Contestants sign on to take pounds off for 'Biggest Loser' competition

Eight chosen from nearly 30 applicants for the 12-week challenge
By: Natalie Otis, Journal correspondent
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It was just three weeks ago that the Auburn Journal launched “Auburn’s Biggest Loser”contest, asking readers to submit their photo and weight loss story to Angela Martin, an area fitness instructor. Now eight contestants are ready to begin a 12-week journey as they take on the challenge of becoming the biggest loser. Participants include: Danee Davis, 32, of Penryn; Bob Jackson, 54, of Auburn; Don Barnes, 46, of Cool; Margaret Adolph, 61, of Auburn; Diana Westin, 44, of Auburn; Heidi Saiz-King, 37, of Auburn; Lisa Swisley, 41, of Auburn; and Keith Turner, 52, of Auburn. Martin said that of the nearly 30 applicants, the eight she chose all demonstrated that they repeatedly tried weight loss programs and nothing worked. “I was really looking for people who were in a place where they were going to be really committed to this and really needed my help,”she said. All contestants say they have families and children who are a driving force behind their decision to get healthy. Two entry letters even stated that gastric bypass surgery was at some point on the calendar, but was delayed or canceled for one reason or another. “In 2003 I had enough and decided to make a life-changing decision. I decided to get the gastric bypass. I had topped the scales at 301 pounds,”Saiz-King stated in her entry. “I had to go through quite a lot to be approved for the surgery and in about nine months I had lost 100 pounds, then I found out I was pregnant.- The group met for the first time Tuesday at the Courthouse Athletic Club in Auburn. Contestants went to the upstairs group-fitness room with nervous excitement to meet both Martin and wellness coach Chris Bain and to hear what the next 12 weeks of their lives would be like. “Thank you so much for coming,”Martin said as she greeted and even hugged some of the competitors. “I have been waiting a long time to do this." Martin distributed the contest’s signature T-shirts, donated by Dancing Dog Productions, and the contestants slipped them on, sitting quietly as Martin explained that they would be starting their regimen with a morning “boot camp”workout at Auburn Recreation District Park - the first session was scheduled for 6:30 a.m. today - and following up with Saturday boot camp and Tuesday evening weigh-ins. The group didn’t even flinch as Martin explained that she would be giving each of them a meal plan with calorie intake guidelines and that they would be required to spend a minimum of three hours together as a group in the wee hours of the morning, participating in multiple group activities during the 12-week program. These eight people are ready to shed the weight and waiting on pins and needles to find out what they need to do first. Davis, the 32-year-old mother of five, took the time to thank Martin for her willingness to lead the challenge and for choosing her to take part. The rest of the group chimed in with similar gratitude. “Nothing else has ever worked before, ever,”said Davis. “I am excited to get my body back." Most of the contestants said they are looking forward to getting support from the others who have also chosen to go down this path. Barnes, 46, said he is most looking forward to “helping others while helping myself.- The contestants said they are more motivated to lose weight if people are keeping them on track. “Being accountable to someone other than myself”was Swisley’s reason for sending in her entry. “It’s time to get fit and improve my health,”Westin said, explaining why she is participating. The contestants aren’t the only ones that are chomping at the bit to get started. A flood of support has come in from both local and national businesses. Graceful Health, a center for well being in Newcastle, has donated a workshop for the contestants. The Smoothie King has donated a gift card to a weekly challenge winner, and The Daily Shake has discounted shakes for the contestants. Wrigley’s Extra Gum donated a year’s worth of gum to a weekly challenge winner and Victory Velo Bike Shop and the Wilderness Institute also donated to motivate the contestants week by week. The eight are all eventually trying to win a year membership to the Courthouse Athletic Club in Auburn, which is a $648 value; however the contestants will have free use of the facilities as they make their final push during the last month of the challenge, the idea for which coming from the hit NBC television show “The Biggest Loser." Martin said she is excited for the contest. “I believe this will be a life-changing experience for everyone and I am excited,”she said. “I selected all of these people because they are ready to do whatever it takes." The first weigh-in occurs today and the results, along with stories about the contestants and their progress, will appear occasionally in the Journal and online at Natalie Otis is a freelance writer and gymnastics instructor. E-mail her at