Houston County Health Department workers take it off in “Biggest Loser” competition

Center for Collaborative JournalismApril 24, 2013 

Houston County Health Department workers use contest to drop weight

WARNER ROBINS -- Houston County Health Department employees are nearing the final weeks of their own “Biggest Loser” competition, which began in November after a few employees decided it was time to shed some pounds.

“We go to the fair every year, and we eat heavily at the fair,” said Karen Sanders, environmental health specialist. “We decided after that that we didn’t want to be overweight anymore.”

The voluntary six-month competition among 20 employees has yielded pleasing results, said Matt Hively, environmental health specialist, who started the competition.

“Total, we have lost 150 pounds, all 20 of us,” said Hively, who has lost 24 pounds. “It almost works out to about eight pounds apiece. Some are more, and some are less. But it’s a lot better than I anticipated.”

The objective of the competition is to lose the largest percentage of body weight while promoting healthy lifestyle changes.

After paying a one-time $10 entry fee, Hively said everyone steps on the scale every Thursday to see if they owe more money.

“If you gain weight a week or choose not to weigh in a week, you owe a dollar,” Hively said. “Money always gains people’s interest.”

At the end of the competition, Hively said, the collected money is split among three winners.

“In order to keep it where people don’t see one person excelling, keep people involved, we do first, second and third. First place gets 60 percent of the pot, second place gets 30 and third place gets 10.”

“In the work environment, you see the same people everyday,” Hively said. “You’re able to hold people accountable.”

Hively said he tries to run at least one 5K a week if the weather allows.

“I use my Xbox and Kinect with games like UFC (Personal) Trainer,” Hively said. “I don’t have a gym membership, so it’s just what I can do at home.”

Joy Knight, health educator, said peer pressure helped her decide to participate.

“Everybody was like, ‘I’ll do it if you do it.’ ”

Knight said the program has influenced her eating habits.

“You’re like, ‘I really want some ice cream today, but oh, we have to weigh in tomorrow, so I better not eat that.’ You know, it just makes you more conscious about the things you’re eating.”

Participants agreed the competition has been effective in its goals and said they intend to keep the weight off by making the competition a lifestyle change.

“Three years ago, I did Weight Watchers and lost a lot of weight. And I got really excited that I lost all the weight, and celebrated a few too many times,” Sanders said. “This time I’m going to keep the activity up.”

Sanders, a founding member of the competition, said that the group agreed on a duration of six months for a few reasons.

“We didn’t want anybody to crash diet, and we didn’t want it to be so long that people couldn’t see an end in sight,” Sanders said. “We also didn’t want it to be so fast that people did unhealthy stuff. We wanted it to be a lifestyle change.”

Nutritionist Mary Daigle estimates that she has lost about 22 pounds over 22 weeks.

Daigle said she first approached weight loss by cutting back on calories. In the second month of the competition, she decided to go to the gym.

“I love music and I love to dance, so I just said, ‘OK I need to just take this to the gym.’ ”

Daigle met with a gym trainer, who helped her reach an important realization.

“He was just like, ‘You know everything. Why aren’t you doing it?’ and I didn’t have an answer,” Daigle remembered.

Daigle was ranked in first place at the time of print.

“At first, I was No. 5, but it wasn’t until February that I moved up to No. 1,” Daigle said.

Daigle said she uses an app called “My Fitness Pal” to count calories. She said others are enrolled in Weight Watchers.

“We don’t tell each other what we’re doing; we’re in a competition,” Daigle joked.

Knight said she hopes all participants make lasting lifestyle changes instead of losing weight just for the money.

“I’m not dieting,” said Daigle. “I’m changing my life.”

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service