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Minimizing Tactics 

Participants in Franklin County's Biggest Loser program are downsizing

Nancy Commo's family is shrinking. In nine weeks, she and her husband Joe have each trimmed 5-and-a-half inches from their waists. She's lost 25 pounds; he's shed 30. They are losers, and they're eating it up.

"I can't get over how much my life has changed," says Nancy, 39, of Highgate. "I can run upstairs now."

The Commos were among 76 people who registered for Franklin County's Biggest Loser, a 12-week weight-loss challenge that borrows its name from NBC's popular reality show. As Seven Days reported in April, the participant who loses the highest percentage of his or her body weight takes home about $1500 in prize money. This is week nine, leaving only three to go.

"Things are going really well," says Amanda Burby of St. Albans, who is co-coordinating the challenge with Earleen Bosley of Enosburg. "People lose weight every week."

Burby and Bosley haven't calculated current weight-loss totals. They will wait until the program ends to reveal those numbers - for the "Holy shit!" effect. Burby says participants have been losing anywhere from 3 to 10 pounds weekly - excellent for a group that weighed 16,000 pounds, collectively, at the start.

But while the participants' bodies have thinned, so have their numbers. Just about 40 people now attend Biggest Loser meetings regularly. Personal trainer Burby says she is uncertain why some have left, but she's still not disappointed in the program overall.

"It's going to happen," she explains. "We're there to make a difference for people. The ones who are still there are looking to make a difference and are committed to doing that."

Like the Commos. Three years ago, Nancy lost 72 pounds; after switching from a stand-up to a sit-down job, she slowly regained all of it - plus 12 pounds. She and Joe read about Franklin County's Biggest Loser and joined. Nerves overtook her at the first meeting - as they did most participants, Burby says - but now Commo is confident.

"My biggest thing is to be here for my daughter," she says. "Had things kept going the way they were, I wouldn't have seen her get married someday."

Before the program, Commo regularly skipped breakfast and lunch. Now she starts a typical morning with either a supplement shake and vitamins (both program staples) or a breakfast of wheat toast topped with scrambled eggs and veggies. Lunch includes fresh veggies and cottage cheese. Dinner menus feature vegetables once again - steamed, this time - plus chicken or fish. Commo has had just one creemee this season - down from oodles in past summers - and says she felt guilty when she ate chicken with skin at a Memorial Day picnic.

The Commos have also introduced exercise into their daily routine. They walk. They hike. They move.

"This is a lifestyle change," Nancy says. "It's not a diet."

While waistlines are shrinking - in keeping with the theme of our "Mini Issue" this week - Franklin County's Biggest Loser is growing. Burby will expand the project to Burlington, Colchester and Essex, once she secures locations. Meanwhile, the St. Albans program will continue into the fall. Expect to see Nancy Commo's name on the list.

"I'm afraid of what I'll do at home if I don't go," she says. "I don't think 12 weeks is long enough."

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