feel like a celebrity with my own personal trainer,” DeJong says. “I’m the kind of person who needs someone looking over my shoulder.”

With discounts offered by Healthways and the Johns Hopkins Health System, the cost of Innergy, deducted from paychecks after taxes, is $11.54 per pay period the first year and $7.69 the second year. Go to to find out if you are eligible and to enroll.

—Karen Nitkin

The discounted Innergy weight-loss program is one of many health and wellness benefits available to Johns Hopkins Health System and Johns Hopkins Hospital employees.

Additional wellness benefits include:

•The Healthy@Hopkins Rewards Program, which rewards healthful behaviors with financial incentives of up to $520 per year. Visit:
•Personal Wellness Profile (PWP), a confidential lifestyle questionnaire with health-improvement recommendations. Visit:
•Health education programs on a variety of topics.
•Weight management and walking challenges, offered several times a year, encouraging healthful lifestyle changes through a fun, team-oriented approach.
•Fitness reimbursements that give up to $50 per year toward the purchase of cardiovascular home gym equipment or participation in an exercise program.
•Weight Watchers reimbursements of 50% off the cost of a 12-week or 17-week session, once per calendar year.
•Fitness center discounts at many facilities in Maryland, DC and Virginia.
•On-site free and low-cost exercise classes.
•On-site screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure, body composition and glucose, with weight and health coaching.
•A health education library with free pamphlets and guidebooks, and opportunities to borrow exercise and health-related DVDs.
•Tobacco cessation programs and resources including discounted nicotine replacement therapy aids, on-site classes, counseling and hypnosis.  
•On-on-one and telephone-based health coaching for help reducing risk and increasing healthful behaviors.  Email:
•Free walk-in visits and appointments at the Employee Health and Wellness Center in the Phipps Building, third floor.
•Care management programs for chronic illnesses, with guidance and education from a registered nurse and in some cases waived co-pays for condition-related prescription drugs.  Call: 1-800-557-6916

For more information, contact


For Johns Hopkins University employees, benefits include:

•Weight Watchers reimbursements of 50% of the cost of a monthly pass or online programs.
•Fitness center discounts at many facilities in the greater Baltimore area.
•Discounted yoga, meditation and fitness classes, held regularly on-site.
•Seated massage, on-site at low prices.
•Tobacco cessation programs and resources offered through the University’s medical providers and online.  
•Healthy Start Program, a supervised exercise program offered through the Maryland Athletic Club.

For more information visit the JHU benefits website at: or email