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YMCA to participate in statewide challenge

Doug Sawatzky works his triceps Monday at the Kandiyohi?County Area Family YMCA in Willmar. The YMCA is participating in the "Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge" to encourage people to adopt healthy lifestyles. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR -- Are you ready to become a loser?

The Kandiyohi County Area Family YMCA is participating in a statewide "Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge" to encourage people to visit the gym, adopt healthful eating habits and lose weight.

Registration to join the competition is open through Sunday. The challenge starts Monday and runs through April 15.

Dean Madsen, health and wellness director at the Y, is seeing a good response.

"There's quite a bit of interest," he said. "The ball is just getting rolling but we definitely want to have a few teams."

Styled after the popular "Biggest Loser" television reality show, the Minnesota challenge is sponsored by the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota. For 12 weeks, teams of participants across the state will compete to earn points for meeting goals in exercise, nutrition and weight loss.

Activities will be reported and tracked online. Team scores are averaged across the number of members so that one-member teams can compete fairly with larger teams. Participants may enter in one of 14 divisions that range from families and community groups to businesses, colleges and sports teams. Winning divisions and teams will be recognized publicly at the conclusion of the challenge.

There's an added incentive for team members to successfully shed pounds: For every pound of weight the participants lose, a pound of food will be donated to their local food shelf.

Although it's titled "The Biggest Loser," the emphasis is on lifestyle, not just the numbers on the scale, Madsen said.

Daily nutrition goals, for instance, include drinking more water and adding fruits and vegetables to the dinner plate.

"It's open to everybody and anybody and not just people who want to lose weight," Madsen said. "It's trying to get people to change their lifestyle and making some real changes. The benefits will be self-evident."

Friendly competition can be motivating for many people, he said. The accountability of reporting results and being part of a team also can help prod participants toward meeting their goals, he said. "That definitely makes a huge difference in getting people to stick to it."

In a pilot version last summer of the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge, 10,000 participants collectively lost more than 35,000 pounds and exercised more than 16 million minutes.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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