'Biggest Losers' Confront Roadblocks, Enjoy Successes
First Sgt. Gwendolyn Mason, "Biggest Loser" contestant, checks out "fat tubes," which provide a visual of how much fat content is in various foods, during a nutrition briefing at the Jimmy Brought Fitness Center. Capt. Renee Cole, chief, Outpatient Nutrition Health Promotion at Brooke Army Medical Center, speaks monthly to the contestants to encourage healthy eating and weight loss.

<i>This is the third in a series of articles about "The Biggest Loser" program, a weight loss and healthy eating competition at Fort Sam Houston. Each month, the "News Leader" checks in with contestants to track their progress.</i>

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, June 20, 2007) - Fort Sam Houston's "Biggest Losers" have 10 weeks of weight loss and fitness efforts under their belts. Some have gained, some have maintained, and a few are on their way to the store to buy new belts.

Two "losers," Jacqueline Fairclough and Nancy Hardin, have lost a combined 25 pounds since the on-post competition began March 2. The ladies are two of 33 participants who committed to the six-month program to shape up and slim down.

"I'm finally feeling like I have proceeded past a personally constructed wall, and want to continue down this path," said Ms. Fairclough, budget analysis for U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Sam Houston. "I know my blood pressure has gone down, and people are noticing that I have lost weight, which is always good for the ego.

"My husband, on the other hand, is looking fantastic," she added. Her husband, David Fairclough, also a Biggest Loser contestant, has lost 12 pounds since the competition began. The couple attributes their success to cutting back on portion sizes and daily workouts.

Phyllis Bergen has lost 19 pounds since she signed up to be a Biggest Loser.

Her overall weight loss is even more impressive; in September she was 285, and now weighs in at 233. "My goal is to get under 200," Ms. Bergen said. "My blood pressure is down and my doctor is happy. I'm trying to encourage other people now."

Contestants follow their own weight-loss plans, which vary from portion control to calorie cutting, but just about all have incorporated physical activity into their daily routine.

"I think I've lost a total of 14 pounds, which isn't too bad," said Sunshine Jeane. "I started working out with Carolyn (Gardner, another contestant) and she's kicking my butt. She's been the best motivation."

Workout partners can be great motivators, said Cathleen Burrell, volunteer Biggest Loser fitness consultant. "A partner can give you that extra push on those days you don't feel like working out, and make working out more fun."

"The weight is coming off gradually," said Jan Eagan, who said her weight was "stuck" last week. "I'm trying to hit the gym after work, do Pilates Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the treadmill the rest of the time. I'd like to drop faster than I am, but it's healthier the way it's going so I'm not going to complain."

Experts say a one to two pound weight loss per week is healthy, and recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week. Along with weight loss, physical activity can help people avoid type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, according to the National Institutes for Health.

While some are well on their way to beach-worthy bods, others are having a harder time kick-starting their program.

"I have only lost about three pounds," said Debra Byus, San Antonio Recruiting Battalion facility manager. "I wanted to lose at least five a month, but I have a terrible sweet tooth. I have increased my exercise to four days a week, but the lack of willpower is ruining it all."

Jeane is also worried about veering off course.

"I lost a bunch right away and then started to slow down," she said. "I started slacking in the food department when that happened."

Weight loss plateaus are common, and can be attributed to a variety of sources, according to the National Institute for Fitness and Sport. Plateaus occur when the body becomes more efficient at certain exercises, so fewer calories are burned in a typical workout. Also, people tend not to adjust their calorie intake as their body shrinks; a smaller frame requires less calories. The solution, according to the institute, is to intensify fitness routines and cut calories.

Whether they've lost, gained or stalled, the contestants shouldn't look back, said Ms. Burrell. "Every day is a new day," she said. "Don't be ashamed if you've stopped the effort. That is not an excuse to quit. There is never a bad time to start back up.

"I'm proud of all the contestants for making the decision to lead a healthier life," she said. "Many are making extraordinary improvements in their health."

"The Biggest Loser" competition will end Aug. 2, and the contestant with the best overall improvement will be featured in the following week's News Leader.

While there will only be one "Biggest Loser," many contestants say they already feel like winners.

"This is just the beginning of a lifelong journey," said Lori Newman, who has dropped 10 pounds since March. "I'm finally enjoying shopping for clothes again. I feel great."

(Elaine Wilson writes for the Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office.)

Page last updated Wed June 20th, 2007 at 11:53