FLORENCE COUNTY, (WMBF) - The "Biggest Loser" competition is in its fourth year in Florence County.
It is a 10-week competition sponsored by the United Way of Florence County's Burn and Learn Initiative. There are 80 spots open and all of the training will be held at McLeod Health and Fitness in Florence.
The competition provides fitness and cardio training with certified personal trainers, nutrition classes and group activities to help motivate people to shed those extra pounds. The contestant with the greatest weight loss percentage will win $500 and the contestant with the greatest percentage of inches lost will also win $500.
Other awards include a Belk shopping spree that will be given to the contestant who shows the most grit. Additionally, the Fan-Favorite Award includes a six-month McLeod gym membership for the contestant with the most votes at the end of the competition.
There are two new additions for 2017. One is a training event with the Francis Marion University men's and women's soccer team, while the other is a basketball workout with the new Wildcats team in Florence.
Mark Sansbury, fitness director for McLeod Health, said there's no better time than the new year to start getting healthy.
"We're looking inward," he said. "How can I make myself better, and often times that's through our physique, through our health, because then we gain confidence when we participate in things like that. So this program certainly provides that."
Eric Lee, who shed almost 70 pounds, is the 2016 winner of the Biggest Loser challenge. He is entering the competition again this year, but this time with his father by his side.
"He had heart bypass surgery in his early 50s and I'm trying to prolong that or prevent it if at all possible by staying active," Lee said. "We both have some cholesterol issues and just trying to stay healthy and kind of fight the genetics card that I was dealt."
Having been through the competition himself, Lee said he is going through the journey again to continue his lifestyle change and to help motivate his father
"I don't have to work out three hours to maintain the weight that I have now, but I'm still getting in six, seven hours a week exercising and it's working out," he said. "I feel healthy. It's incredibly beneficial to anybody."
Sansbury said he notices contestants become gym members after finishing the competition.
"What we've seen with the Biggest Loser is a number of people continue that healthy lifestyle beyond that 10 weeks," he said. "We have a number of people throughout the last three, four years who participated in this and continued, and that's their lifestyle now."
Lee's goal is to lead by example now and take it to his Fitness Farm Martial Arts Gym he runs locally.
"I am trying to spend more time here in the gym with my guys, and I'm able to be more active with the things I preached before and do what I say instead of just talking," he said.
Registration for the 2017 Biggest Loser closes on Jan. 16, and the competition will begin on Jan. 24. It will run until April 6. There is a $160 registration fee.
To register, contact the United Way of Florence County at (843) 662-2407 or email email@example.com.