40 Pounds Down, He’s Dreaming Big Dreams

Matthew Bayer after losing 40 pounds in the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge. Congratulations, Matthew!

40 POUNDS DOWN, HE’S DREAMING BIG DREAMS

College employee discovers the secret to his weight loss success through the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge.

APPLE VALLEY – Matthew Bayer of Apple Valley often dreamt of a career in law enforcement, but his weight repeatedly held him back. Thanks to the Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge and the support of his family member teammates, he’s on his way to putting that dream in reach. Bayer lost 40 pounds during the wellness competition, earning a spot as one of the Top 50 weight losers in the state.

“My goal is to be healthy and fit enough to do law enforcement work. That’s a huge motivator for me that I do not think will ever leave,” says Bayer, 31, a safety coordinator at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. “Even though I have lost a good amount of weight just in the first three to four months, I have a long way to go.”

Bayer belonged to the Grandma and Kids team, inspired to join his mother, wife, and sister in the competition. They have been Biggest Loser fans since the show’s first season, even auditioning a few years ago. Combining the Minnesota Challenge with Weight Watchers, Bayer has lost 14 percent of his body weight so far. The difference this time? He started running instead of walking, made healthier food choices, limited his portions, and got encouragement — and extra competition — from his team.

In the 2011 Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge, 22,000 Minnesotans lost 76,048 pounds during the twelve-week wellness competition. Minnesotans also earned 27,749,925 nutrition points and exercised 383,807 hours — the time it would take to walk around the earth 46 times.

The Challenge’s overall goal is to create a fun community activity that encourages Minnesotans to eat better and move more. They could accomplish that goal by participating in one, two or three of the Challenge’s categories: nutrition, exercise and weight loss.

“This isn’t about rapid or sudden weight loss,” says Tom Mason, president of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota. “It’s about workplaces and communities establishing a culture that encourages people to take charge of their own health, choosing healthier lifestyle behaviors that can be maintained long-term.”

Open to all Minnesotans, this free statewide competition featured 14 divisions each made up of tens —or even hundreds — of smaller teams. Most participants teamed up with family, friends and coworkers, and some dedicated challengers competed as individuals.

While all Minnesota Challenge participants made progress towards healthier exercise and nutrition habits, some of them dropped as much as 20 percent of their body weight. And the top 100 performers in the weight loss category lost an average of 37 pounds each.

Bayer offers this encouragement to others wanting to get healthy. “Do it! Don’t think of it as a ‘diet,’ think of it as a ‘live it,’ ” he says. “You have to stick with it and remember why you are doing it. It’s not easy but it’s very well worth it. And don’t measure yourself with others. It’s your body and your weight. You will be different than other people.”

Participants logged their last round of activities Friday, April 15. Those who placed in the top 1,000 participants in each category were entered into a prize drawing. JoAnn Buck of Burnsville won the competition’s grand prize drawing, a trip to see The Biggest Loser Season 11 finale in Los Angeles, California. Four other lucky participants received a free one-year membership to Snap Fitness. The Fitness membership winners were Captain Kate Jones of the McLeod County Jail, Cory Marquart of the University of Minnesota Morris, Cindi Rulli of White Bear Lake Public Schools and Carla Peck of Burnsville, an employee of Hennepin County.

Nearly one-third of Minnesota Challenge participants came from small- and medium-sized businesses and chambers of commerce from across the state. This Business/Chamber division, made up of 7,500 participants on hundreds of small business teams, placed in the top three in the final rankings of all three competition categories. Research has shown that when businesses support their employees’ wellness, they employ healthier workers and see a big impact on their bottom line. The CDC reports that more than 75 percent of employer health care costs and productivity losses are related to employee lifestyle choices.

The Minnesota Challenge is the second wellness competition offered by the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota. During summer 2010, with the help of General Mills, the Alliance developed a relationship with NBC’s Biggest Loser. A pilot wellness competition called the Biggest Loser Summer Challenge brought 10,000 employees of Alliance member companies together to shed more than 37,000 pounds, exercise 16 million minutes and earn millions of nutrition points by making healthy food choices. The Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s Biggest Loser Challenge competitions are web-based and powered by RedBrick Health.

About Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota

The Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota is a group of Minnesota companies joined together to create fun, engaging and informative events and competitions to help Minnesotans get and stay healthy. Members of the Alliance include Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Cargill, General Mills, Medica, Medtronic, The Midwest Dairy Association, Target, UnitedHealth Group and the Minnesota Department of Health’s Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). Learn more at Healthiermn.com.

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