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Brenda Darrol at Panera

Brenda Darrol and her daughter, Angela, eat Wednesday at Panera Bread in Valparaiso. Darrol is one of The Times’ Lose 19 in ’19 weight-loss contestants, and she has been eating healthy foods, like Fuji apple chicken salads, to help her lose weight.

Getting into shape is about more than losing weight, as The Times' Lose 19 in '19 contestants have learned.

Take Brenda Darrol.

The former family advocate from Valparaiso hasn't shed as many pounds as she would have liked to since she entered The Times' weight-loss challenge in January. But she has had successes nonetheless.

"I just feel like it's a victory if my husband says, 'Do you want a peanut butter parfait?' and I say no. That's a victory right there," the 62-year-old said. "Not that I always do."

She and her fellow contestants have been accumulating plenty of these "nonscale victories" during the first half of the contest.

For instance, challenger Ashley Howard, a 30-year-old Michigan City project specialist, recently ran her first 10K, and continues to train for more. And participant Jason Mikolanis, a 41-year-old information technology director from Schererville, said his energy and motivation levels have improved.

"I've been much less stiff, less back pain, easier on my joints," said contestant Dave Sobilo, a 32-year-old Hammond custodian. "I've been much more hydrated from switching to water from pop."

Jason Clinton, a personal trainer at Franciscan Health Fitness Centers Schererville, said it's important for people in weight-loss programs to acknowledge their "nonscale victories."

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"You’ve put in a lot of work and your body will begin to reward your progress in many ways," he said. "Sometimes you can lose fat without seeing a difference in your scale weight. You may be gaining muscle as well, and this is a great thing. The more lean muscle you are able to preserve or even gain — don’t worry about looking very muscular — will raise your metabolism, continuing to keep your body in fat-burning mode."

He said if someone isn't losing as much weight as they had hoped, they should ask themselves these three questions:

  • How do I look? "When you’re going through the training and concentrating on being consistent with your diet, sometimes you don’t even notice the progress that you’ve made," Clinton said. "It may be key to take progress pictures beginning with the first day of training so you can recognize for yourself the changes in your body ... . Many times, people you work with or family members will begin to see the changes in your body before you do, so make sure to be grateful for the watchful eyes that are noting your progress."
  • How do my clothes fit? "Do you notice that you now need to wear a belt with those jeans? Is that shirt now hanging off your body?" he said. "Use these instances as well to stay the course in your training."
  • How do I feel? "Even though you have been pushing yourself harder than you ever had, you should notice that you have more energy throughout the day," he said. "Along with that newfound energy also comes strength to push, pull or carry objects with a lot more ease than you used. Another great benefit may be your increased mood throughout the day due to endorphin release or that now you are sleeping better as well."

"It’s been exciting to be able to walk into any store and buy clothes," said Steve Clark, a 46-year-old contestant from Merrillville. "It’s been over 15 years since I’ve been able to do that. On Father’s Day, my family was able to walk a 5K in Schererville. I could not have done that a year ago."

The product specialist said another one of his goals was to take part in a group fitness class. He recently completed his third group Tabata class. "It’s been difficult, but I’ve survived," he said.

Gavin Richardson, a 19-year-old contestant from Portage, said that even as he's put on weight he can tell he's gained muscle from a job mowing lawns. He said he also feels less bloated, as he's cut down on fried food and pop.

"I feel like I'm getting a lot of benefit from it," the college student/restaurant worker said of being in the contest. "I feel like I'm falling behind, but I would have probably been doing worse without it."

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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.