PLATTSBURGH - Forty people are now on their way to changing their lives for the better.
The North Country's Biggest Loser contestants have been weighed in, and have now begun the six-month journey towards losing weight and living healthier lives.
"We gave out safely hundreds of applications," said Plattsburgh's superintendent of recreation Steve Peters. "But, the application is long and a bit arduous and you need to visit the doctor and that narrowed the field based on motivation."
The new contestants first met Sept. 25, following the Plattsburgh Start! Heart Walk.
"We have ... a wonderful cross section of the North Country," Peters said. "We're representing white collar, blue collar, men, women. People who have gone through life and been successful, but still have these challenges. People who are just in the beginning phases of their careers and still have these challenges."
"We picked a lot of great people," he added. "It should be a very dynamic group and we should see some interesting results."
The group's youngest contestant is teenager Taylor Larsen from Peru, who applied for the Biggest Loser with encouragement from her parents.
"I was really hesitant for awhile," she said. "The last week I decided to hand in my application just because I thought it would be cool to do. And, I don't regret it. It was a good choice."
Although Larsen has always been aware of how much she weighs, she never considered doing something about it. Now, she's hoping to lose about 100 pounds and try out for softball in the spring at Peru Central School.
Prior to the first workout, which was held Oct. 4, Larsen admitted she was a little hesitant about what the day would hold.
"I don't know what to expect," she said. "I see it on TV and they're all hardcore the first few weeks and it just gets worse."
For other young people, Larsen advises they approach weight loss head on and not to wait until health problems begin setting in.
"I want to do it before I get into any health risks," she said.
The group's contestant with the most to lose is 33-year-old Bill Roberts, who said he hopes to lose more than 200 pounds, although he will let his body decide what he can handle.
Roberts is facing his second major attempt at weight loss. He first lost 80 pounds through the Weight Watchers program, but after severely breaking his arm, he had to take a break and the weight came back on.
"I want to get back on track as far as my weight loss," he said. "The second main reason [for joining the Biggest Loser] has to do with my nephew. He's in junior high now and I see him going down the same path I did at that age with weight and the lack of activity and improper eating habits."
As far as the first workout, Roberts said he was "excited."
"I have been in the gym setting before, but in this setting here, I have people who are in the same situation I am," explained Roberts. "I think we can have fun, I think we can push each other, and I'm looking forward to the relationships we're going to form here in this group."
For other people looking to lose weight, Roberts said the first step has to be taken by themselves.
"They can't be pushed into it," he said. "[It's] something they have to want to do deep down, and until they decide they want to do this for themselves, they're not going to have success."
The new group of contestants also brought in a mother-daughter duo who had conflicting thoughts about the first official workout.
"I'm pumped," said 20-year-old Kaitlyn Hildwein, while her mother, Lisa Nelson, said, "I'm terrified."
Hildwein explained, "I'm sick of being overweight and my mom is, too, so we're doing this together."
Hildwein and Nelson tried losing weight together in the past through the Weight Watchers program, but didn't care for it.
"I was younger and I think I was more self-conscious about my appearance," said Hildwein. "I felt the group wasn't very supportive. The first day coming here, I felt 'Wow, okay, I don't feel embarrassed about having to stand up in front of 40 people and say this is why I'm here and this is why I think I'm here.'"
As for working together, Nelson said, "It'll be really helpful to have her to call."