Employees battle the bulge on the way to healthy living

Resorts World employees are participating in a weight loss challenge. Participants include Heather Jerrytone (from l.-r.), Devi Ramnarace, Terina Walker, Benny Contorno, Reena Ali, Ana Oviedo and Ken Cummings. Photo by Steve Mosco
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Any extra weight shed at casinos traditionally comes out of the customers’ wallets, but employees at an area gambling establishment are now getting in on the act and placing their bets on healthy living.

Resorts World Casino New York City in South Ozone Park introduced its first employee healthy living challenge last week, featuring close to 20 teams competing with each other to lose weight and be deemed the healthiest employees at the casino.

With team names like Hunger Games, Calories Rule Everything Around Me, Fat-cilities and We Be Phat, employees are serious about lightening loads — for the potential health benefits and opportunity to build camaraderie.

“This is a great chance for team-building among teammates and for us to grow professionally,” said Heather Jerrytone, the executive casino ambassador.

But besides team-building, Resorts World’s employees are eager to ban the bulge brought on by the need to deal with the daily stresses of everyday life with high-calorie temptation.

Reena Ali, from the human relations department, said the competition is a chance to get her old self back.

“My priority in the contest is to get healthy,” said Ali, whose mantra to help her get through the next eight weeks is “no food looks as good as being thin feels.”

The weight loss challenge officially kicked off following a Resorts World heath fair in April, when all 1,750 employees had the chance to speak with health professionals about how to introduce healthy living techniques into their daily routine.

According to employees, there are two key components to weight lose: exercise and portion control.

“I make my plate for dinner, then immediately take half of it and put it away,” said Ken Cummings, from facilities.

Participants in the challenge will weigh in every two weeks until the end of the competition. The team deemed the lightest will win the challenge and an unnamed prize.

But it will not be easy. Competition between the teams is fierce, with some of the combatants tempting opponents with candy and donut traps. It is all in good fun, though, as the true aim is to motivate each other to make healthy choices the norm.

“I’m looking to completely change my diet,” said Terina Walker, assistant buyer. “No more rice and no more breads. We are going to stay committed and keep each other motivated.”

While motivation from teammates helps to inspire and give that extra push, some employees pull inspiration from their family and their past. Benny Contorno, assistant director of facilities, said a heart attack four years ago started him on the path to healthy living.

“I changed my life after that,” said Contorno, who weighed 300 pounds at the time of his heart attack.

And Ana Oviedo, a buyer who lives in South Ozone Park, where the casino is located, said her son’s recent weight loss inspired her to drop some pounds.

“He said he wants to have a mother for a long time,” she said, adding she is trying to lose weight because “you feel better when you’re looking good.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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