PLATTSBURGH - These days, being a "loser" can be considered a good thing - especially when it comes to losing weight and getting healthy.
That's why the City of Plattsburgh Recreation Department and the Plattsburgh chapter of the American Heart Association have teamed up to host the first North Country Biggest Loser weight loss program. The two entities have joined together to find 10 people willing to make a commitment to make lifestyle changes and work with a personal trainer for four months beginning Monday, March 1.
Faith Osborne Long, regional director of the American Heart Association, said the program will be offered at the City Recreation Center at no cost to participants. The recreation department is donating a four-month membership in an effort to motivate people who may have used cost as a reason not to exercise.
"[The participants] don't have to pay for a membership, so we're really looking for people with a lot of motivation, people who will really stick with it through mid-July," said Osborne Long.
The program will be similar to the popular NBC television series, "The Biggest Loser," which it's modeled after, said Osborne Long - with a few exceptions.
"Our program isn't going to be as competitive," she said. "We won't be voting people off. The 10 people who participate, we're planning they're going to make it to the end. We're going to look at how they did as a group because, really, we want them to be supportive of each other."
North Country Biggest Loser also won't require participants to move to a fitness ranch for several weeks like the television show. Rather, the program will require attendance at two-hour workout sessions with trainer Mary Duprey Monday and Thursday evenings, as well as a commitment by participants to workout on their own time. The program will also feature education through guest speakers and require participants to keep track of their eating habits and work with dietician Ann Watts to see what improvements can be made in regard to nutrition.
"Right from the very beginning, we're going to be asking them to keep track of what they eat and when they eat it. That way, we can work with them individually," said Osborne Long. "It'll be important to look at all those factors because, truly, we want people to stick with this and make the commitment."
Steve Peters, the city's superintendent of recreation, said the program is "a really great opportunity," especially considering some alarming statistics out there.
Fifty-six percent of Clinton County adults and 43 percent of children ages 2-19, he said, are considered "at risk" or overweight.
"Those are really big numbers," said Peters.
Though in line with the national average, Peters said that number still presents a challenge to be overcome.
"With today's lifestyles, it's a really big challenge to be motivated to get out there and do things," he said. "We're hoping this structure will help people recognize the benefits of healthy activities and then be able to capitalize on that and be a little bit healthier because of it."
The support system the program will focus on - rather than offering prizes at the end like the television show - will hopefully be all the motivation participants will need, said Osborne Long.
"What we plan to do is recognize the group as part of Mayor's Cup activities in July, possibly introducing them and announcing how much they lost as a group, recognizing all of them for their hard work," she said. "What we're really looking for is people to make lifestyle changes, making changes in their eating habits, their exercise routine - really how they approach each day."
"We can't pull people off the couch to do it," said Peters. "There has to be the desire, a passion within, and this is really the vehicle, the mechanism to help people take that first step."
And, that first step is filling out an application to be in the program, said Peters. Candidates will be required to fill out a 14-page application which asks for a detailed medical history and other information necessary for program coordinators to know before a person is allowed to participate. A physician's release will also be required.
Though there are only 10 spots available - open to people in or out of the city - there will also be a separate walking club for people with smaller weight loss goals that will run congruently with North Country Biggest Loser.
"That will allow people to get together with an aspect of camaraderie," said Peters. "And, a lot of people need that. Motivation can be tough for people sometimes and that's the same if you're overweight or not."
Applications for North Country Biggest Loser may be picked at the City Recreation Center, 52 U.S. Oval, and must be turned in by Monday, Feb. 22.
For more information, contact Peters at 324-7709.