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February 27, 2013

Inspiring healthier schools

Biggest Loser contestants share story at Head Start

— Courtney Crozier opened a magazine two years ago and pointed to the size 8 “bling bling” dress she vowed to wear to the season finale of the “Biggest Loser” when she was cast to the show.

Courtney weighed 435 pounds before deciding it was time to change her life.

She tried three times to be chosen as a contestant for the reality television show that has people competing to lose the most weight.

And three times she was turned down.

Her mom, Marci, says it was because her daughter was so happy and confident. Producers wanted someone who would bring drama to the show, Marci told staff and parents at Darrough Chapel Early Learning Center.

The rejection did not deter Courtney, though.

“She said, ‘These people are not going to lose more weight than me,’” Marci said.

She started eating healthier and exercising on her own.

The Valparaiso woman lost 112 pounds. She tracked her progress on social media sites like Facebook, and then “Biggest Loser” producers took notice.

Finally, they wanted her. Marci said they called her daughter five times, asking her to join the cast of season 11.

There was a catch. Season 11 was devoted to couples, so Courtney would have to bring someone with her.

That someone was her mom, and that terrified Marci.

Courtney told her, “Mom, you said you’d throw yourself under a bus for me.”

Her mother replied with, “I know, but I didn’t say a train. I can’t do this.”

She hated the idea of the show. Marci said she told producers they “exploited fat people” like they were the only people in the world with problems.

But somewhere along the way, she changed her mind. Marci said she realized she needed help getting healthier.

It worked for the duo. Courtney lost another 110 pounds on the show for an overall 222-pound weight loss. Her mother was the first contestant on the show to reach her ideal weight while still on the “Biggest Loser” ranch. She lost 86 pounds.

Now, she and her daughter are helping others do the same thing.

Monday, Marci and Courtney spent the day inspiring Kokomo’s Head Start teachers, students and parents to choose a healthier lifestyle.

The mother-daughter pair told their stories and challenged the people of Kokomo to a workout.

A group of adults and a handful of children did jumping jacks, ran in place, lifted water bottles and jugs over their heads and did squats.

That push is exactly what the adults and children at Head Start need, said Julie Worland, director of the Kokomo area Head Start.

Adults need to learn the healthy lifestyle, so they can model it for the children.

She said almost one-third of their children at Head Start are obese. That’s 116 of the 380 kids they teach.

“We started asking what we could do to help make a difference,” Worland said.

Students now dance every day at lunch, and two vegetables are served with every meal there.

The staff is in week four of a 10-week “Biggest Loser” challenge. And this week has been declared Head Start Health and Wellness Week.

Worland said it’s all about showing staff and parents how to incorporate healthy eating habits and exercise into their everyday lives.

“You can make little changes to your diet and exercises to make a difference,” Worland said. “Even when you squat to pick something up or reach to grab something, that can be an exercise.”

The former “Biggest Loser” contestants were there to kick off the week devoted to getting in shape.

Marci told her audience they didn’t need to run a marathon or body build to get their life back and weight under control.

“All you need to do is move,” she said. “Courtney and I lost our weight walking. We walked to China and back.”

Courtney encouraged people to be patient with their goals. It will take a while to see your body change, she said.

It only takes a split second to change your mind about unhealthy lifestyles, though.

Marci said she hoped she inspired at least one person Monday. She was pretty sure she did.

“There were a lot of tears flowing,” she said.

At least one person likely moved to the action stage because of her encouraging words, she said.

“And that’s a home run,” she said.

Courtney said she loves helping people see they can make positive changes in their lives like she did.

As she looked around the Head Start gymnasium Monday, she smiled.

“This is an awesome day,” she said. “We’re all in this together.”

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