‘Biggest Winner’ challenge set to begin on Jan. 7
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By Mira Brody  December 27, 2012 11:06 am

Over the past nine months, Koli Palu and Ashley Johnston have helped Sonoma County loose one ton of weight all through their “Biggest Winner,” or 90-Day Challenges hosted by University of Sports in Rohnert Park. By focusing on the mental support required in order to make such lifestyle changes, they have completely reshaped the lives of more than 80 participants and are eager to raise that number drastically in this year’s challenge.
“They all are an inspiration to Koli and myself,” Johnston says of the successors. “I know others will be inspired from their stories as well.”
Beginning on Jan. 7, participants are exposed to weekly weigh-ins, daily morning workouts, nutrition education and a gym membership all in a supportive group setting. Palu and Johnston have consistently provided contestants with an atmosphere of support, motivation and care during the 90 days.
“They have success because they’ve been heavy their whole lives,” says Ren Norman of his leaders. “They know what we’re capable of, which is always better then what we think we are capable of.”
Norman, like many others, had tried numerous fad diets, signed up for last summer’s challenge and ended up losing 77 pounds in 12 weeks, inspiring his wife as well as many of his co-workers to join. He notes the weekly accountability along with the intense group workouts as the successful aspect of the regimen.
“It’s not really changing your lifestyle, but your life,” he adds. “Everything about the person I am today is different then who I was last August.”
Graduates from the television show “The Biggest Loser,” Palu and Johnston understand the struggle involved in losing large amounts of weight, something challengers notice right away from their leaders.
“A lot of people are pretty embarrassed about being in bad shape,” says Brian Sweet, who has lost 170 pounds, now works at University of Sports and is joining the Fire Academy. “But being in same boat as us, to support us, made it a lot easier.”
Aside from exercising regularly, a major routine change many utilize most from the course is the nutritional education. For Sweet, reading food labels is now second nature, contrary to before, and although he still enjoys eating, Norman has simply replaced junk food with fruits, vegetables and other healthier options.
Lisa Adams, who has been a participant since the first round last winter, has just about reached her goal weight and focuses on integrating cardio and food portioning into her life in order to maintain the mantra of “hard work and dedication.”
“Don’t deprive yourself,” she instructs. “I feel that sets you up for failure. If you want dessert, have a bite. Or share with someone. It’s not a diet. It’s a change of life. It is something you have to work at because old habits come back fast. It has to be a commitment.”
The Biggest Winner Challenge takes place from Jan. 7 to March 30 and runs about $599, including a gym membership for its duration, a nutrition plan and weekly fitness tests. For workout schedule and registration information, go to: http://uofs.com/drop-it-4-life.

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