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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Almost time for the big reveal for Lighten Up heroes

I really should be treating this weekend like most people do New Year’s Eve.

No, not with drinking and carrying on.

I was thinking more along the lines of singing “Auld Lang Syne” as I head into the final weigh-in of our annual weight-loss contest, Lighten Up.

It sometimes feels like it takes a year to finish, because we move through three seasons during the process, starting in winter, moving into spring and finishing in the heat of summer.

This year was our fifth, and it was the biggest one we’ve had.

It’s the biggest in terms of participation, with 26 of your brave neighbors finishing up today with a final weigh-in at LEAN Living in Concord Township.

When we kicked off in January, we had 54 competitors.

Frustration, stress, family situations and just plain life getting in the way caused us to lose a slew of folks.

A requirement to lose 5 percent of their original body weight forced out the rest after the first three months.

I mentioned earlier that these men and women are brave. I can’t overstate that at all.

How many of you want your weight listed in the paper once a month?

Even though in most cases it’s dropping, it still isn’t an easy thing to open the Sunday paper and see those three numbers right there in black and white.

It’s even worse when you realize that the guy at the gym sees it. So does the minister at church. And the guy at the grocery store. Don’t forget the lady sitting across the room at work.

Yes, they all know.

And, well, for a good bunch of them, what they all know is that there’s been some significant change going on with these 26 people.

And I get to see most of this change unfold every month.

I have missed some of it, because a few of the participants have showed up at LEAN Living to weigh in with owner Jaime Brenkus when I’m not there.

Darn them!

I’ll get the last laugh this weekend, though, because in some cases, it’s been a few months since I’ve seen some of the bigger “losers” in the group.

And, for a lot of you, it’s been six months.

Wait ’til you you see some of the changes we have in store for you!

Going into today’s last weigh-in, the top five in Lighten Up have a combined weight loss of 217.4 pounds.

That’s a person.

Our contest is decided by percentage of weight loss, so this year is one of those funny ones where the person who lost the most won’t be the winner.

Don’t feel bad for him, though, because he’s said countless times how much better he feels and how much easier it is for him to get around.

Sounds like a winner to me.

Those in the contest this year have had a large support staff.

That’s one of the other ways this is our biggest contest to date.

Participants had monthly meetings at the Lake County General Health District to go over their diets and any lifestyle issues that might get in the way.

Those who moved on to the second part of the contest were rewarded with a three-month membership to the Lake County YMCA. A bunch of them were thrilled to get into the Zumba classes and to try out the pool.

They also had the pleasure of dining out once a week at Cabana’s Island Restaurant in Mentor, courtesy of owner Mike Good.

Good’s staff created a special menu for the contest, and it was popular among his regular clientele, too.

The staff there for the Tuesday night meals was gracious and worked hard to keep the Lighten Up participants on plan and eating right.

I can’t forget Brenkus, either. I wish I had half his energy.

He consistently stands next to the scale and knows what to say to both those who are fighting back tears and those who are pumping their fists in the air.

I’ve learned a lot from him over the years.

It still feels a little odd to ask someone “how’s your eating?,” but it’s always the right question.
As the sign on his wall says, “your fork and spook are your best pieces of fitness equipment."

And, it’s important to remember it.

Every year at the first weigh-in, as we’re standing in a personal training studio among all these big weight machines and this exercise equipment, we tell those present that you don’t have to do a second’s worth of exercise to lose weight.

The looks we get combine confusion with doubt.

But it’s true.

If you’re losing a lot of weight, you’ll want to start some weight training to tone up, but that first burst of loss isn’t dependent on becoming a body builder or signing up for P90X.

This year’s group was about middle of the pack as far as commitment to exercise. We’ve had years where the participants have become athletes by the end of the contest. And there’ve been others where only a few people even started walking regularly.

So, as I gear up for the final steps in the contest, I urge you to check back in with the 26 survivors on Aug. 4 for the big reveal.

Prepare to be amazed. And, prepare to be very proud.

Just like me.
Twitter: @Lauranh


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