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Lose some weight, win some cash

JA Counter, in partnership with the New Richmond Vitality Initiative and HealthPartners, is again sponsoring a weight loss challenge for the community.

The "Lose Weight in 8" challenge will begin Saturday, Jan. 20, and finish Saturday, March 16. Sign-up deadline is Jan. 12, with no late registrations allowed.

Last year, more than 300 people participated in the challenge.

"Last year's program was a huge success," said Julie Bauermeister, marketing and event coordinator for JA Counter. "We had hoped for 20 teams and ended up with over 80."

In all, 365 individuals on 81 teams took part in the "Lose Weight in 8" challenge in 2012. A total of 1,973 pounds were shed by the participants during the effort.

"That is equal to the weight of one Volkswagen Beetle, four grizzly bears or 13 150-pounds people," Bauermeister said. "Wow."

Last year's winning team, "Fat Campers," lost 44 pounds or 21.24 percent of their overall weight. The team took home a $1,000 prize for their efforts.

Because last year's challenge went so well, Bauermeister said it made sense to promote it again in 2013.

"JA Counter really believes in wellness and preventative health," she said. "To have such great participation in our weight loss challenge gives us a lot of encouragement that folks want to take an active role toward better health. That's what this program is all about."

Bauermeister said the start of a new year is usually the best time for such a challenge, as potential participants think about changing their eating and fitness habits.

"A challenge is just what a lot of folks need to get energized and motivated," she said.

According to Bauermeister, a few changes and additions to the program have been implemented for 2013 which will make the challenge even better.

First, additional prize incentives have been added. The challenge will again offer a $1,000 prize to the team that loses the highest percent of weight, and the individual who loses the highest percent of weight will win a $250 award. In addition, if a participant simply achieves the challenge goal weight loss of eight pounds in eight weeks, their name will be put into a prize drawing for a $250 award.

Second, in an effort to make the weigh-in and weigh-out process as fair and streamlined as possible, five weigh-in/out sites have agreed to help with the challenge - all of them being either a hospital, clinic or fitness center. Participants must choose one of these sites upon registration and use this location for both their initial weigh-in and final weigh-out. This should help participants feel confident that a health care professional is logging legitimate weights and that the challenge is truly official.

Third, a "Maintenance Program" component has been added to the challenge. To be eligible to participate, a person must first achieve the challenge goal weight loss of eight pounds in eight weeks. Then, six months from the end of the challenge (in mid-September), if the participant has maintained that eight pound weight loss (or lost more weight), their name will be put into an additional prize drawing for a chance at another $250 award.

"JA Counter hopes this will incent folks to keep up with their fitness program and goals," Bauermeister said.

According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, maintaining a healthy weight will reduce one's chances for developing serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems and certain cancers.

Participants in the "Lose Weight in 8" challenge must form four-person teams to compete. The goal is for each team member to lose one pound a week. There is a $15 participation fee charged for each team member.

When the challenge begins, participants will have access to a helpful HealthPartner's website and tracking system that will guide them through the eight weeks.

For more information or to register, visit http://library.constantcon