PUBLISHED: 10:04 AM on Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Weight-loss groups aims for Juneau's Biggest Loser

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Kimberly Kelly works out at Fitness Essentials on a Saturday morning after a meeting of Juneau's Biggest Loser.
Striving to be a big loser may not sound like a good thing, but it's everything to those trying to shed extra pounds.

More than 30 Juneau residents are participating in the free weight loss program, Juneau's Biggest Loser, at Fitness Essentials.

"One of my members at the gym suggested we do something like 'The Biggest Loser' on TV. I had never seen the show, so I didn't know if it would go over," owner Debbie Stokes said.

Ho Wallace, who suggested the program, said he wanted to give people confidence in their goals to lose weight.

"I wanted to plant a little tree in the ground and I knew this was the place to plant the seed and to form a tree for people of Juneau to find a place they were comfortable going to," Wallace said.

"We've got people coming who are embarrassed and ashamed of their bodies. They're scared, but we're in this together. Juneau's Biggest Loser is an opportunity to be part of the family and work on these issues together."

Each Saturday participants weigh-in at 12:30 p.m. with a meeting following at 1 p.m.

A machine calculates body mass, so that people can judge their fat and muscle content along with their weight. Now in it's fourth week, the group has lost more than 120 pounds. Participants are asked to keep a journal of what they eat and exercise, and are not required to attend meetings.

"My experience is the good support system," Stokes said. "You hear good ideas from other people that you can use yourself."

Stokes said the group is mostly women, with five men participants, and she hopes more people get involved.

"It's not only met my expectations, but has gone over them," Stokes said.

"We have members of the gym who are doing it, but you don't have to be a member. It's open to anyone. That's neat because you can watch everyone come together and help each other."

Wallace said the TV show inspired the group, but it's the people involved in the community program that has inspired people to lose weight.

"On TV these people are transforming their bodies and their lives. What we're doing here is getting everyone sitting at home, and giving them the opportunity to get with people of the same concerns," Wallace said.

"The journey starts here."