January 25, 2016
Biggest Loser contestants with their coaches:
Spoiler Alert: Everyone Wins
While the rest of the world was trying to hold the line on weight gain this holiday season, five participants in a Biggest Loser competition at the Fauquier Health Wellness Center were defying the odds – losing pounds and inches, and getting healthier.
The competition was the brainchild of Al Maxey, recently appointed director of the Wellness Center. “We wanted to do something special for our employees. It was a pilot program that we hope we can build on and offer to community members as well.” Participants received two months free membership to the Wellness Center and two hours a week of personal training.”
Each participant had different goals and abilities, and all five made significant strides toward better health. Two enjoyed double-digit weight loss; all had improved health markers (lower LDL cholesterol and decreased BMI), and everyone lost at least a few pounds, got stronger and increased flexibility.
Besides the catchy name, the Wellness Center’s contest bore little resemblance to the Biggest Loser television show. The contestants achieved their successes through careful coaching on exercise and nutrition – eight-hour daily workouts with a screaming coach were not part of the plan, and nobody starved themselves to achieve quick results. And we (your writer was one of the contestants) had a lot of fun along the way, trash talk notwithstanding.
In early January, Travis Chaney, clinical coordinator in Fauquier Hospital’s operating room (and the only man in the contest), was named the winner; Chaney lost 23 pounds and lowered his cholesterol by 59 points. It is accepted that most men have an easier time losing weight than most women, but we women don’t begrudge Chaney’s success (well, maybe a little).
Rachel Frisk, RN, who sported a beatific smile and a new confidence at the group’s “after” photo shoot, came in a close second to Chaney; she lost 18 pounds. Nikki McClanahan, a licensed practical nurse with Fauquier Health General Surgery, dropped her cholesterol by 60 points. “I am no longer a heart attack waiting to happen,” she said, beaming.
Paulette Borek, a physical therapist whose job can require lifting, squatting and other feats of strength, said she is much more confident in what she can do on the job. “I learned what I’m capable of.”
For myself, I saw my A1c (a diabetes marker) drop from 6.2 to 5.8. I’ve struggled against that number for years now, and no matter what I did, couldn’t get it to budge. High intensity interval training, it seems, was the answer.
Although all participants reported good results, it wasn’t a painless process. When McClanahan stepped on the scale about halfway through the contest, for instance, she was disappointed to see that she had only lost a pound or two. ”I was near tears, and ready to give up,” she said. “I had worked so hard, gone to the Wellness Center almost every day, and cleaned up my diet. I was devastated.” Within a few days, though, McClanahan learned about her improved cholesterol numbers. “The weight will come off in time, but to know that exercise made such a profound difference in such an important health marker means that all the work I’ve put in has been worth it.”
Team Travis Chaney
Trainer: Al Maxey
Weight lost: 23 pounds
Cholesterol dropped: 59 points
Triglycerides dropped: 100 points
“I am seeing many successes. I am starting to hear compliments from people who notice that my clothes fit differently. I am also proud to say that I am wearing a pair of jeans that I have not worn in years. They may be a bit outdated but hey, they fit!”
Rachel Frisk, RN
Trainer: Adam Gontkovic
Weight lost: 18 pounds
Cardio test improvement: 37 points
Flexibility improved: 8 points
“I’m doing exercises and lifting weights I never could have imagined in the beginning. Adam’s focus has been on education and getting me ready for what comes after the eight weeks. He wants to set me up for success in life, not just win a contest.”
Physical Therapist, PM&R
Trainer: Denise DeCarlo (in blue at right)
Weight lost: 6 pounds
Cardio test improvement: 20 points
Fat-free percentage: dropped 8.4 points
Flexibility improved: 7 points
“I am so proud that at 57, I am stronger and fitter than I have ever been. Clothes that were tight are now comfortable -- if not downright baggy -- and my blood pressure readings are great!”
Nikki McClanahan, LPN
Fauquier Health General Surgery
Trainer: Meghan Costello
Weight lost: 4 pounds
LDL cholesterol dropped: 60 points
Cardio test improvement: 10 points
“I have noticed that I have a lot more energy and really do feel good. I am grateful for this amazing opportunity and plan on continuing into the new year with my lifestyle changes.”
PR Specialist, Marketing
Trainer: Pete Petropulos
Weight lost: 6.8 pounds
LDL cholesterol dropped: 39 points
A1c dropped: .4 points
Flexibility improved: 8.5 points
“ I learned that what’s possible can change over time… After a recent tabata workout, for instance, Pete announced that in the course of a 30-minute workout, I had run 36 flights of stairs. I’d found a new possible.”