"Biggest Loser" contestants rise, shine at boot camp

By: Natalie Otis, Journal correspondent
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Editor’s note: Journal correspondent Natalie Otis is following the progress of contestants in the Auburn’s Biggest Loser contest, a 12-week weight loss challenge. Today’s story covers week one. Watch for updates on contestants’ progress at Nothing says dedication like getting up before the sun rises to be weighed and start boot-camp workouts that can only be described as “booty kickin’.” It was 6:30 a.m. on March 27, and Auburn’s Biggest Loser team was awake and at Auburn Recreation Park for the first of what will be many workouts and weigh-ins as the 12-week competition counts progresses. Each contestant was greeted by Angela Martin, the fitness instructor leading the warriors through their program, and each was measured in the shoulders, bust, hips, arms and thighs, and placed on the official scale for the first time. For some, it was a moment of truth as they watched the scale jump up to tell the very reason they were there. Contestants hurried to get on and hurrying to get off. “Let’s get this over with,” contestant Don Barnes said. Barnes weighed in at 273 pounds March 27. His goal is to get down to 200 pounds, and in just five days of being in the competition he beat out his teammates by losing eight pounds by the Tuesday evening weigh-in at the Courthouse Athletic Club. “All I did was stick to the program that Angela (Martin) has me on,” he said. The first week has already been a whirlwind for the contestants with one addition and one drop out. Bob Jackson was forced to leave the group when he couldn’t get a release from his doctor to do the competition. “We needed a release to do strenuous exercise and I couldn’t get it without having to do more tests because of my medical history,” he said. Martin said she was sad to see Jackson go, but she didn’t waste time asking another to join. Kim Jenkin-Palaferri of Auburn is the new contestant, which makes for a six-woman, two-man team of Jenkin-Palaferri, Lisa Swisley, Margaret Adolph, Diana Westin, Danee Davis, Heidi Saiz-King, Don Barnes and Keith Turner. Martin, the leader of the competition, said that the first week was the hardest for everyone, including herself, as they all jumped into three-times-a-week structured workouts, daily exercise and strict meal plans that even involved a field trip to the grocery store. “The trip to the store was pretty funny because we all went together, and we were recognized,” Martin said. Martin took the group shopping because she feels strongly that education is a big part of how to keep weight off for good. Every contestant has to be able to articulate his or her daily caloric intake in order to lose weight - no unconscious eating. “In order to lose weight you must burn more calories than you take in. The details of your diet are unimportant if you don’t satisfy this simple requirement,” she said. “Eat a balanced diet consisting of fewer calories than you are burning during the day and you will lose weight.” Another tip Martin shared with the group is to buy as much food as possible from the produce department. Most contestants said they are still getting used to having to track their food intake; some say this is the hardest part. “I’ve never really thought about it much,” Turner said. “So that’s a discipline that I am learning on a daily basis.” However, the majority ruled that the early morning boot camps are the toughest part. Adolph, 61, said that after the first Thursday boot camp she was “so sore,” and Saiz-King reported she struggled with the exercise last week. Nevertheless, Saiz-King, a mother of two, has already tracked a five-pound loss and is down to 214 pounds. “Not to mention that the initial weigh-in was first thing in the morning and the second one was at night,” Martin said. “You tend to weigh more in the evening so on Thursday it will probably be even lower.” Even with the discrepancy in times, most have lost between two and eight pounds. The group lost a total of 24 pounds in five days. The good news is that none of the contestants have gained weight in the five days they have been working, which all consider a good sign, and the morale of the group is high because of the support from each other and their families. “I have received phone calls and e-mails from friends and family checking up on me, but I have to say that my sweet husband wins the hero’s award,” Davis said. “He is the one who has been getting all five kids ready to walk out the door every morning when I am at boot camp or out running. I could not manage this schedule without his support.” Natalie Otis, a freelance writer for the Auburn Journal. E-mail her at