This is the fifth 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.

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, July 16, 2007) - The six-month quest for a slimmer silhouette and healthier lifestyle is drawing to a close for the 33 participants of "The Biggest Loser" competition at Fort Sam Houston.

The weight-loss and healthy-eating competition will end in less than a month with a final taping and weighing Aug. 2 to determine the top three participants with the most significant physical change.

For a few "losers," the competition already has reaped some jaw-dropping results, thanks to smaller portions, healthier foods and a regimen of calorie-burning workouts.

"I've lost just over 20 pounds," said Sunshine Jeane, mother of five, who works out at the gym in her limited spare time. "I feel smaller but not small enough. I've figured out how bad it feels to be big in a small world.

"This isn't a short term thing; I have to change my eating and exercise habits for life," she said.

"When I started with this program I weighed 252 pounds and now I'm at 223," said Phyllis Bergen. "My friends comment that I'm melting away. I wish it was that easy.
It takes a made-up mind, determination and a lot of hard work, and I'm dedicated to keeping up my daily exercise program."

For others, the results have been life-changing on a more personal level.

"The Biggest Loser contest has been very inspirational," said Minnie Jones, who has dropped 15 pounds so far. "It jump-started me into making a difference in my appearance and in my life. I'm motivated to eat healthier.

"But the biggest difference is in my attitude about myself. I don't dread looking in the mirror anymore," she said.

"I feel physically better and that has helped immensely with my body image," said Jennifer Morris, who attributes her 7-pound weight loss to belly dancing lessons. "Dance class is a blast. I plan on continuing long after this competition is over."

For the competition, participants follow their own diet and exercise plans, but check in for weekly weigh-ins at the Jimmy Brought Fitness Center, a method of accountability many plan to continue long after the competition ends.

"Even though the contest will be over, I'm going to try to continue weigh-ins on Fridays," said Laura Nalls, who said she lost nine pounds by walking four miles, five days a week. "Since I already started, I don't want to lose track again."

Weigh-ins can be a useful weight-loss tool; however, the numbers can be needlessly discouraging. Weight can fluctuate throughout the day due to hydration status, according to a Cornell University, Gannett University Web site. To gain a consistently accurate number, the best time for people to weigh themselves is in the morning, prior to eating and drinking.

Along with a trip to the scale, workout partners help aspiring losers stay on track. Jacqueline Fairclough has a live-in workout partner - her husband, David. The pair joined the Biggest Loser program together.

"Joining forces has helped a lot as we have the same goal and that just makes the journey easier," said Jacqueline, who has lost 20 pounds.

The teamwork is paying off for her husband as well. David also has lost 20 pounds. "I can feel the difference when I walk up and down the stairs. I've made a big change in my life because of this program, particularly with what I eat and how much I eat," he said.

Whether competitors have gained, lost or maintained, Cathleen Burrell, Biggest Loser fitness consultant, urged all to disregard the looming end of the program.

"Many of you started this program with hopes of changing your life," Ms. Burrell said. "Some of you wanted to fit into a smaller size and others wanted to do it for medical reasons. Whatever your reasons, the program is not over and it ultimately never will be - so long as you stay focused."

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