It was in October 2009, four years ago, when I tossed my hat in the ring for the 2010 Seattle Sutton Slim Down Challenge.
At the time the contest officially launched Jan. 4, 2010 with my weigh-in at WGN Studios, I had a starting weight of 230 pounds.
At the final weigh-in at the contest completion in April at WGN TV Studios, I was down to 184 pounds with a loss total of 46 pounds, resulting in a total body weight percentage loss of 20 percent.
Four years later, not a week goes by without readers mentioning how they followed my weight-loss journey in my columns and learning about better ways for healthier lifestyle options and portion planning with Seattle Sutton's program.
Last week, it was reader Bonnie Ciesar of Munster asking me about my Seattle Sutton experience and peppering me with question after question about how I lost so much weight so quickly.
My stock answer is always: "If I can do it, you can too!"
And now, here's a chance for Times readers to follow my lead.
Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating (SSHE) is sponsoring its 2014 Slim Down Contest to help 10 lucky residents in Northwest Indiana's Lake and Porter counties lose weight and improve their health. (As our Illinois readership already knows, the past four previous contests have been targeted especially for our Illinois friends to participate.) The individual who loses the most weight will be named the grand prize winner and will be awarded a trip for two to Riviera Maya, Mexico, valued at $2,500.
Interested participants looking to make a lifestyle change are invited to submit their stories and a photo of themselves now until Oct. 21 at seattlesutton.com. You can also enter by clipping the coupon and reading more about the contest in the big, color splashy advertisement found right here on the D8 back page of today's Lifestyles features section. Selected contestants picked to participate will be notified by Nov. 18.
The contest will officially kick off with the new year on Jan. 6, 2014 and the contest concludes on April 21, 2014.
In my opinion, the biggest and best reward comes for all 10 chosen contestants, since each will receive 21 provided meals per week from Seattle Sutton's famed kitchens for a total of 315 meals throughout the 15-week challenge! These delicious meals consist of freshly prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner items. I've also been hearing great buzz that Seattle has even added some new menu items to her popular meal plan.
The contestant who loses the most weight based on percentage of body weight will win a three-night trip for two to RIU Palace Riviera Maya, Mexico from Apple Vacations. The second place prize is a $1,000 cash prize from SSHE, and the third place prize is couples' spa treatments from Serendipity Province Spa, valued at $540.
To be considered for this contest, you must:
• Submit to SSHE your "story" and recent full-length photo. Your story should include who you are, your history with weight loss, how much you currently weigh, what your ideal/goal weight is and what steps you've taken to date to lose weight. Please include your first and last name on your photo with your entry, along with your contact information – address, phone numbers and e-mail. Along with other requirements described on the contest website, contestants agree to sign release forms and contest rules to participate in the contest. Official contest rules are posted online at seattlesutton.com.