CHARLESTON, W.Va. - After spending almost six months eating healthy and exercising, JB Ward sank his teeth into a bite of fluffy, golden-brown waffle.
"Good God," Ward exclaimed. "This waffle is great!"
It was the first bread he had eaten since his men's Bible study group from River Ridge Church in Charleston started a Biggest Loser competition in January.
Ward savored every bite; he earned it. After starting at 230 pounds, he has lost 25 percent of his total body weight, slimming down to a lean 172.5 pounds.
He and the other men in the challenge sat around the breakfast table at First Watch on Summers Street in downtown Charleston for their final weigh-in before the winner was crowned.
Although participant and official group statistician Monty Barnett was still crunching the numbers across the table, Ward was the clear front-runner for the coveted "BLAAH" (Biggest Loser Award and Honorarium) trophy.
Along with the tiny bronze trophy, Ward also was about win a check for $170, the result of a $10-per-man pool; a free ticket to a Steelers/Browns game this fall; and a free dinner out with his wife, Bethany.
But, as he explained, the endeavor quickly became about much more than winning a competition.
To chronicle his journey from fat to fit, Ward started a website, the aptly titled "Big Boy Running" blog. He posted humorous workout videos, weekly weigh-in results and posts capturing his thoughts and reflections along the way.
With some social media help from his cousin, A.J. Ellis, a catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the site went viral unexpectedly and received thousands of hits from across the country.
The online support, and the momentum that he picked up once the pounds really started coming off, are what really tipped the scales and helped Ward surpass his original goal of 40 pounds.
"It was nothing groundbreaking or secret, just the basics, everything they to tell you do," Ward said. "I've worked out six days a week and I've eaten really well."
Ward also received support and encouragement from his two sponsors, Robert's Running and Walking Shop and the iFiTT24 gym. To get him started, the two Charleston businesses provided free equipment, personal training sessions and nutrition planning.
Although Ward swears his dramatic weight loss was the product of hard work and not gimmicks, he said he did come across one fitness fad that he now swears by: dance walking.