By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Jackson)January 16, 2019
The ninth Biggest Loser competition at Fort Jackson kicked off Jan. 7.
It is based on the national reality television show The Biggest Loser. In the series, contestants compete to lose the highest percentage of their body weights.
Dozens of participants are competing this year at Fort Jackson to get healthier and win their own award. Until April 8, they will face off to see who can improve their Body Mass Indexes the most.
This year, a BOD POD will track their progress.
Whereas a traditional scale measures weight alone, the BOD POD provides information on body composition.
It details users' make-up of body fat versus lean body mass.
Monday marked the initial weigh-in and information pick-up.
Jane Durieux, 68, retired middle school teacher and native of Mount Vernon, Ohio, is one of this year's first-time participants. Her husband, Jim Lewis, is a yoga instructor who works with Fort Jackson.
Durieux is taking part in the challenge to get back in shape after a torn rotator cuff put her out of commission.
"This is my way of getting back in," Durieux said. "Being retired, you kind of get footloose (and) fancy free … this will give me a schedule. It will keep me honed in with some place I have to be."
Durieux is a former dairy farmer and rugby player; injuries have been commonplace in her life.
Now she's looking for some lighter exercise.
Weight loss and conquering her metabolic disorder -- caused by her lack of a thyroid gland -- are her goals.
Resolutions vary from one of the many Biggest Loser participants to the next.
By the end of December, there were already 66 people signed up.
Pam Long, the head of the program and a Fort Jackson fitness and wellness specialist, attributes the high participation rates partially to the focus on group motivation.
"Misery loves company," Long quipped.
The team atmosphere makes healthier living easier because "it's like positive peer pressure," said Rose Ann Turner, a second-year participant in the simultaneous Fort Jackson wellness competition Watch Your Steps.
"I think everyone understands how important exercise is. The difficult part is finding the time and making it a priority," Turner added. "We all get so busy and it's easy to put off exercise for other things like work, family commitments, etcetera."
The Biggest Loser contest is one way Fort Jackson helps community members prioritize their health.
Classes for the Biggest Loser competition are free. Participants have access to personal training, healthy eating consults, group exercise and educational lectures.
Competitors pick the category to compete in based on their health goals. They choose between weight loss, total lifestyle change, and fitness improvement.
There is a winner in each sector.
The competitors with the greatest percentage decrease in BMI and body fat will take home the titles.
"The calculation will measure who truly had the greater loss, regardless of size," Long said.
The judging criteria is the same for each category.
"(The contest categories) overlap each other," Long explained. "They all complement each other."
Each category includes components of exercise, healthy eating and good lifestyle choices.
The difference is the dominant focus.
The "fitness" category primarily focuses on exercise. It's best for people who want to "bust through that next wall" in their training, Long said.
The importance of water and rest are stressed to these participants.
The "total lifestyle change" is for people with a specific health goal, such as lowering their cholesterol or blood presThe "total lifestyle change" is for people with a specific health goal, such as lowering their cholesterol or blood pressure, quitting smoking, or eating more healthily.
The weight loss category zeros in on nutrition. There is a focus on how many calories it takes to gain or lose a pound of weight. An education in protein, carbs, water, "the importance of vegetables," and where sugar is hidden in food is a key portion, Long said.
"Food journaling becomes a huge component," Long continued. "Journaling helps us structure a healthy eating program."
Participants keep track of what they eat to determine what they're doing right and how they can improve.
They can attend educational classes at the Thomas Lee Hall Library. The lectures are on topics such as exercise and weight loss and are led by subject matter experts.
"The library wanted to be a partner for Fort Jackson's Biggest Loser competition because we want to help people improve their health both physically and mentally," said Kristen Gripp of the Thomas Lee Hall Library.
The library wants to get the word out that there are free healthy living related resources for check out, Gripp added.
They include media about exercise, meditation, yoga, and healthy eating.
Also available is free access to online resources like BrainHQ, a database for brain-training exercises.
Gripp said she sees the contest as beneficial because it "encourages everyone to live overall healthier lifestyles" and brings community members together "to support each other as they work toward their goals."
The Army Wellness Center and the Commissary are two other partners of the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation in the initiative.
The "Biggest Losers" will take field trips to the Commissary as part of their training. There they will learn how to read food labels to become healthier food shoppers.
Long said that with more resources on "arming (themselves) for success," competitors get "a handle on all the components it takes to maintain (good health)."
It brings people with a common goal together, Long added.
"It is a Family in and of itself," she said.
"(The group setting) offers camaraderie, accountability," Long added. "There's more joy in the numbers … people look for support."
Grueling exercises are more bearable when there are friends around, Long continued. "You feel like you are being taken care of."
Past competitors have gained lean muscle and confidence while losing weight.
"It's just changed their lives," Long said. It gives them an opportunity to do something for themselves.
Long calls that the "biggest incentive" to make progress.
"We're all winners at losing," she said.