Last February, Marietta resident Deb Shockey was looking forward to a spring family vacation to Disney World.
There was only one problem.
“I’ve had two knee replacements and I decided I’m not going around in one of those scooters like some old lady,” said Shockey, 51.
Shockey has struggled with being overweight her entire life and the Disney World trip, as well as other factors, helped her take the step to join the Marietta Family YMCA.
Now, nearly a year later, Shockey has enjoyed Disney World with no scooter, dropped three dress sizes, and is currently keeping motivated by participating in the YMCA’s “Biggest Winner” program.
The Y has offered the program since 2005 and it typically starts soon after the new year, said Dave Vogel, the program’s facilitator and a personal trainer at the YMCA.
The eight-week program, which started two weeks ago, is loosely modeled on the popular television show “The Biggest Loser,” he said.
Just like in the show, participants have their weight and measurements taken weekly. At the end of the session, the “Biggest Winner” will be decided based on a combination of most inches lost and highest percentage of weight lost, said Vogel.
However, unlike the tough love mentality of trainers on the television show, Vogel tries to keep a positive atmosphere.
The participants are split into two teams of five that meet once a week and discuss readings from the book “A Year of Being Well,” which follows several families and their struggles and triumphs while trying to make lifestyle changes, said Vogel.
The groups are also a motivational support system, he said.
That is one of the biggest benefits for Marietta resident Margaret Northrup, 65.
“I like groups. I do well with groups. That is why I joined,” she said.
Northrup has tried exercise regimens in the past, but fallen off the wagon. This year’s “Biggest Winner” program is designed to address not just exercise, but nutrition and overall health choices that Northrup believes will help her make her lifestyle change permanent.
“Most of us are in our 50s and 60s. One gentleman is in his late 30s. We really want to get this right,” said Vogel, 60.
One of the hardest changes for Northrup has been cutting back on one of her favorite activities -baking.
“My husband told me, ‘If you want to bake a pie, just find somebody to give it away to first,'” she laughed.
Recently retired Marietta High School psychologist Karen Binkley, 63, of Marietta, is a veteran of the “Biggest Winner” program.
“I’m not sure if this is my fourth or my third year. They kind of blur together because I really love doing them so much,” she said.
Binkley said she has always loved exercising, but the program helps expand her focus to other habits she needs to focus on, such as sleeping more, drinking more water and eating less.
Still, even Binkley has days where she would love to just sit on the couch and “veg,” she said.
“But I force myself to get up and do something, and I can’t believe how much more energy I have and how much happier I am,” she said.
In fact, joked Binkley, she would like to take that elated feeling and spin it into a therapy session.
“I always said I wanted to be a personal therapist, and I’d just get two treadmills facing each other and we’d walk and talk. Then even if I’m a terrible therapist, they will feel better because they would have walked for an hour,” she explained.
Though the “Biggest Winner” is entering its third week, there is still time for people to join and participate until the program ends March 1, said Vogel.
The cost is $50 for YMCA members and $75 for non-members, he said. That includes the classes and a 30 percent discount on personal training sessions throughout the duration of the program.
That is a big positive for Shockey, who likes the added “oomph” of having a personal trainer once or twice a month.
“Keeping motivated and the discount on personal training is what really made me want to do the program,” added Shockey.
As far as the “Biggest Winner” is concerned, he or she will receive with $100 in Marietta Bucks, which can be spent like cash at many Marietta businesses, said Vogel.
However, he added, his goal is that all participants walk away feeling like the biggest winner.
The “Biggest Winner” has been so successful that YMCA Executive Director Suzy Zumwalde hopes to start another session in the middle of the year.
“This is something people need to be thinking about year round, not just at the beginning of the year,” she said.
To learn more about “Biggest Winner” contact the Y at 373-2250.