FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – The results are in, and the contestants in the 2016 Florence's Biggest Loser competition lost a combined 1,131.8 pounds and 425.5 inches.
Eric Lee was one of the winners, having lost a whopping 68.6 pounds during the 10-week competition.
McLeod Health and Fitness Center is where all the training took place. Florence United Way of Florence County has put on the competition the past three years.
"I know some of these people when I talk to them about signing up they say, 'If I hadn't done this, I wouldn't have,'" said Rachel Baggett, director of marketing and initiatives for United Way. "If I didn't have this contest actually putting pressure on them to get to the gym to weigh in, they wouldn't have ever started. They said the accountability and motivation the competition gave them just really helped them to say, 'I'm going to make a change. I'm going to stick with this,' and once you've been in it for 10 weeks, you get in that habit and it helps you keep going."
Lee said his reasons for the weight gain the past couple years were bad habits and said he was just too busy to get healthy.
"When I get up in the morning I don't feel like the weight of the world is on me or the weight of the world is on my waist," he said. "I feel like I can actually get up and do things now."
Now, because of the contest, Lee is off blood pressure medication, doesn't have sleep apnea anymore and feels happier overall. The 80 contestants were split up into smaller groups. Lisa Tolbert was one of the nine trainers at McLeod Health in charge and she said total body workouts were key.
"We would do squats holding kettle balls or medicine balls, lunges, crunches, anything that would use their body weight they could mimic either here at home. Push-ups, kettle bell swings, step-ups, jumping jacks, things that would get their heart rates up," Tolbert said.
All of it helped Lee get back into the ring at the Florence Fight Farm mixed martial arts gym he runs.
"I had sort of eased away from doing the maneuvers myself," he said. "Now, I am able to actively participate, which is a joy to me, (but) not so much to my fighters because I am able to give it back what they've given me the last couple years."
Mary McLeod was another winner. She had the highest percentage of inches lost, shedding 11 from her waist and hips.
"I love it because it's all about helping people see what they are capable of doing and recognizing that they can actually make changes that can last a lifetime. I like that. I like being the person that helps empower other people to live better," said Tolbert.
Lee thanked the trainers and United Way for helping put this event on.
"New behaviors or new habits. Hopefully I can move forward with those because I made healthy decisions for 10 weeks," he said. "Now, it's almost hard to not make those decisions."
Lee hoped he wouldn't have to return to the competition next year. He even plans to be a mentor and give advice and encourage other people to lose weight just like he did.