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If you made a Jan. 1 pledge to lose weight in 2019, chances are you've already given up on it.

Research has found that about 80 percent of New Year's resolutions fail by February, noted Jason Clinton, a personal trainer at Franciscan Health Fitness Centers Schererville.

But 19 Region residents have extra motivation to keep their fitness goals going this year.

"The competition is holding me accountable," said Schererville career services coordinator Dino Ramirez, one of the 19 participants in The Times' Lose 19 in '19 weight-loss challenge.

"I don't want to embarrass myself. The people who are counting on me, every month when it's time to weigh in, I don't want to let them down."

And the results are plain to see. The contestants have shed 262 pounds in the first three months of the challenge, surpassing the 247 pounds The Times' 2018 weight-loss contestants dropped in an entire year.

Ramirez has lost 25 pounds by going to the gym regularly with a couple of friends and his sons, who are both high-school wrestlers. He has also been eating a lot of vegetables and stopped drinking fruit juice.

"I surround myself with people who want to workout with me and keep me going," he said. "My driving force is my kids, to show them you can do what you want to do."

Ramirez is currently getting ready for the wheelchair softball season. The 40 year-old, who had his right leg amputated in 1996 after an ATV accident, is a member of the National Wheelchair Softball Association and plays for a team in the south suburbs.

"I like being an underdog, and I'm super competitive," he said. "I got myself into this competition, and I made sure I told everyone about it. People are rooting me on, holding me accountable."

"It gives you that little extra boost you need, to say no, that little bit of willpower," Chesterton retiree Nancy Simko said of being in the contest.

"You know you're going to see that scale and the number in the paper. My friends say, 'I saw you.' We'll go bowling, and they'll bring me the article."

The 63-year-old said that while the pounds haven't been coming off for her so far, the inches have. She has started working out at Chesterton Fit Body Boot Camp every weekday morning, and taken candy bars, baked goods and diet pop out of her diet.

She's also been motivated to change her diet because of granddaughter's recent diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. Simko has had to learn what she can and can't feed her. Simko says she goes to free nutrition classes at hospitals that she finds out about in The Times.

Clinton, the personal trainer, says there are ways to stay motivated past New Year's even if you're not in a competition.

He recommends reappraising your goals and, if necessary, starting small. If going to the gym three to five days was overwhelming, try one or two days.

He also said you shouldn't be ashamed to ask for help, whether from friends or family or a professional like a nutritionist, health coach or personal trainer.

And have self-compassion. "Know you’re going to make mistakes during this journey but realize that mistakes are opportunities to learn and move you more on the right path to success," he said. He quoted the motivational speaker John C. Maxwell: "Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn!"

Also, springtime is an opportunity for motivation. Clinton called it "the season of growth, rebirth, change and new life."

"Spring brings new energy to feed off of and a time to be more active, especially now that the weather is warmer and the daylight is longer," he said.

"Get some fresh air and fresh perspective on pursuing your goals and take advantage of the natural resources that this spring season has to offer."

Contestant Rachel Leep, of Crown Point, recently got a gym membership and personal trainer.

"I don't have a hard time with going to the gym. I have a hard time saying no to pizza," the 21-year-old secretary joked. But she plans to improve her nutrition by tracking what she eats on an app.

Dave Sobilo, a Lose 19 in '19 participant from Hammond, has been getting into shape by boxing, practicing Kundalini yoga and doing yard work. He's also been trying to limit his emotional eating.

"I'm glad I joined the program, because without it I would not have stuck to my goal," the 31-year-old custodian said of The Times' contest. "Being accountable every month really helps."

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Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.