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"Biggest Loser" participants pummel pounds

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Editor's Note: This is the first article in a series chronicling fitness exploits of Ellsworth Airmen.

By stepping on the scale, Staff Sgt. Kevin Pike, 28th Bomb Wing chaplain assistant, and Senior Airman Patricia Harvey, 28th Force Support Squadron fitness specialist, enter more than a measurement of their weight, they enter a new life.

Along with 70 other members of Ellsworth who entered in the Bellamy Fitness Center's "Biggest Loser" competition, which began with a weigh-in Jan. 12 and ends Mar. 10, Sergeant Pike and Airman Harvey have vowed not only to lose unwanted pounds, but to workout more frequently and change old habits.

The competition will aid participants like Sergeant Pike and Airman Harvey in accomplishing their goals by relying heavily on teamwork, said Carey Karger, 28 FSS fitness center director. Whether it's within the fitness staff, their squadron, family or friends, a support network is important because it provides participants with the motivation they need should they desire to quit the competition or skip a workout -- especially if they have already pre-scheduled the work out with their partner.

Though the competition is geared primarily toward being the "Biggest Loser," Airman Harvey, feels the best reward for her involvement in the competition is being able to lose weight and improve her fitness capabilities. Before the competition began, she was unsure of whether or not she wanted to participate.

"I had reservations about joining this program because I was afraid that others would see me and judge me," Airman Harvey said.

The possible outcomes of the competition, helped her overcome her fears of what others may think.

"I want to feel good about myself while also setting an example for the Airmen I work with," she said. "This competition will enable me to do that by helping me lose 15 pounds while preparing me for my first half-marathon in June."

She has also teamed with other members of the fitness staff for re-enforcement to finish the competition and meet her goals.

Along with Airman Harvey, Sergeant Pike also had reservations about joining the competition.

"I was afraid of not making my goal," Sergeant Pike said. "I really want to push myself to lose the weight, but I have already seen my body start to rebel and tell me to take it slower."

Despite the rebelliousness of his body, Sergeant Pike is confident he can lose at least 20 of the pounds he gained after back surgery in 2007. His inspiration for joining the program was not only his excess weight, but also for his disabled daughter.

"I want to be healthy for her, so I can take care of her physical and medical needs," Sergeant Pike said. She already takes care of me in many profound ways.

"She thinks the world of me. I always want to be there for her or at least as long as I can."

The fitness staff created this program for people like me to have an opportunity to be healthier, Sergeant Pike said. They don't get anything out of it, but they will provide the guidance and support I need. I have no doubt this is designed for the success of those who participate.

Getting back in shape will also allow Sergeant Pike to play volleyball again, a sport enjoyed regularly before his back surgery.

The consistency of the weigh-ins every two weeks, and the classes following them will provide participants with another means of motivation, Ms. Karger said.

"The workout sessions provide tips for participants who feel they do not have enough time to go to the gym and the classes are geared toward preventing people from this feeling by providing them with workouts they can perform from home or in the office [for example push-ups or running] whenever time is available."

In addition to the workout classes, the participants are encouraged to consult Amy Kubal, 28th Medical Operations Squadron wellness installation dietician, who will provide nutrition assistance to coordinate with their workouts.

Even with regular workouts and proper nutrition, participants of the competition will have difficulty completing it unless they have proper motivation, Ms. Karger said.

For Sergeant Pike, Airman Harvey and other participants, the "Biggest Loser" competition motivates people to not only lose weight while providing them the support to do it, it's an opportunity for people to change their lifestyles, Ms. Karger said.

"After all, the competition is only eight weeks," she said, "If they don't change their lifestyles, they will regain the weight they worked so hard to lose."

For Sergeant Pike and Airman Harvey, the motivation they need to complete this competition and change their lifestyles are the goals that brought them to their first weigh-in. Time will tell if they are able to complete it, but for now, they enthusiastically look forward to the challenge presented by the next eight weeks.

"I am thrilled to be part of this [competition],"Sergeant Pike said. "It's the Wingman concept in an applicable practice."