What started as a friendly competition among staff at the Mechanicville Public Library has turned into a community program that is bigger than anyone at the library expected.
About 150 people registered for the “Mechanicville Losers” weight loss program on Wednesday as the library kicked off the start of the three-month competition.
“It’s been overwhelming, the reaction,” said Theresa Moore, who works at the library and helped organize the event. “The participation has exceeded all of our expectations and we’re just hoping it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Organizers announced the program in December and expected about 50 people to enroll at that time. The competition is loosely based on the NBC reality television show “The Biggest Loser.”
In “Mechanicville Losers,” teams of five will weigh in each week at either Downtown Health and Fitness Center or Curves in Mechanicville.
The library will publish the participants’ total percentage of weight loss after each week, and the team that loses the most percentage of weight at the end of the three months will win.
The winning team and the winning male and female players will receive prizes, including a free six-month gym membership to Downtown Health and Fitness and a gift basket from Price Chopper.
Unlike on the television show, nobody will be voted off of the Mechanicville Losers program during the three months, and there’s no $250,000 prize for being the Biggest Loser.
“Obesity is rampant throughout our country now,” Moore said. “If our little neighborhood can do something I just think it will be a great thing.”
The city police department has a team that includes Patrolman Steve Barton, who said he wanted to walk more and cut out snacks between meals.
Volunteers from Seton Health System were at the library Wednesday giving free blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure checks. The volunteers will return at the end of the competition to test participants again.
One of the participants in line to be screened by a Seton Health volunteer was Kimberly ElHassan of Mechanicville. She said her goal was to lose two pounds per week.
“We’re definitely going to walk more. We’re going to try to get some recipes together,” she said. “I think it’s a great idea to get people motivated.”
Michelle Duell is another library employee who helped organize the competition and she said her goal is to lose 25 pounds.
Vincenza Cavallo, a registered dietitian with Seton Health, handed out packets at the library with tips on exercise, shopping and healthful eating.
“You want to make sure that when you go shopping that you make a list,” Cavallo said. “When you’re eating out, don’t think about you being on a diet, think about a lifestyle change.”
Downtown Health and Fitness is offering discounted memberships to the participants, although membership is not required to compete and anyone in the program can weigh in at the gym.
Local restaurants are also offering promotions to the participants, including a salad special at Faldoni’s Deli every Friday and a daily special at Sub King.
“You’ve got a whole lot of people to work with,” ElHassan said. “Hopefully Mechanicville will be looking better.”
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