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When Barb Coggins, a contestant in The Times' Lose 17 in '17 weight-loss contest, went in for her monthly weigh-in for August, she was disappointed with the results.

"Well, I finally started working out and went UP 2 pounds at weigh in just now," she posted to the Lose 17 in '17 Facebook group. "NOT happy  First time since we started that I went up. "

Her fellow contestants almost immediately came to her defense.

"Don't let that get you down," Tiffany Wenrich posted. "It happens a lot! Adding muscle is a real thing!"

"Hang in there and keep working!!!!!" Ed Bermes said.

"It's muscle no worries," contestant Melissa Diekelmann posted. "The more muscle you have, the more calories and fat you'll burn during your workouts."

A few days later, Coggins had changed her tune about her weight gain.

"I actually do look at it in a positive way," she said. "Life is full of ups and downs. The scale is going to be up and down. You just pick yourself up and try to do better the next time."

Thanks in part to the encouragement of her fellow Lose 17 in '17ers, she was choosing to look at the positives: Compared to the beginning of the year, she was down more than 20 pounds and three clothing sizes and has more energy and stamina.

Coggins' situation is a reality for many people who are getting into shape: The scale will inevitability tilt back upward. That could be because of water weight or increasing muscle. People in a fitness program also can lose motivation or stop paying attention to portion sizes after a while, said Ashlee Johnson, programs supervisor for Franciscan Health Fitness Centers in Chesterton.

"If a person notices they have gained some weight and it has stayed on for a week or so, this is the time when they need to revisit why they started, set new goals, measure food and document everything they are eating," she said. "This will get them back on track."

Jim Sharp, a contestant from Crown Point, said he has had a few months so far where his weight loss wasn't what he had hoped for. But he understands that he's making long-term changes and the pounds will eventually fall off. He notices the positives that have cropped up in his life lately.

"For starters, I'm not as tired. I used to end my day of work and need that 15-minute snooze in order to finish out the day. Not anymore," said Sharp, 52, a government leasing agent. "Also, in the past when I ate, my stomach sounded like World War II. No longer. Finally, my significant other tells me that I'm not as moody as I was before."

Contestant Barb Swanson, of Schererville, also posted on the group's Facebook page after her weight gain this month. And guess who was there to boost her spirits? Coggins.

"This is about more than just our monthly weigh-ins," Coggins wrote. "This is about more than just our contest for one year. This is about life in general. And we are going to have ups and downs, successes and things were not very happy about. As long as we keep plugging along in the positive directions, then we have all succeeded."

In an interview a few days later, Swanson, a 69-year-old retiree, said she has learned some important lessons from being in this contest. For one, she focuses on the pluses: She no longer suffers from heartburn, and her stamina and recovery time have improved.

And she has discovered the importance of the accountability and encouragement that her fellow group members provide.

"The biggest thing for me has been the power of the support group," she said. "Even when you gain 3 pounds, there's 10 people coming back at you saying, 'I gained a little too,' or, 'You're going to get back on track.'"


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.