With Clinton County's obesity rate hovering above 30 percent — higher than the state average — one group is setting out to try to influence area residents to make life changes.
The North Country Biggest Loser program began March 1 with just 10 participants working toward a common goal of good health and weight loss. To date, the group has collectively lost nearly 300 pounds. But the program will come to an end next weekend, and the group is hosting a 5K run/walk fundraiser in an effort to get area residents and families to participate in a fun and healthy activity.
The group is encouraging everyone — runners and walkers — to participate in the event to get active. One of the goals is for people who may not have the confidence to participate in a race, to come out and walk.
"Four months ago most of the people in this group didn't know what a 5K was — or had any interest in participating in one," said the group's trainer, Mary Duprey. "We're hoping this race will increase awareness of the program and demonstrate its success."
"One of the great things about a 5K is that the distance is attainable for anyone who trains even a little bit," said Steve Peters, City of Plattsburgh Superintendent of Recreation. "No matter if someone is running or walking, it's a great experience to be part of and can be motivating for so many people."
"It's a good way to get out and exercise," said Randy Hilliker, 43, of Plattsburgh. "It's a great way for a family to get out and have fun doing a healthy activity."
The proceeds from the event will be used to try to expand the program when the next group starts, hopefully in September. In fact, applications for the next group of participants will be available at the race on Saturday. The group is currently sponsored by the City of Plattsburgh Recreation Department, but making the program larger will require more resources.
"We hope to inspire others to make changes in their lives," Hilliker said. "I'm looking forward to becoming involved with the next group of biggest losers to help them overcome the barriers and the struggles to lose weight."
And sometimes losing weight isn't the only goal. Four months ago, Hilliker was taking medications for several medical issues. His goal for joining the program was to stop some of his medications and become healthier and stronger overall. Due to his weight loss, Hilliker was able to stop taking some of the medications and has one less doctor he needs to see for follow-up — all due to his participation in the program.
"The City Recreation Department supports any healthy initiatives, but the Biggest Loser Program that we've undertaken is one of those programs that many people can relate to and be motivated by," Peters said. "Whether you lead a healthy lifestyle or not, you can't help but to be inspired by the participants in our program. This race will serve as a demonstration of the hard work and determination of each one of our participants, and will provide a means for each participant to continue on in their journey."
While it is derived from the popular television show, the local program integrated healthy lifestyle changes while living in the group's day-to-day life, juggling work and families.
"It is a smart way to lose weight," Duprey said. "We didn't go off to a fancy ranch somewhere and workout for 8 hours a day; this program became a part of the group's regular routines."
Meeting twice a week with a trainer and responsible for one additional workout, participants learned how to integrate exercise into their daily lives. In addition to Duprey's workouts, the group received nutritional information, provided by Ann Kinney Watts of CVPH, on how to make healthier choices in their busy lifestyles. And in the end, the results were not just weight loss — the group saw some other changes in themselves.
"It gave me the confidence that I can achieve the goals I set for myself," said Steven Pierce, 39, of Dannemora.
Tamber Shepard, 35, of Plattsburgh, also learned some life lessons.
"I gained control of my life by being part of the program," Shepard said. "I enjoy exercise now and I look forward to continuing my journey toward a healthy lifestyle. This program has given me confidence and it's helped me to realize that being healthy is an attainable goal."
Trying to set a good example for her young niece is one of Jennifer LeCuyer's motivations for joining the group, but along the way she discovered some things about herself.
"I accomplished something I never thought I could, and it's opening doors in other areas of my life," LeCuyer said. "This has shown me I could do something I never thought I could."
"With the rising rate of obesity, I think its important for everyone to take part and take control of their lives," Shepard said.
The 5K walk/run will take place on Saturday, July 10 on the US Oval. Registration will be from 7:45 to 8:45 a.m., and the event will begin promptly at 9 a.m.
Registration fees are $10 for pre-registration, prior to July 7, $15 day of the event. Families of 4 or more, the registration is fee will be $25 pre-registration and $35 day of the event.
Registration forms are available at the City Recreation Gym on the Oval or at the Northern Lights Track Club website www.nlrunners.com under the event application tab. Pre-registration forms must be received by July 7, mail forms to Mary Duprey, 87 Champlain St. Rouses Point, NY 12979.
Awards will be presented for the overall male and female runners and placing three down in age group categories.
Post race refreshments will also be available. For more information, contact Mary at 297-2192.