Before You Go - March 2012
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Contest to Award $10,000 for Weight Loss

By Deborah L. Vence

The push for Americans to live a healthier lifestyle has never been greater. Popular television shows, such as The Biggest Loser, have put the spotlight on obesity in America, encouraging people to get their diets in check.

Now, Isabella County in Michigan is having a weight-loss competition of its own. Hundreds of participants have geared up for the contest, dubbed the Isabella County SLIM-to-WIN competition, which is being held at Morey Courts Recreation Center, located in Mount Pleasant, Mich. The competition is based on the percentage of body weight lost over the course of eight months.

"SLIM-to-WIN began as an idea to create a challenge for residents of Isabella County, Mich., to work as a community to achieve a healthier lifestyle," said Andrew O'Brien, program coordinator at Morey Courts Recreation Center, adding that Morey Courts was approached by an outside group that wanted to offer $10,000 to the winner of the competition.

"Lon Morey, president of The Morey Foundation partnered with Morey Courts and offered this competition for those who were full-time residents of the county and 25 years of age or older. On Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, Morey Courts registered 882 participants in the SLIM-to-WIN challenge," he said.

The competition is giving out $15,500 in cash prizes, and even more in memberships, personal training and boot camps. In addition, a forum was created for SLIM-to-WIN competitors.

"We had a lot of tools to market SLIM-to-WIN to the community, but there wasn't a mechanism in place that the participants could privately go to share support, tips and stories," O'Brien said. "The forum was created for that purpose, and the response has been excellent."

Erin Lenhart, director of fitness at Morey Courts, explained that the participants chose their own diet for the first part of the competition.

"The first full month was completely on their own," she said, adding that some participants chose a cleansing diet or grapefruit diet to lose weight. "There were some very aggressive ideas out there."

Then, for the second month, the top 10 participants, only one of whom is a woman, were chosen, and were each given one meeting with a personal trainer, a registered dietician, and a one-month membership to Morey Courts Recreation Center.

"Most were not members prior to that," Lenhart said, adding that the top 10 participants also will have blood work done and a visit with a physician.

In terms of exercise, Lenhart said that a boot camp was offered specific to the program. "We offered a SLIM-to-WIN boot camp to beginners," she said.

Clearly, contest participants are driven to get back in shape, with many of the contestants having said that the $10,000 incentive was a big factor to their participation; while others indicated that they were just excited to start living a healthier life. Social networking site Facebook, as well as e-mails and the Morey Courts Web site all have been important tools in keeping participants motivated.

When asked about the hope or goal for the contest, O'Brien said that "Our goal is simply to create a healthier lifestyle. This contest gives people the incentive to get fit, be healthier, and to feel energized. We wanted to create an avenue for people to begin developing healthy habits. We also see the value in numbers."

He added, "With 882 people participating, we have the ability to create a fairly substantial support system. We would also like to note that this competition was not only set up for the ones who may be considered 'obese,' but also for those who simply needed a kick-start for healthier living. Watching people make the commitment to that lifestyle and sticking with it has been absolutely amazing."

The first weigh-in was held on Jan. 11, garnering 882 participants.

"SLIM-to-WIN had 882 people who participated in the first weigh-in. On Feb. 8, we had 542 participants return for the second weigh-in. The top 10 participants with the most percentage of weight lost will continue on and compete for the grand prize of $10,000," O'Brien said.

For the first weigh-in, the average weight was 256.5 for men and 200.3 for the women.

The final weigh-in for the grand prize will be on April 22, 2012. Additionally, there will be a "Second Chance Weigh-in" on Aug. 12, 2012, for a chance to win $3,000.

"The purpose of this weigh-in is to give people the incentive to keep up the progress they have already made," he added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site, about one-third of U.S. adults (33.8 percent) are obese, while approximately 17 percent (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents from 2 to 19 years old are obese. During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. For example, in 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20 percent.

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