Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Andi Bourne

Changing Habitats and Using Technology Helps this Year's Biggest Losers


Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

2016 Optimal Fitness's Biggest Loser Challenge winners (L-R): First place Susan Bracha and third place Jeromy Stevenson with owner of Optimal Fitness Terryl Bartlett. Not pictured: Second place winner Noreen Shamanski.

SEELEY LAKE - The Biggest Loser Challenge at Optimal Fitness in Seeley Lake returned for its fourth year. This year Seeley Lake resident Susan Bracha walked away with the first place, $500 cash prize, while Noreen Shamanski took second and Jeromy Stevenson placed third in the challenge.

Participants weighed in at Optimal Fitness before Jan. 31 and returned 12 weeks later for their final weigh-in. The winner was determined by percent of weight lost, not total pounds.

This year 26 people entered the challenge and 10 people returned for their final weigh-in. Of those who returned, the total weight lost was 105.5 pounds, and the total percent of weight lost was 50.68 percent.

Bracha lost the most weight at 22.5 pounds, 14.22 percent of her total weight. She said putting the weight on was easy and happened slowly over the years after quitting smoking, having children and not being as active.

"Losing it has been a lot harder," said Bracha. "I did the Biggest Loser Challenge to motivate me."

Bracha found that she needed to cut back on her calories as well as exercise six times per week before she really noticed a difference in her weight. Bracha used the app My Fitness Pal,, and a clean food website to help her keep track of the calories that she was eating and track her progress.

"When you plug in your goals in the app, I personally find that it usually wants you to eat less than I think is smart to lose weight. That's how I usually end up tweaking it," said Terryl Bartlett, owner of Optimal Fitness and coordinator for the challenge. "It usually undercuts people by a few hundred calories. You need to eat enough calories at your current weight and then eat fewer calories the smaller you get."

Bracha said by exercising more and eating healthier she had more energy and was not as tired during the day as she has been in the past.

Shamanski lost the least amount of weight, only 13.75 pounds. However, it was 7.72 percent of her total weight earning her second place in the challenge. Shamanski won a 32 inch flat screen television.

Stevenson said he gained the weight by not eating right. This included his boss buying breakfast every morning in the oil fields and eating three double quarter pounders, a large fry, up to three sweet teas and a six-pack of soda when he worked night shift.

"I always was a pop addict and ate fast food on a regular basis. That with not exercising got me to where I'm at" said Stevenson.

Stevenson lost 21.5 pounds during the competition, 7.67 percent of his total weight. However, between Jan. 1 – May 4 he had dropped 50 pounds. He took home an eight-inch tablet for his success.

Stevenson also used My Fitness Pal but switched to solely using a FitBit to track his activity, exercise, food, weight and sleep. He and his family have changed their diet by trading bread for vegetables, red meat for leaner protein and eating at home instead of eating out.

Stevenson also started walking with his wife Jennifer. They have logged 692 miles and 1,812,657 steps since Jan. 13 when he got his FitBit. They compete against each other to reach certain goals which has helped keep them losing weight and getting more fit.

"All that technology for tracking food and fitness is very motivating," said Bartlett.

Stevenson has noticed that after losing 50 pounds his knee does not hurt anymore and Jennifer said he no longer snores. As a family they have started looking for healthier snacks and using fresh foods instead of processed foods. Their diet has shifted for their whole family. Stevenson still hopes to lose 40 more pounds putting him at 210.

"Everyone is sleepwalking through nutrition. The amount of sugar in products just keeps people craving things and coming back for more," said Bartlett. "Knowledge is power and that is where the Internet is a valuable tool."

Bartlett will continue to do this annually and hopes people will continue to support the challenge.

"You don't have to lose outrageous amounts of weight to be the winner," said Bartlett. "Thank you to all who weighed in!"


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