'Biggest Losers' Strut Their Slimmer Stuff
August 17, 2007
<i>This is the last in a series on the "The Biggest Loser" program, a weight loss and healthy eating competition at Fort Sam Houston. Each month, the "News Leader" checked in with contestants to track their progress.</i>
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, Aug. 20, 2007) - After a lifelong struggle with her weight, it only took six months for a military spouse and mother of five to lose 27 pounds and gain a hefty new title - Fort Sam Houston's Biggest Loser.
Sunshine Jeane is the winner of "The Biggest Loser," a six-month-long weight loss and healthy eating competition that started as a friendly inter-office challenge and grew into a post-wide event with 33 participants.
"I was shocked," said Ms. Jeane, when notified of her big win. "Everyone who participated looks so amazing; I never imagined I would be the Biggest Loser."
The program started small-scale in January when a group of co-workers decided to cut back after the holidays. They jokingly decided to pattern their competition after the NBC series "The Biggest Loser." Word spread, interest grew and in a collaborative effort with the Jimmy Brought Fitness Center and fitness trainer Cathleen Burrell, people from around post signed on to embark on a quest for a healthier lifestyle.
Program participants followed their own diet and exercise plan, but traded triumphs and personal challenges at weekly weigh-ins at the fitness center. They also gathered several times for nutrition and fitness sessions led by Capt. Renee Cole and Ms. Burrell, during which losers learned about portion size, the pitfalls of dieting and effective ways to burn calories. Ms. Burrell, who became the Biggest Loser fitness consultant, tracked results through the weigh-ins and during initial, mid-term and final tapings.
"It was amazing to sit back and watch the progress," said Ms. Burrell, who selected the top three winners based on a combination of pounds, measurements and body fat lost. "The losers made an incredible decision to lead a healthy lifestyle. They should all be very proud."
Each week, the losers shrank, not just in size, but in number. The 33 original participants dwindled throughout the months with only 12 sticking it out to the end.
But the diminished numbers didn't affect a triumphant outcome. The top 10 alone have lost 58.37 points of body fat and 160.2 pounds. At the program's start, Biggest Loser Jeane weighed 213.6 pounds and is now a much more svelte 186.4. Despite being a mom to five children under age 12 - the youngest is six months old - Ms. Jeane managed to squeeze in five workouts a week at the gym and avoid her normal diet pitfalls, in particular, chocolate.
"But I'm not done," she added. "I still have 50 more pounds to go to reach my pre-pregnancy weight of 136."
Ms. Jeane is well on her way, as are the other participants. The runner-up, Phyllis Bergen, lost 36.1 pounds and reduced her body fat by 7.74 points.
"I feel great. I can walk up flights of stairs now and my blood pressure is much lower," said Ms. Bergen, who dropped three dress sizes. "This has been an awesome experience. Even if I hadn't placed, I'd still feel like a winner. I feel better about myself and my lifestyle."
Ms. Bergen said she lost the weight by cutting back on starchy foods and sweets, as well as breaking a sweat four times a week at the gym.
The support of friends, family and fellow losers seemed to have just as much of an impact for the losers as the treadmill miles clocked.
"I found some great workout partners through the program," Ms. Jeane said. "And it helped to just have people to talk to who were going through the same thing. Every time we met at the gym, everyone was so encouraging; I always left with new resolve."
Third-place loser, Olivia Mendoza, said she drew her motivation from her workout partners and a fit fiancAfA who encouraged her to workout.
"Having a buddy system works," said Ms. Mendoza, who dropped 19 pounds and 22 percent of her body fat. "Start by working out with a friend, neighbor or co-worker, and go to the gym or walk during lunch."
Husband-wife loser team, David and Jacqueline Fairclough, drew strength from each other. "It helps to have support," Ms. Fairclough said. Combined, the couple lost 16 pounds. "My husband used to bring ice-cream home when I was trying to lose weight. But this time we committed to doing the program together."
Some losers lost just a few pounds, and others, dozens, but all seem to share the same dedication to continuing a healthier lifestyle.
"I'm not going to stop being healthy just because the program is over," Ms. Jeane said. "I'm getting ready to give away my 'fat' clothes. I never want to go back to the way I looked before."
"I'm even more committed to losing weight than I was before," Ms. Mendoza said. "I look better, feel better and will continue on with this journey."
Jimmy Brought fitness director Lucian Kimble said he's seen a transformation in the losers. "They have a motivational look, an excitement about the results they were seeing. They walk with more confidence now, like they were proud to be involved in a great program."
Aside from appearances, the losers have given themselves the best gift of all - a healthier life, Ms. Burrell said. "That means a longer time on this Earth, the capability to pick up your grandkids, the ability to take a walk with your loved ones, ride a bike; the benefits go on and on."
(Elaine Wilson writes for the Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office.)