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Charleston workers lose a 'ton' of weight

By Candace Nelson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Patricia Keeling lost more than one-fifth of her body weight in a recent weight-loss challenge.

"Never in a million years did I think I'd lose this much," said Keeling, 57, of Tornado. "I have been fat all my life."

Keeling participated in a "Biggest Loser" weight-loss contest held for employees of West Virginia University's Health Sciences Center in Charleston and Charleston Area Medical Center.

The contest began Feb. 19 and has continued for the past 12 weeks.

Keeling, an account assistant at CAMC's General Hospital, is one of more than 200 employees who participated in the 90-day challenge to exercise and improve their diets.

Participants paid a $25 entry fee, which was pooled as prize money for winners, and weighed in weekly.

Through dieting, exercise and using weekly tips supplied by the CAMC wellness program MyHealth, contestants collectively shed more than one ton of weight.

"I am proud to announce that in our 12 weeks, as a group, we shed 2,072 pounds," said Dr. John Linton, co-chair of the Wellness Committee for WVU Charleston Division.

"That's equivalent of the car you see on display here today. Congratulations to everyone who participated in this effort."

The 4-foot-11-inch Keeling started off at 181 pounds. So far, she has lost 40 pounds, half of her goal.

"It's wonderful. I can bend over without my head falling off; I can tie my own shoes; I can walk up steps without gasping for breath," she said.

"It's just been really different. I can go to the store and buy something off the rack that isn't a 3X. The weight loss makes me feel really good."

Keeling became involved after a group in her office decided to participate in the challenge and win the prize money.

"Our basic goal was to try and get healthier and eat healthier," Keeling said. "We had an ideal protein diet managed by a doctor in Cross Lanes. And we go every week to weigh in.

"We just paid attention to portion control . . . We're not doing a lot of exercise yet because of the low calorie intake, but we're going to start walking."

Keeling said trying to lose weight was different this time as she had support from her family and at work. She had to be supportive of co-workers, too.

"You have people saying, 'We have to weigh in in two days!' " she said.

While Keeling won the first-place individual prize - $1,275 - with a 21.11 percent weight loss, her team, the Mini Me's, also won the second-place team award with a 15.80 percent weight loss.

Participants were honored Tuesday with prize money and medals at a reception. Also featured were the car representing the total weight loss and yoga and Zumba demonstrations.

For individuals, third place went to Tara Henderson, of WVU/CAMC General Hospital, with an 18.55 percent weight loss. She took home $510. Her team was The Fat and the Furious.

Second place went to Lisa Nease of CAMC Teays Valley Hospital, with a 19.45 percent weight loss. Nease's team was The Walking Fed. She won $765.

For teams, third place and $510 went to The Fat and the Furious, of WVU/CAMC General Hospital, with a 15.53 percent weight loss. Second place and $765 went to The Mini Me's, of WVU/CAMC General Hospital, with a 15.80 percent weight loss. First place and $1,275 went to The Walking Fed, of CAMC Teays Valley Hospital, with a 17.04 weight loss.

Other teams included "Ounces Away," "ICU Skinny," and "Lettuce Be Friends." More than $5,000 worth of prize money was awarded.

Keeling credits the contest with her success in going from a size 18 to a current size 10.

"For someone who's almost 60, it's incredible," she said. "It's a win-win - it has inspired some in my family to lose 10 or 15 pounds. It's contagious around the office.

"People stop me all the time and say, 'Wow, how much weight have you lost?' and 'Wow, you look great' and, geez, I feel good, too."

Keeling's journey doesn't end with the challenge.

"What I want to see happen is to start something as a follow-up so we can keep doing it," she said. "Not just a Biggest Loser, but a forever loser - to forever challenge the way you live."

The contest was inspired by the TV show "The Biggest Loser." This is the sixth contest that WVU/CAMC Memorial, CAMC Document Center in Kanawha City, CAMC Teays Valley, CAMC General, and CAMC Women and Children's Hospital have held.

Contact writer Candace Nelson at or 304-348-5148. Follow her at

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