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Massive diet initiative spreads through school district

What started as three people wanting to shed a few pounds, quickly ballooned into more than 200 Brainerd school employees and family members trying to get healthier.

The massive health initiative has helped the group lose an estimated average of 9.39 pounds each in 17 days.

“It was one of those situations where we didn’t plan or strategize the momentum. We just had to grab it and run with it,” said Aimee Jambor, Brainerd School District nurse and head of the diet plan. “It was the right time of year, the right people and the right program. It just happened, evolved. It was one of best things we could have done.”

It’s called the 17-day diet. It’s based off a book written by Dr. Mike Moreno. There are four 17-day stages, with the last one meant to maintain the weight goal that was achieved.

“People were looking for something that worked. Everyone had tried 100 diets before,” said Chris Ramey, an attendance secretary at Forestview Middle School.

Enter the 17-day diet.

It all started after three school employees approached Jambor for some tips on weight loss.

“I figured why not do it for all the staff?” Jambor said.

Soon three people turned into 68. Then 160. At 200, Jambor stopped counting.

There were those looking for major weight loss. Others just wanted a few pesky pounds gone, while many just wanted to eat better.

Jambor spelled out a few guidelines of the 17-day diet and it ran Jan. 15-31.

Here’s how it works:

No alcohol, soda or sweets, and very few carbohydrates.

Instead, participants ate lean protein (chicken, eggs, fish), fruits low in sugar (avoid pineapple, watermelon and bananas), vegetables, a small amount of grains and plenty of water.

For those who never exercised, 17 minutes a day is recommended.

Some read the book, while others only followed the guidelines loosely.

Many participants walked in groups after school. Others kept each other mentally motivated and on track.

That companionship is what makes it easier, said Deb Innes, an educational assistant at Forestview.

Innes and Ramey said their views of healthy living have been drastically changed.

Innes sleeps better, feels healthier. Her once high cholesterol is at normal levels.

Ramey sleeps through the night and has more energy. Her clothes fit better.

Denise Sundquist, a self-described “maniac of fitness,” tried out the 17-day diet to pick up a few more ideas on healthy living.

“I am more about eating and training than diet and exercise,” she said. “This wasn’t exactly my philosophy but there is something everyone can take away from it. It’s a chance to try new things out.”

Sundquist, school district safety specialist, learned she really liked adding fruit or cucumbers to water.

To continue the health hype, Sundquist started an exercise fitness initiative that will keep people moving through the rest of winter and into spring. It includes activities for staff like a couch to 5K training, swimming, yoga, gym time, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and mountain biking.

With the 17-day diet, not everyone weighed in or even told Jambor they were joining in on the initiative.

From those who did come in, she estimates the average of 9.39 pounds lost. People ranged from 3.5 to 20 pounds lost.

After the first 17-day cycle, most went on to cycle two; a few met their weight loss goal and are in the maintenance cycle.

In the end, however, it’s about just being healthier.

“There’s a huge momentum to take on a healthier lifestyle,” Jambor said. “That’s the most important thing.”

JESSICA LARSEN, staff writer, may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at