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From left, Ryan Turner, Ginger Turner, Alyssa Jordan and Steven Jordan show off their new and improved physiques after completing the Scale Back Alabama weight loss program.
AP photo by Ryan Turner
From left, Ryan Turner, Ginger Turner, Alyssa Jordan and Steven Jordan show off their new and improved physiques after completing the Scale Back Alabama weight loss program.

78,472 pounds lost
in Scale Back

By Desiree Hunter
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Ryan Turner knew he wanted to participate in the Scale Back Alabama weight loss contest when his 5-foot-10 frame reached 185 pounds.

What he didn't know was all the positive effects he would gain from losing 35 pounds.

"We worked pretty hard for two months. We feel so much better now," said Turner, who let out a "whoop" and pumped his fist in the air when his Birmingham team was announced
as the contest winner on Monday.

"We used devotionals and spirituality to do this and it really helped. A key to success is discipline and when you're disciplined in one area, we got better about managing our money, our marital relationship ... a lot of areas," he said.

Officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama Hospital Association said Alabamians lost 78,472 pounds during the inaugural eight-week project, which ran from Jan. 22 through March 19 when teams with three to five members weighed in and out at designated centers across the state.

Alabama ranked No. 2 in the nation for obesity in a study last year by Trust for America's Health and the goal was for the estimated 1 million obese Alabamians to each lose 10 pounds for a staggering statewide loss of 10 million pounds.

Miriam Gaines, nutrition and physical activity director for the state health department, said about 5,000 teams signed up and 2,100 completed the challenge.

While the goal wasn't met, officials are "extremely pleased" that so many groups finished the program, she said.

"As far as the goal, it was a very lofty goal, but wouldn't it be great next year if we had even more people participate and lose more weight?" Gaines said.

"What if in the future instead of people saying 'I'm on Weight Watchers,' they would say 'I'm on Scale Back?' Would that not be wonderful?"

Turner, a fourth year medical student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, was on the winning team — Alabama Clam Chowder — with his wife Ginger and their friends Steven and Alyssa Jordan.

Alabama Clam Chowder lost 110 pounds, which was 16.1 percent of their total weight.

They each received $1,000 from corporate sponsor Barber's Dairies, which provided the prize money for the team that lost the largest percentage of weight.

"We're closing on a house right now, so the money will go toward that and there are lots of student loans," said Turner, who went from 185 pounds to 150, by reducing his daily intake to 1,000 calories and staying away from sweets.

The team often exercised before meeting for Bible study each week, he said.

Birmingham native and 2003 American Idol Ruben Studdard was the celebrity spokesman and coach for the project.

He weighed about 400 pounds when he won the singing competition, but began his own weight loss journey last summer, becoming a vegetarian and starting an exercise routine.

Studdard's friend and Just
A Few Cats bandmate Alvin Garrett helped coordinate Scale Back. He said Studdard couldn't attend Monday's festivities
because he is in Nigeria, but said he was "proud of Alabama."

"He jumped at the opportunity and was so excited about it," Garrett said of Studdard, who has dropped about 100 pounds. "These people are an inspiration to him."

Members of the top 100 teams were invited to Montgomery for the celebration, which featured a fitness demonstration from World Gym instructors and a picture slide show of Scale Back participants. Afterward they released hundreds of helium-filled balloons marked with the amount of their weight loss.

Lowndes County school nurse Carol Davis said the school district had 35 groups and nearly 140 teachers and staff in the program to set a good example for their students.

"We have so many children who are overweight," she said. "As a school nurse myself I see a lot of those problems coming through already with kids with diabetes and asthma. We've got to get healthy eating habits going to stop this."

Turner, like many who participated in the program, said his group will continue working out and losing weight even though this year's Scale Back has ended.

But they'll have to come up with a new name, he said.

"We were called Alabama Clam Chowder because when we started we were white and chunky," he said. "It has to be some other white soup now. Maybe mushroom."


On the Net:

Scale Back Alabama:

Athens team among top 100

  • One team from Athens Middle School, the Dy-Ettes, was among the top 100 teams in the Scale Back Alabama contest.

  • Eight Decatur teams weighing in at Parkway Medical Center completed Scale Back Alabama, but none finished in the top 100.

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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