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Staff at Hildebran Elementary School workout during a Zumba class to work towards being the “Biggest Loser” in the school system.

A total of 166 employees have signed up for Burke County Public Schools rendition of the Biggest Loser Challenge, a weight-loss program.

The Burke County Biggest Loser Challenge is a 15-week program that includes a nutrition and exercise plan, a private Facebook group to post updates and receive encouragement , among many other things. The challenge started on Jan. 14 and has been organized by the BCPS district wellness team including school nurses Heather Richard, Cindy Rose, Janet French and Robin Smith.

The idea came about after several schools were looking into doing their own challenge. The committee decided to make it a district-wide challenge, said information from Cheryl Shuffler, public information officer for BCPS.

"I encourage everyone to have a plan and find something that works for them and make it a lifestyle change and not just a diet," Richard said.

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The Zumba class is instructed by Crystal Causby, a teacher in Burke County Public Schools.

Those that decided to join had to pay a $10 entry fee. There will be a male and female winner based on the most weight percentage lost and the two that lose the most will split the amount of money raised, the information said.

Richard, her husband and three children have been following a plan themselves for the past year and, together, the couple lost 43 pounds.

In the welcome packet that participants received , it explained how the weight-loss journey would not be an easy one.

“You have to be committed to making this change and it’s something you are going to have to work on daily,” the packet stated. “You can’t expect to wake up overnight and have rock solid willpower. Sticking to commitments comes from doing what you say you are going to do over and over again. The more times you follow through on what you say you are going to do, the more self-trust you build and the more discipline you acquire.”

Richards focused their personal program on lean protein, fruits and vegetables and low carbs. For exercise they focus on weights with some cardio, she said.

Richard said a good goal to shoot for with weight los s is 10 percent of your body weight.

“After this 15-week challenge, if you stick with your plan, it will be easier to make healthy lifestyle choices after the 15 weeks are over,” she said.

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Two employees of Burke County Public Schools dance in the Zumba class at Hildebran Elementary School.

She encouraged those taking the challenge not to give up if they don't see results on the scales right away. She suggests employees measure themselves and focus more on shrinking those measurements than the number on the scales, the information said.

Setting realistic goals, making yourself a priority, cleaning up your diet, understanding how protein works and working through time s of plateau are just a few of the things participants learn in the program.

A total of 166 Burke County Public School employees signed up for the challenge, including Superintendent Dr. Larry Putnam.

"This challenge is a great way for all of our employees who made a resolution to lose weight to actually keep the resolution and lose,” Putnam said. “And what a great example to set for our students as they see us modeling healthy eating and fitness habits."

Staff Writer Jonelle Bobak can be reached at jbobak@morganton.com or 828-432-8907.

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