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Five Medford teachers lose 100 pounds in fitness contest

Five Medford teachers have won an international award and $20,000 for transforming their bodies as a group through nutrition and fitness in the Body-for-LIFE Challenge.

Representatives from EAS, a company that sells nutrition products and runs the Body-for-LIFE program, were in Medford Tuesday to announce the news and present the prize money, which will be split among the five teachers.

"The awesome thing is these are physical education and health teachers, and there is a push for more physical education in schools," said Paul Cataldo, Hedrick Middle School principal. "They are outstanding role models for our students."

Accompanied by the cheers of students, winners Daniel Keck, 48, Kathy Pauck, 40, Susan Holt, 39, Wendy Barrie, 48, and Sandee Kensinger, 50, jumped up and down and embraced when they heard the news Tuesday during a school assembly.

"We just want to pass this along to everybody," Keck told the schoolchildren. "We want you all to be fit."

The contest involved before and after photos, 12 weeks of exercise and a six-meal-a-day diet plan that included EAS meal substitutes. Together, the teachers lost nearly 100 pounds.

While the meal substitutes were mandatory to be eligible for the contest, studies show weight loss results from calorie reduction and exercise.

The Hedrick teachers worked out in the mornings, usually independently and sometimes as a group. They performed 20 minutes of intense cardiovascular exercise three days a week and weight training on the days in between, with one day off from both exercise and the diet.

"On my free day, I'd have a mocha," Holt said. "I used to have a skim milk mocha every day. Now, I just have it on the weekend. It's the small changes that make a difference."

Their meals consisted of a balance of protein and carbohydrates and were eaten six times a day in small portions.

Planning ahead helped them stay on the diet. For example, some of the teachers would grill chicken and portion it out days in advance, so they'd have healthy protein on hand immediately.

"You have to get used to not being full," Pauck said. "You just eat one thing, and think about what the next thing is you'll eat three hours later."

The teachers sometimes ate EAS meal substitutes as an afternoon meal during the work day, but a snack such as cottage cheese and an apple would also work, Holt said.

Holt suggested that the group participate in the contest because she wanted to lose weight.

"I needed support," she said. "I couldn't do it on my own."

The teachers checked in on one another's progress to ensure each stayed true to the program.

Barrie said the support, which came from her colleagues and others who knew she was in the contest, helped keep her in line with the program.

Barrie recalled that one day when a donut was tempting her, Caitlin, her eighth-grade daughter, said, "Would you pay $20,000 for a donut? I don't think so."

"That was a really good way to look at it," Barrie said.

Cutting down on sugar was important to keeping their energy up and peeling off the fat, the teachers said.

"I have a real sweet tooth," said Keck, who lost 30 of the 100 pounds in the group. "For me, I had to find things that satisfied that. Combining cottage cheese and yogurt tastes just like a dessert."

Kensinger, who travels frequently with an American Legion baseball team he coaches, did push-ups and sit-ups on the floor and pull-ups on monkey bars when he couldn't make it to the gym.

"You can work out anywhere," he said.

Ten EAS judges selected and awarded prizes to winners in nine categories based on completion of the contest and submission of an essay about how the program affected their lives.

"This is such a great angle because these are people who are molding our youth in a time when childhood obesity is really a problem," said Shane Thomas, director of the Body-for-LIFE Challenge.

Nearly 17 percent of children ages 2 through 19 and more than 66 percent of adults are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To combat the childhood obesity epidemic, the Oregon Legislature passed a law in 2007 mandating that by 2017 all public middle school pupils receive 225 minutes per week of physical education, half of which must be exercise. Public elementary students will be required to attend 150 minutes each week of physical education.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.

Hedrick Middle School health and physical education teachers, from left, Daniel Keck, Wendy Barrie, Kathy Pauck, Susan Holt and Sandee Kensinger, were awarded $20,000 during an assembly Tuesday at the school for winning a fitness contest in which they lost a collective 100 pounds. pennell photo - Bob Pennell