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McCamey's "Biggest Losers" Drop Pounds, Gain Everything Else

Anum Valliani
NewsWest 9

MCCAMEY- It's a competition where losing, means winning. Modeled similarly to the NBC show, The Biggest Loser, the premise is simple. Drop the most body weight (in percent) and win a chunk of money.

McCamey's Biggest Loser program is an initiative put on by the city's Health and Wellness Center in an effort to motivate the town to get healthy. It all started after an interoffice challenge took off. That was about three years ago. Since then, it's picked up a lot more steam and participants throughout the community continue to eagerly sign up to drop the weight.

"After the first 1,200 pounds, we kinda stopped counting. It was just so astronomical that much weight being lost," Lucy Johnson, Director of the Health and Wellness Center, said. "You're talking potentially almost 2,000 pounds has been lost in McCamey, Texas, in this little bitty town in just the last few years."

Lauren Woods is in the middle of her third challenge, something she never expected to be able to do when she recalled her difficult journey. 

"When I came here, I came on a walking cane. I couldn't breathe but I came," she said.

Wood had put herself on the back-burner while taking care of her late husband who had cancer.

"I forgot about me," she explained.

Then after he passed, she had hit more than three hundred pounds and developed a heart problem.

"It took me about three years to wake up from the grief and here I am. I know that he's proud," she said.

That's because Woods won second place in her first biggest loser competition. She had lost 50 pounds then and a combined 23.5 inches. Most importantly, she got to retire the walking cane.

"Doctors keep telling me, whatever you're doing, keep it up," she said, adding that she believes if it weren't for the program, she would surely have died by now. "It gave me a second chance at life, even at 69. So if anybody can get up, even if you have a walking cane, come out here."

A teary-eyed Johnson said that's the kind of drive that makes them want to keep things going.

Lucy Johnson's no Jillian Murphy, and unlike the popular show, McCamey's program doesn't just cater to heavy people. In fact, at least 10 people have very healthy body mass indexes (BMIs) she explained. But the competition does get intense.

"The very first time people lost a lot of weight, but they were losing it in ways that we wouldn't necessarily deem as healthy," she said.

So now they enforce weekly weigh-ins to monitor people on whether they're shedding the pounds safely. The challenges last for about three months with one "blow-out" in between where participants have more freedom to where they can, "just kind of lose weight any way they want, but still keep health in mind and not be under that constant scrutiny of us saying, 'Okay, are you sure you're eating enough of this, are you sure you're doing that?'" she said.

This time around though, they changed things up. It's a team challenge. There are three instructors that lead a group of about 10-15 people to push the participants to trim down and motivate one another. In the match-up are the teams, "No Fry Zone", "Fat Burners" and "Flabuloss." Johnson heads the Burners, on which Wood is a member. 

Another competitor, Lindsey Troublefield prefers this team challenge, because it helps unite people in an otherwise daunting task. 

"The camaraderie is there, and we all have each other's backs. In a small town, we see each other out to eat, we're looking at each other's plates. We know what we're supposed to do and we're keeping each other honest," she said.

Troublefield first joined after having given birth and couldn't even last 15 minutes in a class. Now she's in the middle of her second competition, and in all, she's lost 45 pounds and counting. 

"If I feel this much better half way through, then how am I gonna feel when I'm at the finish line? That's what keeps me going," she said.

"With each challenge we just get more and more motivated and can't wait for the next one," Johnson said.

There are about four weeks left in the team challenge but a new cycle will start up in October. The sign up fee is $45 and includes a T-shirt with the remaining money going towards the winner's pot.

Johnson also wants to encourage other communities to start up the program and said anyone interested in learning more can call the Wellness Center at 432-652-4016.
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