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By KATHY STEVENS
Amy Sweezy was in the middle of eating a fast-food burger and fries when her cell phone rang.
It was the New Jersey Herald asking her to be a contestant in the Lighten Up weight-loss contest.
“I went from eating that burger to really focusing on losing weight,” Sweezy said Monday.
Sweezy, 47, of Fredon, was the female winner in the Lighten Up contest, having lost 25 percent of her weight. She lost 49 pounds, going from 195 pounds to 146 pounds. She had high praise for the Sussex County Y’s Health and Wellness Director Alma Duyvetter.
“I love that woman,” she said.
James Oscovitch, 46, of Byram, was the male winner, having lost 33 percent of his body weight, dropping 90 pounds, from 270 pounds to 180 pounds.
“I owe my life to you Rob,” he said to his trainer, Rob Austin, of RDA Fitness of Byram. “I was not the biggest or the heaviest to enter the contest, but probably the most unhealthy,” said Oscovitch, who will be celebrating his 20th wedding anniversary with his wife, Bonnie, on Wednesday. He noted that he weighs less now than he did on the day he was married.
This year’s Lighten Up contest attracted the most applicants in its five-year history. The contest was expanded from six contestants last year to eight this year, and there were some changes during those weeks, as a few candidates chosen could not complete the competition. Together, the final group lost a total of 517 pounds.
Winners were chosen based on percentage of weight lost.
For the women, Linda Watson, of Vernon, came in second place, losing 48 pounds, or 24 percent of her weight, from 203 to 155 pounds. June Robbins, who joined the contest seven weeks in, lost 41 pounds, or 19 percent of her weight, going from 221 pounds to 180 pounds.
Jennifer Post also dropped 41 pounds, or 11 percent of her body weight, going from 357 pounds to 316 pounds.
The men’s portion of the contest was a close finish, as Oscovitch lost 33.3 percent of his body weight, and Brian Vaughan, of Andover, who dropped from 431 pounds to 290 pounds, lost 32.7 percent of his body weight.
Scott Capwell, of Hopatcong, lost 27 percent of his body weight, going from 280 pounds to 205, for a loss of 75 pounds. Mike Devita, of Matamoras, Pa., lost 19 percent of his body weight, going from 399 pounds to 324 pounds.
“This changed my life,” said Devita. “Prior to this I was alive, but I wasn’t living. I am living again.”
The 15 weeks were marked with victories both large and small. Buying new clothes and fitting into a smaller size was a cause for celebration for all of the contestants.
“I wasn’t in the plus-size section!” remarked Robbins in one of her weekly posts.
Not only weight-loss goals were reached. Vaughan is no longer left breathless by simple tasks and is back on the basketball court with his brother. Mike DeVita is playing basketball with his son, Vinny, instead of watching from the sidelines. Linda Watson, who hadn’t ridden a horse in awhile due to her weight gain, is back in the saddle and Scott Capwell topped off his 15 weeks of the challenge by skydiving, something he’d been wanting to do for years but had been unable to accomplish because he was over the weight requirement. Jennifer Post, of Andover, rejoined a belly-dancing troupe and has found new energy that enables her to keep up with her son, Jacob.
“It really is amazing what you can accomplish with the human body,” Capwell said.
Post and Vaughan are brother and sister, and were accompanied by a large family contingent on Monday who applauded their accomplishments and those of all the contestants.
As the female winner, Sweezy received gift certificates for clothing from Amazing Markdowns, kickboxing and to a local gym, plus a T-shirt. Oscovitch was given a gift certificate to the Blue Morel restaurant in Morristown, tickets to “Leap of Faith” on Broadway, certificates for a gym and kickboxing and a T-shirt.
The contest was sponsored by CKO Kickboxing, The Sussex County Y, Snap Fitness, Martino’s Pizza and Pasta, PBJ Stores, Curves of Jefferson, Newton Medical Center, Nitro Fitness, Amazing Markdowns, Foundational Health Fitness, RDA Fitness and Sensible Addictions.
All of the women received gift certificates for clothing from Amazing Markdowns and gym gift certificates. All of the men received gift certificates to area gyms and to the Blue Morel.
“2012 is filled with a lot of major events for me. I really want to be healthier and slimmer for them!” wrote Sweezy in her application for Lighten Up.
will ‘Weigh In’
While some of our Lighten Up contestants have reached their weight-loss goal, others are still working toward their final weight. It’s not over.
We’ve invited all eight
contestants to “weigh in” as often as possible in our new blog coming soon at www.njherald.com, “Weighing In.”
We’ve asked them to keep us updated about their continued success and weight maintenance. We’ll also be posting some questions for them to answer as the months go on.
And, we’ll be reaching out to past Lighten Up contestants as well, asking them to “Weigh In.”
The public will be able to comment on our blog, and “Weigh in” with their own weight-loss advice.
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