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Weight loss becoming a lifestyle

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER-Managing editor
A group of seven 30-something women gather every Monday night to play bridge, gab about children and life, munch on fabulous dishes and oh yeah, talk about their weekly weigh-ins and the total inches and weight they have all lost so far.
They call themselves the Brewton Bridge Bunch – or BBB as you will later get to know them – where competition and weight loss is the name of the game.
Members of the BBB, Wendy Bass, Emmy Jernigan, Bentley Martin, Paula Gerety, Margaret Ann Smith, Heidi Knapp and Jaime Manning, headed off on a bridge beach excursion one weekend, three months ago. While none of the women can actually come to a consensus on how the idea of the competition began, they all appeared to agree on one thing - they had eaten so much food over the weekend and were dissatisfied with the way that they looked they were going to do something about it. With summer coming up, it appeared to be the ideal time for a new competition to begin, and the perfect time to start losing weight.
With competition on the brain, the ladies arrived in Brewton on a Sunday and the race to see who could lose the weight immediately began with a weigh-in on the following Monday.
Janet Peterman, a personal trainer at the Brewton YMCA, was the moderator for the group. Over the course of three months she would weigh the women, take their measurements, chart their successes and provide helpful tips along the way.
The women didn't take weight loss pills, they didn't starve themselves, no low-carb diets were involved and no diuretics were taken. Surprisingly, in this world of dieting, the women stuck with a sensible approach.
Moderate exercise, lots of water, writing in food journals, eating in moderation and buddying up appeared to be the key to the BBB's success. It seemed that peer pressure actually worked as an advantage. During the weekly bridge meetings, the women gave up their fat-filled dishes and brought in sensible meals and snacks to munch on. They measured their success by the way their clothes fit and occasionally on the scales.
Jernigan believes that so many people put their one and only focus on the scales which is just "asking for disappointment."
Peterman never discussed food with the women because she wanted "them to do their own thing." She was there to encourage the women to eat foods they were missing in their diet - like fruits and vegetables – and advised them to thumb through their food journals for reinforcement.
The last weigh-in was on Monday, June 27, and collectively, the seven women lost a total of 79.5 pounds, 196 inches and 45 percent body fat - or a small-person-and-a-half some of the women jokingly said.
But don't let the women fool you. The road to their weight-loss success wasn't all hunky-dory. There were times of plateau, temptation, exhaustion, and in one case surgery. However, all of the women found out something about their eating lifestyles.
Jernigan found out that she couldn't keep Pringles in the house. Smith knew that cookie dough would never make it to her fridge. The kids were no longer an excuse to bring in the junk food and some learned to order off the menu while dining out.
Martin truly believes that she has a food addiction. It may seem odd to those who don't understand, but she makes a solid point.
One of the helpful tips Peterman suggested to the women was that they follow the perimeters of the grocery store. If you think about it, the basic food groups are placed on the perimeters while all the "bad" food is located on shelves in the middle aisles, she said.
The women had plenty of chances to use an excuse. All of the women lead busy lives with plenty of children to take care of and husbands to tend to. There have been days of rain, hindering walks outside or no complete time to go to the gym. But they somehow managed to get it done.
Manning, who had knee surgery in June, managed to keep up her exercise routine rather than dump it over some pain. Instead of working the lower half of her body, she concentrated on her upper body strength training.
Some opted to walk up and down the steps inside their homes, while others urged each other to walk together.
Three weeks ago, a few of the girls asked Gerety to go for a walk and she said no. That's where her faltering began.
Instead, she drove up to a restaurant for a bite to eat for dinner and to her surprise found the restaurant closed. So, she went home and made a large pot of spaghetti and baked some bread, one of her biggest weaknesses, she said.
But when she cut into the freshly baked bread it was moldy inside. Two signs in a row and Gerety knew it was time for a walk.
In fact, after her falter, she lost 11 pounds in the last three weeks – an amazing feat for a woman who had been denied gastric bypass surgery. Bypassing surgery and succumbing to pure determination and using "tiny" Knapp as her motivational key, she managed to lose 17 pounds, 31.5 inches and 6.5 percent body fat, and she is ready to move into phase two of the diet.
The women were split into two groups. The winner of one group was Smith, who lost 12.5 pounds, 32 inches and 8.5 percent body fat. Her success earned her $150 from a pot of money all the women in the group contributed to. Winner of the other group was Bass, who lost 19 pounds, 28.5 inches and eight percent body fat. Her hard work earned her $100. She's moving into phase two with the rest of the bunch, but she said she's still got a weight loss goal in mind.
For some, phase two will require maintenance, for others they are still losing the weight.
But the fact of the matter is, the women set a goal for three months and stuck to it and now they're upping the ante.
For each weigh-in they miss, they have to put $5 into the pot. They call it "weigh in or pay in." The first weigh-in will begin July 11-12 and the BBB is inviting everyone in Brewton interested to join them in their weight-loss journey.
Manning's advice is to "suck it up and get on the scales." No one is there to judge. The only person who sees the number on the scales is Peterman. The BBB has also given Peterman the idea to form a new program at the YMCA. She is hoping to get the program running in the near future.
The women have also been putting pen to the paper not once, but 12 times, and wrote to the Oprah show. The group wanted to show Oprah what a strong friendship the group had – which can be hard with so many varying and competitive personalities - and how it helped them overcome food weaknesses and was a constant tool in maintaining the goals the group had set on that weekend trip three months ago.
In the meantime, the BBB all agree that had it not been for their competitive spirit, the buddy system and learning to eat in moderation, the numbers wouldn't have been as high as what they achieved.
Everybody's success story is different but they all had the weight loss in common.