Former athlete shares weight loss success

SOUTH BEND Thanks to the success of a popular NBC weight loss show, one Michiana gym decided to try a local version of the program. The Kroc Center, in South Bend, is now 12 weeks into its Biggest Loser competition.

Collectively, the 130 participants have lost over 600 pounds. Men and women attend weigh-ins and health seminars every other week, with the option to hire trainers at a discount. Their memberships were also bumped to "gold" status, to alleviate the cost of group classes.

"We tried to address the whole package, rather than just eating right and exercising," said Sandy Sampson, the trainer who developed the Biggest Loser curriculum at the Kroc. "You've got to get rid of some of the old habits and breathe this new lifestyle, this new way of living."

The group has seen success, and 16 Morning News wanted to highlight that by sharing several members' stories. The first inspirational accomplishment comes from Denise Gilbert.

The 56-year-old from Bremen has lost over 100 pounds in the course of 8 months. She shed 30 of those pounds at the Kroc.

"I actually started in a physician-supervised weight loss program because I was contemplating beriatric surgery at the time," said Gilbert who decided against the surgery.

"I was grieving the loss of a support system. I needed a place to go to work out, I needed a support system to work out. I work good with challenges."

Gilbert toured the Kroc facilities shortly before the competition kicked off. Staff introduced her to the challenge and she jumped on board.

During her 12 weeks in the competition, Gilbert developed a 6-day workout regiment. She spends three days on cardio, two days on weight training and one day in the pool. She's also continued healthy eating habits and a food log, which she learned during her time with a physician supervised group.

"For me," said Gilbert, "the number one thing that will trigger me to want to eat poorly or binge is my anger. So, I need to learn how to control those times when I'm stressed, those times when I'm angry. I need to deal with those in different ways. Exercise has replaced the food in terms of dealing with some of those emotions."

Gilbert is a former college athlete, she played high school sports and continued with volleyball at Purdue.

"I had an injury. That injury made me inactive and then I started putting on the weight," said Gilbert.

It took some time, but Gilbert used her former passion for athletics to re-ignite her interest in fitness.

"I think I've learned a lot," said Gilbert. "For me, one was recovering the old self. There's an inner athlete inside of me still, and I thought it was gone. So one of the lessons I've learned is that inner athlete is still very much there. That has become my tool."

The Biggest Loser Kroc Edition comes to a close in early February, but Gilbert plans to continue her weight loss journey. She hopes to lose at least another 50 pounds and modify her workouts with the seasons.

Gilbert credits her support system and faith for the ability to accomplish her goal. She hopes others can learn from her success.

"Weight loss is more like a lifestyle metamorphasis," said Gilbert. "The goal is not to become a skinny caterpillar, the goal is to become a beautiful butterfly."

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