Nevermind the Feathers- Penguins Shed Pounds: Clark Students, Faculty Compete in “Biggest Loser” Challenge

The fifth annual Biggest Loser Challenge kicked off in the O’Connell Sports Center on Jan. 16.

Over 50 students, faculty, staff and alumni were assigned personal trainers and divided into five teams. Each team will meet with its personal trainer twice a week until the week of March 13.

Clark’s reigning Biggest Loser Jeane Roniger is competing for the title again this year. Roniger works out 6 days a week and bikes to work. ( Steven Mitchell / The Independent)

Jean Roniger, a Clark maintenance mechanic, was last year’s Biggest Loser. He lost 17.8 pounds and gained 15 pounds of muscle.“I knew the challenge wasn’t going to be a cakewalk, but I wanted to get as much as I could out of it,“ Roniger said.

As a diabetic with sleep apnea, congestive heart failure and nerve damage in both legs, Roniger had his work cut out for him, but the personal trainers were encouraging and kept him coming back.

“I couldn’t believe I won. I didn’t do anything different from what my teammates did,” Roniger said.

Roniger’s goal is to be healthy enough to live out his ideal retirement. “I would love to have an activity in retirement that does not require going to the gym,” he said. “I plan on having a normal, agrarian, active life.”

Anna Axlund is a personal trainer and one of the team captains for this year’s contest. “Clark’s Biggest Loser differs from not only measuring how much weight each competitor loses, but also the amount of muscle gained,” she said.

Fitness Center co-manager and event organizer Steve DaMassa said participants take pre-body composition tests during the first week and complete a post-body composition test at the end of the contest.

“It’s not just about losing weight,” DaMassa explained. “We encourage anyone who wants to add healthy eating and exercise to their lives to participate.”

Erin Staples, a health professor at Clark, said body mass index is the most commonly used measure of obesity. BMI is determined based on the ratio of someone’s height and weight. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy, a score between 25 and 29.9 is classified as overweight and anything above that is considered obese.

Staples said people should take BMI calculations with a grain of salt, since it doesn’t take bone density or muscle weight into account. “There are athletes who are in great shape who would be considered obese on the BMI scale,” she said. Obesity can cause diabetes, heart disease and sleep apnea and can lead to shorter life expectancy, DaMassa said.

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