FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, Jan. 29, 2007) - Don't call Cheryl Harrison a loser, unless you're referring to her weight. She hopes to drop a few pounds, and dress sizes, as she competes against four other Fort Sam Houston employees for the title of Fort Sam Houston's "Biggest Loser."
"My goal is to drop weight, yes, but more importantly to get in shape so I can enjoy life to its fullest in a healthy body," said Harrison, "News Leader" writer and a grandmother of four. "I'm 54 years old and tired of being tired."
The impromptu weight-loss competition, dreamed up by five co-workers at Fort Sam Houston, is based loosely on the popular NBC reality show, "The Biggest Loser," which this year pit plus-size contestants from each state in the nation against each other. This year's winner, Erik, lost 214 pounds.
The post's mini-version of the competition started at a time when most body-conscious emotions arise - just after New Year's. Determined to stick to their weight-loss resolutions, the co-workers decided to go public with their weight-related struggles and goals and commit themselves to a six-month test of their endurance and will power. Combined, the women would like to lose about 135 pounds.
"This year, I am determined to lose this weight more than ever," said Minnie Jones, community relations specialist from the Public Information Office and an Air Force reservist. "I don't like the way I look or feel; I have a closet full of my 'thin' clothes, I refuse to dispose of them, but every time I walk into my closet, I get depressed. I want to get back to the way I was."
Their ups and downs, on the scale and off, will be published in the "News Leader" every month as they each follow an individual diet and exercise plan, monitored by Lucian Kimble, fitness trainer from the Jimmy Brought Fitness Center.
"I'm going to encourage healthy weight loss, which is a one or two pounds a week," Kimble said. "The best way to do that is to make healthy food choices and eat in moderation. Instead of a barbecue stocked with fatty foods, gather your friends and go for a bike ride, or play a game of basketball.
"People need to get moving. I recommend taking 10,000 steps a day, whether it's walking from a parking lot to your office building or running on a treadmill. The key is to stay active."
A program of healthy weight loss and activity not only promotes fitness, but health. Overweight and obesity are associated with heart disease, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, stroke, arthritis, breathing problems and psychological disorders, such as cancer, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And, 300,000 deaths each year in the United States are associated with obesity.
Olivia Mendoza hopes by becoming a Fort Sam "loser" she can prevent future health problems and lower her high cholesterol, a problem that has plagued the 33-year-old for the past few years. "I've let go and become less active," said the community relations specialist. "I have noticed when walking up stairs I'm losing my breath and that is because my body weighs me down so I have to work twice as hard.
"My goal is to fit back into my size 9 clothes and hopefully lower my cholesterol level to where I can stop taking cholesterol pills," she said.
The women kick-started their program with a visit to the gym Jan. 22, where Kimble took a starting weight and body mass index reading and developed a diet and exercise plan for each participant, a free service available to the Fort Sam Houston community.
Lori Newman said the hardest part of her first workout was motivation. "It helped having my friends there to work out with and support me. It's harder to make excuses when people are counting on you to work out with them."
While some of the women are focused on a goal weight, Harrison said she is less concerned with a number than with her health. "I will not say how much I weigh or how much I want to lose. To me that would be not only overwhelming, but self-defeating. My goal is to drop weight, yes, but more importantly to get in shape, so I can enjoy life to its fullest in a healthy body.
"If by doing this, I inspire someone else along the way, I have then accomplished more than I dared verbalize," she said. "Life is a journey and this is just another lag that I look forward to navigating. I don't want to get lost to myself along the way."
On the TV show, the "biggest loser" took home $100,000. The Fort Sam contestants don't have that pot of gold waiting for them if they succeed. However, they hope to take away a more meaningful prize.
"I'm hoping to take away some fat," joked Kathy Maple, MWR marketing specialist. "But also, I want to get back to myself. This is not me, being heavy like this. I want to get back to feeling good. I want to get myself back."
(Note: The next "Biggest Loser" article will appear in the News Leader Feb. 22.)