Who is the biggest loser?

RAF Mildenhall -- While being known as "the biggest loser" may not sound like a compliment, for 156 people who've signed up for the 100th Services Squadron's "Biggest Loser" contest, it's a title to fight for.

The weight-loss competition, which began Dec. 1 and runs until March 2, provides an incentive and challenge for those who may not otherwise give themselves the extra push needed to lose some extra weight and inches.

Participants are taking part either as individuals or in a two-person team, and are being assigned a certified personal fitness trainer - at no cost - as their consultant. The trainer is available to answer questions throughout the competition, and assists in developing personnel fitness programs for each competitor.

"I want to lose weight and improve my health," said Damona Hawks, RAF Mildenhall family member, at the beginning of the competition. "I'm trying to get off my blood-pressure medication, and this competition is providing the incentive, as well as accountability."

Contestants are encouraged to attend fitness and aerobics classes, use weights (after first consulting with their personal fitness trainer, if new to working out), and have to meet with the exercise physiologist and fitness-center staff to discuss their goals.

"During the holiday time of year it's hard for many people to eat right and maintain a workout program," said Master Sgt. Julie Privette, 100th Services Squadron fitness center operations manager. "We wanted to run this program throughout the holiday season to help people work towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The program will help participants stay on course - the hardest part is to change a person's routine and behavior to become part of their normal lifestyle."

As well as military members, those signed up for the "Biggest Loser" competition include civilians and spouses.

"I want to do this to get stronger and leaner, and I think this will help raise my metabolism," said Belinda Keller, an RAF Lakenheath family member.

A mid-event weigh-in and body measurement took place Jan. 16 to 19, and final weight and measure-ments being taken March 2, the last day of the contest.

Mrs. Hawks returned for her weigh-in Jan. 17, and though she hadn't lost much weight yet, she has come through the holiday period without putting any weight on, and said she feels a lot better than she did when she started Dec. 1.

"I feel wonderful and have so much more energy," she said. "You can definitely tell a difference when you've been working out, and you can feel it when you haven't. This program is just to jump start us into what we need to do."

Mrs. Hawks works out with her friend, Yvonne Van Duser, and the pair said they motivate each other. They walk 30 to 45 minutes on the treadmill or crosstrainer, and now regularly lift weights.

"We do cardio five times a week and strength training three times a week, and we plan on continuing to work out after the contest has finished," she said.

Mrs. Keller has also seen positive results after her mid-point weigh-in. She has lost six pounds and one inch off her waist, and has reduced her bodyfat.

Sergeant Privette advises that anyone trying to lose weight must be cleared by their doctor if they have any medical concern, before even starting any exercise program.

"Exercise and nutrition go hand-in-hand with each other," she said. "The biggest tip is to watch what you eat. The old saying, 'you are what you eat' is true - eat moderate meals, and don't go up for seconds - though this can be very difficult for many people during the holidays."

The fitness expert also said to lose weight it's important to work out at least three times per week, for 20 minutes to an hour per day. Depending on the goals you are trying to achieve, you may have to work out five times a week.

Sergeant Privette said the average weight lost in the individual female category was 4.6 pounds; for the individual male category, the average weight loss was 4.8 pounds; and for the team category (two people per team) the average lost was 5.3 pounds.

Two people have lost an impressive three inches from their waist, and one of those people dropped 14 pounds in weight in just over one month.

Additional information on classes, weight-training tips, cardio-training tips and nutrition advice will be posted each week at the main fitness center until the end of the competition.