Shane Bombara

Holly Tonini/Observer-Reporter

Shane Bombara, a personal trainer at the Cameron R. Cameron Wellness Center, works with Amy Keller of Washington.

The Biggest Winner competition is in its final week, and the Observer-Reporter team members are nearing the finish line of the seven-week commitment to exercise and maintain healthy eating habits. Team members have been exercising four mornings per week with their trainer at the Washington Health System Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center in South Strabane Township and have also received nutritional counseling.

What happens after the final weigh-in and measurements are taken? Will they maintain their weight loss and continue their new healthy lifestyle? Shane Bombara, clinical coordinator and exercise physiologist at the wellness center, says he sees an even split each year.

“After the Biggest Winner concludes, it’s not uncommon to see a 50-50 split, where some participants really take what they’ve learned and continue to run with it while the other half will undoubtedly fall off the wagon,” he said.

Once they walk out the door on the final day, it’s up to them to stay in the groove. However, Bombara says they’re not alone in continuing to progress.

“They are all well-equipped with all the tools and knowledge to not only continue their physical activity in a safe, effective manner, but they also have the mindset, nutrition and recovery covered so they can continue to make strides in the right direction,” he said.

Add to that the friendships and relationships they’ve established with fellow contestants as well as trainers and staff members, and they have plenty of support to keep up their routine.

The O-R has picked up the cost of the wellness center membership for the contestants for the duration of the program, and the pair of contestants from the team with the highest percentage of weight loss will win a six-month membership. Bombara says many contestants opt to join after the competition concludes.

But so many of us have joined a gym or fitness center only to be guilty of not using it. How do you stay motivated and avoid falling into that trap?

“From my observations and interactions with former Biggest Winner contestants,” said Bombara, “it’s not uncommon for a drastic weight loss to occur, and for the most part, a lot of members do a tremendous job of keeping it off and continuing with other programs.”

He said the way the trainers and staff coach the contestants and work with them to develop during the program makes it easier to stay motivated and on-point once it ends.

“My advice to my team once the program is over for maintaining their workouts and diets is don’t stop,” said Bombara. “Maintaining a routine is paramount to continued success. Once people’s schedules begin to change by not having Biggest Winner to hold them accountable, it’s real easy to fall into the same sedentary lifestyle and habits that they once had.”

The key, he stressed, is to not think of it as a competition, but as a way of life.

“This really is about developing a healthy lifestyle and changing bad habits,” Bombara said. “We try to work on the mindset of our athletes by using certain techniques to teach them how to overcome barriers and obstacles, to eliminate excuses and find ways to manipulate simple things in their life so they have success long-term.”

What are some of those pitfalls that are easy to fix? Snacking is one.

“Something as simple as not snacking or eating in front of a TV helps you be more mindful of the amount of food you consume, so you’re not mindlessly eating while watching your favorite show,” he said. “Little things like that can make a big difference when it comes to chasing weight loss.”

Bombara’s advice for Biggest Winner contestants is the same for anyone who made New Year’s resolutions to exercise, eat better and adopt a healthier lifestyle: Keep at it no matter what.

“Besides routine,” he says, “I also stress the importance of getting at least eight to 10 hours of sleep, to continue some sort of physical activity, even if it’s just walking 30 minutes a day, and body-weight exercises as well as using the 80-20 rule for eating healthy 80 percent of the time and 20 percent of the time you give your body what it’s craving.”


Kristin Emery is a meteorologist at KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, an O-R columnist, and writer for Total Health magazine and other publications. Kristin is a Washington native and a graduate of Washington High School and West Virginia University.

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