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35 compete for ‘Biggest Loser’ status

By Rose Schneider

A local fitness center recently wrapped up its first Biggest Loser competition with 35 individuals on seven teams showing big results.

The goal of the competition, which took place at Maximum Performance, was to improve competitors’ overall body composition — not just shed a few pounds.

“You can lose a lot of weight but if you’re losing a lot of muscle, it is not good,” said Maximum Performance’s registered dietitian, Anna Binder.

The 10-week competition started Jan. 13 and gave participants unlimited gym access to work out on their own as well as organized sessions once a week with a dietician and twice a week with a personal trainer. Participants kept food logs, and there were group challenges every other Saturday. The K-State human nutrition department also did body composition scans on each of the competitors before and after the competition to show changes in weight, fat and muscle mass.

The groups included people of all fitness levels and body sizes ranging in age from early 20s to mid 70s and accomplished different things for each of them independently.

For 38-year-old Jennifer Colby, the competition helped her quit smoking and lose 4.4 pounds and 10 inches.

Colby gained more than 30 pounds after a car accident in May 2012 and had tried to quit smoking other times without success but said she feels that this time will be different.

“This time I had the support of a lot of people, and working out every day helped; it helps to ward off the hunger and weight-gain issues that come with quitting smoking,” she said.

Tiffany Berndt, a 26-year-old mother of two, went from a size 18 to a 10 and dropped 26.6 pounds during the 10-week competition.

“Waking up in the morning was the hardest; in the beginning I was really sore, but they did things to keep us encouraged and motivated,” Berndt said.

Not showing up for team challenges would mean a dock in team points, so many of the participants felt they needed to hold themselves accountable to avoid penalizing their teammates.

“I was in the Army reserves, and in basic I didn’t sweat as much as I did during the program,” Berndt said. “Even though the program is over, I still hear Anna’s voice in my head saying ‘nuh-uh’about eating certain foods.”

Binder worked to teach the competitors how to work out their meals within their calorie limits and how to pick the best foods for their bodies and workout plans without using supplements.

“I met with them weekly to teach them how to make small, healthy changes in their meals for long term goals; there is no dieting in the program,” Binder said.

For the 41-year-old overall female winner, Kerry Thurlow, the hardest part was adjusting to the lifestyle choice of being mindful of what was going into her body.

“I have a chocolate and Mountain Dew problem,” Thurlow said. “Sometimes you know you have some bad habits, but it just takes a little push to make the change; the Biggest Loser pushed me.”

Since the competition ended, Thurlow lost another 5 pounds by continuing to use to techniques she learned by completing the program and by setting smart goals.

“I didn’t expect to lose 20 pounds, but I knew once I got in a program that would hold me accountable that I could drop the weight fast,” she said. “Now that no one is looking at what I’m eating it is up to me. I have to be honest with myself and what I’m putting in my body.”

Todd Allen, 42, who had worked with professional power lifters and body builders in the past, joined the competition with the mindset that he would be losing a lot of weight. Allen had also had hip surgery in October 2012, not long before the competition started in January.

“I think anyone can do this,” he said. “I had major surgery on a major joint Oct. 31, and they worked to get me to a point where I could make progress for my health.”

Allen was one of several men in the Biggest Loser competition and the overall male winner. He lost 8 pounds but gained 33 pounds of lean muscle.

“It was a very humbling experience,” he said. “I work in the medical field, but what these people are doing is saving lives.”

The group will have a reunion May 19 to check in with each other and see the progress each of the competitors has continued to make on their own.

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