Losing and Learning: Biggest Loser Course Debuts at UWG
The students arrived long before Bridgette Stewart walked into the Fitness Lab. They stayed late too. They warmed up on the treadmills, the elliptical machines and did calf raises before she said a word.
They are eager to learn and to change their lives.
Stewart’s three-credit course, “Rebuild and Relive, Biggest Loser,” started this spring with 12 students.
“These kids motivate me, especially when they are beating me here,” Stewart said recently as a wall clock ticked to the 10 a.m. class start time.
Biceps. Triceps. Deltoids. One student counted the reps. Minutes later they worked on their abdominals. Pushups came next.
Stewart sounded out advice and encouragement. Her voice carried just above the music pouring into the room from a boom box.
“A lot of these kids are still learning how to do appropriate activities and form,” Stewart said. “The appropriate form, that’s so important as far as decreasing injury and making sure you contract each muscle group,” she said.
Stewart designed the course to help students who are struggling with morbid obesity and who need to lose roughly 100 pounds or more. Stewart bought each student a pedometer with her own money. Her departmental colleagues pitched in to perform fitness assessments and body scans.
Katie Millican, a junior majoring in speech pathology, took step aerobics, softball and yoga at UWG before signing up for Stewart’s class.
“I’ve lost weight and gained just as much, if not more, back,” said Millican, 22.
Millican is struggling with her blood pressure, which is being closely monitored by her doctor.
Both of Millican’s parents are overweight, have high blood pressure and have had cancer. When she saw the announcement for Stewart’s class she knew “that’s what I need, somebody to give me the tools so I can carry them with me the rest of my life.”
Morbid obesity is used to describe someone who is twice the size of the recommended body weight. For example a person who should weigh 150 pounds, weighs 300 pounds instead.
Stewart’s class is not just about physical activity. It’s about giving the students the tools they need to stay on the path after it’s over. They learn about calories-in, calories-out. They learn the importance of eating breakfast and spreading out calories during the course of the day to keep their metabolisms going. They keep track of what they eat in online journals that Stewart can access.
They also keep private journals to help them see what’s going on in their lives and examine the relationship between life and food.
At the end of the semester the students will devise individual exercise prescription plans and do a 5K.
“Their lifestyle change is not over when the class is over,” said Stewart, a lecturer and the activity coordinator in the College of Education’s Leadership and Applied Instruction Department.
“They need to know how to plan activity for themselves after the class is over,” she said.
The knowledge is crucial. Developing a new rhythm can be life saving. According to the National Cancer Institute obesity and physical inactivity may account for 25 to 30 percent of several major cancers. There are other ills, like diabetes and high blood pressure.
“Later on I may have these same issues. I want to do everything I can to avoid that,” Millican said.
Stewart’s students know the litany of health issues and the dangers. They know how life gets in the way of a healthy lifestyle.
For the last few years student Rose Payne has had to deal with family tragedies: the deaths of her mother and two sisters. Payne’s mother and one of her sisters also struggled with weight before their deaths. They were diabetics, had high blood pressure and kidney issues.
For Payne, the blows compounded her struggle with weight. Payne is diabetic, has high blood pressure and several digestive disorders. She hopes the class sets her on the path to better health.
“That would be the number one goal,” said Payne, who is majoring in English. “Health.”
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