COLUMBIA — Danielle Wiedmier said she sleeps better, looks better and has more energy than she did three months ago.
The 34-year-old mother of two daughters and two sons lost 39 pounds in 12 weeks as a member of the first Columbia Slimdown Challenge.
“Exercise and diet is not fun,” Wiedmier said. “But whenever I wanted to give up, I kept reminding myself of the importance of losing weight.”
She and 3,500 other Columbia residents joined the weight-loss challenge, which began on April 1. After a period of intense dieting and training, 2,032 people officially weighed out on Aug. 1.
Together, they dropped a total of 22,309 pounds.
The challenge's participants lost an average of 10.8 pounds each. The most weight lost by one individual was 74 pounds.
"Losing weight is hard for most individuals," said Shelley Naydyhor, who helped organize the challenge. "To come together as a community and do so is pretty amazing."
The Tiger Institute for Health Innovation, a subsidiary of MU, created the challenge with the help of Cerner Corp., its strategic partner.
Teams of four to six entered the competition to see who could lose the largest percentage of body weight within the three-month window.
Cerner Corp. initiated a similar challenge in Kansas City in 2010, which helped area residents drop a combined 25,604 pounds.
In the Columbia challenge, Wiedmier won third place, and her team, the Mighty Mommas, placed 42nd among the 656 teams that entered.
Competitors weighed in weekly at one of seven kiosks around the city set up at HyVee stores, University Hospital, the Activity and Recreation Center and Wilson’s Fitness Center.
Observers were present to ensure authenticity and fairness when the competitors reported their numbers. Results were then uploaded to a competition website, which calculated the percentage of weight lost and ranked teams and individuals.
Participants could also attend free fitness classes and receive dietitian services and personal training. A nutrition blog provided health tips and helped set up personal accounts to track progress.
Prizes went to weekly winners to keep them motivated — for example, a year of free Subway sandwiches, MU football tickets, consultations with a dietitian and nutrition sessions.
The winning team was Slimma Down-Wilson’s Forum, whose members lost an average of 15.75 percent of their body weights. The team of six included Chris Wiedmier, Danielle Wiedmier's husband.
"Lifestyle change is what we were after, and we did that," said Chris Wiedmeier, 41, an assistant finance director at Joe Machens Ford Lincoln Mercy.
Danielle Wiedmeier said team pressure and family support pushed her toward her goal, and simple changes in diet and fitness helped her reach it.
“Team pressure definitely plays a role in the process,” she said. “You get motivated because you want to be accountable. ”
Danielle Wiedmier said she learned about the contest when a friend was building a team for it. She agreed to join to drop some weight and help her two daughters, 9 and 2, establish healthy body images.
"I want them to see me making good eating choices and living a healthy lifestyle," Danielle Wiedmier said. "As they grow up, I want them to see healthy women and role model after them."
Chris Wiedmier lost 64 pounds. Although he did not belong to his wife's team, they supported each other at home.
The Wiedmiers cut out fast food and put more vegetables on their plates. They say the change benefited their four children as well.
Kathy Moser, who lost 37.9 pounds, also emphasized the importance of healthy eating habits. She said she gave up candy and ate more vegetables every day.
“I don’t exercise a lot because I just don’t like exercising,” said Moser, who works in accounting for MBS Textbook Exchange Inc.. “Personally, I think eating healthier food helps a lot.”
Building a healthier image for her 10-year-old daughter and 21-year-old son was another motivation, but Moser said it was not the only reason she accepted the challenge.
“I mainly wanted to do it for myself," she said. "I want to live healthier, and I want to be around longer."
Thirty-one percent of adults in Missouri — and 28 percent in Boone County — are obese, according to County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, a project conducted by the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute.
“The number is not great,” said Naydyhor, a sales executive with the Tiger Institute for Health Innovation. “There is a clear need to help the members of Boone County lose weight.”
The organization is sponsoring a walking competition in Columbia that begins Sept. 17 and ends Dec. 17. Participants will wear pedometers to measure their steps.
“We encourage a lifestyle change, not simply losing weight” Naydyhor said. “Our goal is to attract 5,000 people.”
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.