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Biggest Loser winner gains good health, confidence

SEBRING - When Eric Marshall had a birthday party for his daughter recently, family and friends were asking about him even though he was standing in front of them. Talk about what a weight loss makeover can do. The 29-year-old, who was the winner of the Highlands County Family YMCA’s third Biggest Loser Challenge, did not just end up losing 46.7 pounds in 13 weeks or 20 percent of his body weight. Marshall has Type I diabetes and is now taking a third of the insulin he used to. He’s also feeling energetic and doing things he thought he could not do before – such as running a 5K and working out at 5 a.m. every day.
The 13-week program that combines healthy eating, twice-a-week classes, and physical challenge activities twice a month is conducted by Laura Van Fleet, who is a Y trainer and a Biggest Loser Pro. The weight-loss program is based on the popular NBC show, “The Biggest Loser,” and Van Fleet not only shows participants how to eat and move right, she keeps daily tabs on their progress and conducts a web meeting every Sunday. Marshall, who had been aware that he had been consistently gaining weight the last 12 years, made up his mind to do something about it, not just for himself but for his daughter. “I was not healthy at all,” he said. “I had zero exercise in my life before.” It didn’t help that he was working two 64-hour-a-week jobs. Now he feels “amazing,” he said. The program works best for people who are truly committed to a lifestyle change, Van Fleet said. It involves getting out of your comfort zone and doing something difficult. The first day, after their weigh-in, for instance, they had their first physical challenge an hour later: A 5k run/walk. Marshall did that first race in 37 minutes. The last race he ran he clocked 24 minutes, and is understandably pleased at the progress he has made. As the winner, Marshall received a $250 check, a one-year family membership to the YMCA, a gift basket and personal training sessions with Van Fleet, among other things. He’s also got the gift of feeling and looking younger and has lost several “metabolic years.” When he first started out, his metabolic age was 44 years. Now, it’s 19, a good 10 years less than his physical age. “I’m not tired at all,” he added.