The 11 volunteer participants in the local experiment inspired by Huntersville resident Emily Joy's participation on the television version of The Biggest Loser have lost weight, developed regular exercise routines and learned about lifestyle choices that lead to healthier living.
Advised, educated and encouraged by representatives of Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics Center and Fleet Feet in Birkdale Village — sponsors of the program along with Earth Fare, Lakeside Family Physicians, Lakeside Physical Therapy and the Lake Norman Citizen — the 11 local residents taking part in the program, in just five weeks, have combined to lose 153.6 pounds. But while the numbers on the scale indicate achievement, they are not the most accurate measure of positive change, according to Dee Jetton, executive director of HFFA and one of the hands-on advisors involved in the program.
"When you are only focused on the scale it's easy to get frustrated," Jetton says. "Most people, especially those with more than 30 pounds to lose, have been on a steady climb with their weight and forget that stopping the weight gain is a success story in itself."
Maria Schubert is one of TBL-H's participants dealing with less-than-hoped-for weight loss so far, but nevertheless basking in the large success of lifestyle changes she believes will, eventually, help her meet her weight loss goals.
The 38-year-old mother of three had never had any serious battles with her weight until cancer diagnosis, treatment and surgery derailed her exercise routine. She started the local program at 204 pounds and, while some TBL-H teammates following the same exercise and eating-right regiment dropped five to 15 pounds in the first four weeks, she hovered around 202. It's that type of result, while fairly common, that can lead to frustration and surrender, but not for Schubert.
"I don't want to give up," she says. "I know it's worth fighting for and I know I might not see the results yet on the scale, but I have a lot more energy and I just feel better."
The "feeling better" part is the key to continuing the commitment to the program, according to Jetton.
"It's a very common story for a lot of people who start fitness programs with a primary goal to lose weight," Jetton says. "It's a big investment in time and I know it's a little frustrating not to see the results on the scale."
Jetton says TBL-H advisors are working with Schubert and fellow TBL-H participants Debbie Dirkse and Kristen Winseman to find the right formula to trigger consistent weight loss.
"It's often like putting a very complex puzzle together," Jetton says, listing food and water intake, proper rest, consistency of diet, meal and snack times, portion control, the right balance of protein, fat and carbs and others on the long list of factors that determine each individual's weight-loss schedule.
"It's a lot to manage," Jetton says. "So for these three, they have all lost some weight and that means they've put part of the puzzle together. It's our job to help them keep finding the pieces of the puzzle that are missing and help them lay the groundwork for a complete picture of health."
For Schubert, the noticeable change in attitude and energy tells her she's on the right track.
"You can't let the scales determine if you're happy," she says. "I don't let the scales judge whether the program has been successful so far. I'm in it for the long haul. I'm not frustrated. I just keep working. Just because it doesn't show up on the scales doesn't mean there aren't changes taking place."
Schubert, a nurse, adds that she has learned a good bit about nutrition in the classroom sessions that accompany the exercise program, and that the "team spirit" among TBL-H participants has provided extra encouragement for everyone.
"It's definitely a team effort," she says. "When we don't see the numbers on the scale change, we're very supportive and we encourage each other and when we do see positive changes, we celebrate with each other. We help each other and it's good to have someone keep you accountable."
Schubert adds that many of TBL-H's participants have already talked about keeping the group together after the scheduled 10-week program ends.
"We work as a team," she says. "We want to continue our workouts and continue working with each other. I think that shows how supportive the atmosphere is."
Last week, illness kept Schubert from taking part in the regular programs and she "was miserable, because I couldn't work out." Her weekly weigh-in also indicated, like the program has stressed from the outset, that weight loss alone is not a solid indicator of good health. She dropped 4.8 pounds while sidelined by sickness.
During the fifth week, TBL-H participants dropped a total of 28.6 pounds, with Schubert, Stephanie Ann Weller and Susan Lamoureux each losing 4.8 pounds.
Participants, listed with their initial weigh-in, results of the week-five weigh-in and the week's weight loss: Rick Christian, 265, 243.2. (3.8); Debbie Dirkse, 217, 211 (gained 2); David Ginn, 265, 248.4 (1); Scott Hannay, 301.8. 279 (6, since last weigh-in on Feb. 3); Howard Kaplan, 291, 268.4 (3.8); Lamoureux, 234.6, 215 (4.8); Kris McCabe, 256, 248.4 (1.2); Schubert, 204, 198 (4.8); Chris Wages, 272, 258.8 (2.4); Weller, 239, 225 (4.8); and Winseman, 246, 243.2 (gained 2).
Still a loser
Huntersville resident Emily Joy registered a five-pound loss for the week and is one of 12 remaining contestants on The Biggest Loser television show on NBC. Joy initially weighed in at 264 and has lost 46 pounds in the first seven weeks of the show's season. The show airs Tuesday nights.