That's why 36 Westbrook teachers have banded together this winter, forming their own mini-version of the popular TV show "The Biggest Loser" to encourage and motivate each other to lose weight and embrace healthier lifestyles. Since the first weigh-in on Jan. 4th, the group has dropped a total of 150 pounds and shows no signs of letting up. The biggest loser so far has lost 12.5 pounds, but it's anyone's guess who will win the top prize when the contest ends on March 7th. The contest spans nine weeks, but only eight weigh-ins because of February vacation.
The contest is the brainchild of Westbrook Middle School art teacher Liz Egan, who participated in similar challenges at Shoreline Health & Fitness in Clinton and the ValleyShore YMCA in Westbrook. Egan sent a letter to teachers in late December outlining the challenge and was thrilled when 36 teachers took her up on it _ 16 high school teachers and 10 from the middle school Here's how it works: each teacher puts $10 into the pot and receives $1 back if they lose weight at each weigh-in, which are held every Monday morning in a closet in the health office at the middle school. Each person is responsible for their own weigh-in and the contest is done anonymously, with each contestant assigned a number. Weights are posted, but no one knows who's who and it's all done on t he honor system.
"It's way more fun to lose weight and exercise with other people than it is do to it on your own," said Becky Honan, a nurse at Westbrook Middle School. "This contest is bringing a lot of people together and we're supporting each other." An added bonus, organizers say, is teachers and support staff are meeting other people in the district, making new friends and plans to exercise together.
Studies show that a group approach to weight loss and exercise _ think Weight Watchers _ is significantly more effective than going it alone. People enrolled in weight and exercise programs with friends are more likely to stick to the program, sharing tips on diet and exercise, at least in the beginning. The long-term effects of group weight loss programs are harder to quantify, according to the American Psychological Association.
The contest has included several exercise classes and healthy lifestyle seminars that are open to the entire school district. They have had two boot camps, a yoga class and are even taking nutrition seminars, including one on how to build a salad in a jar. About a half-dozen women attended a yoga class in the Mulvey Center gymnasium last week, stretching, lunging and contorting their frames to strengthen and tone their bodies.
The biggest loser will receive 60 percent of the pot, while the second place finisher will receive 30 percent of the pot and the third place finisher will receive 10 percent of the pot. Contestants don't know this yet, but Egan plans to launch a second contest _ Countdown to Summer _ once the first contest is over. That contest will cost $15 and span the weeks ramaining to the end of the school year.
Above are some of the teachers participating in the challenge. Good luck ladies!