Fifth War on Weight kicks off

Ten determined contestants stepped up to the plate last week to take part in this year’s War on Weight challenge. 

Nine women and one man have signed up to engage in 16 weeks of intense exercise and weightloss in the fifth annual War on Weight, known to those who take part as WOW. 

Some have had a lifelong struggle with their weight, others are trying to lose baby weight, while others want to take this opportunity to get healthy. 

Contestant Shakira Diaz wants to lose weight in time for her wedding next June. “I applied two years ago and didn’t get it. I decided to try again this year,” she said. “Of course, I want to lose weight for health reasons, and I’m getting married next year.” 

Some of her family members have diabetes and high blood pressure, so she wants to try to lose weight and get healthier before she gets to that stage. “I come from a big family of plus size people. I’m still young, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.” 

Sheredan Coulburn is also hoping to stave off potential future health problems by entering the WOW challenge. “There is a really high risk of me developing high blood pressure and diabetes … I decided this programme would be the best way to accomplish starting a healthier lifestyle,” she said. “I had applied previously and I’m glad I was chosen this year.” 

Mother and daughter contestants Sheryl Harris and Sarah Chambers say they’ll encourage one another throughout the competition. Ms Harris jokingly said she blames her weight issues on her daughter, as she said she’s still carrying her baby weight – 31 years after giving birth to her daughter.  

“I need to get the weight off for health reasons. I am diabetic,” she said.  

Ms Chambers said her mother talked her into joining the contest. “I didn’t know if it was for me or not. I work out in the gym. I’m a flight attendant with Cayman Airways and I have two boys, age 4 and 2 1/2. It’s a struggle to find time to do anything. I’m constantly busy. When my mother said there was a spot open, I said I am going to do it and get a permanent solution to my weight.  

“I’ve always struggled with my weight and gone up and down drastically. I need a permanent fix, not a temporary solution. I’m looking forward to it. It will be exciting and it will be scary,” said Ms Chambers. 

Ms Harris’s husband is working in the Arctic at the moment and when he returns to Cayman in four months, she said she wants to surprise him with her new slimmed-down and fitter look. 

The WOW challenge is also a family affair for the Solomon sisters. 

Raquel Solomon, who said she had struggled with her weight all her life, sees the War on Weight competition as an ideal opportunity to lose weight and get healthy. “I want to make my health a priority,” she said. “I think this will be perfect for me. I need the structure.”  

She admitted she found the idea of the early morning Bootcamp exercise classes a little daunting, “I’m a little nervous. I hope I’ll be able to handle it. I’d call it nervous anticipation,” she said. 

Her sister, Salema Soloman, was urged to join the competition by Raquel. “She asked if I’d do it with her to support her because we have the same health issues,” Salema said. 

The lone male in the competition, Orlando Mason, points to his stomach when asked why he has entered the War on Weight contest. “I’m trying to get rid of this belly and stay healthy. I’ve been struggling with it for a while, I’ve tried to get rid of it, but I haven’t been able to get the weight off,” he said. He is also trying to develop good lifestyle habits. “I’m looking forward to it. It should be fun,” he said. 

While men often seem to have an easier time dropping weight than women, Mr. Mason admitted he is expecting strong competition from the female contestants. “This group of women is going to be very competitive, I’m seeing that already,” he said Thursday night at the launch of the competition at Full of Beans restaurant in George Town. “My ultimate goal is getting healthy and developing good habits,” he said. 

Contestant Sandra Catron is among the women Mr. Mason will be competing against and she admitted she’s bringing her competitive streak to the War on Weight. “I think it will be challenging. I’m in it to win it. I’m competitive,” she said. 

“I’m trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle … I need something to kickstart it,” Ms Catron said. “I heard about WOW and knew a couple of people who did it and everyone talks about the level of success they had. I like the fact that it focuses on exercise rather than just dieting,” she added. 

Maritza Taylor is a good friend of Jhaklin Cano Reeves, last year’s winner, who encouraged her to enter. “I want to change my lifestyle,” said Ms Taylor, who said she’s still trying to lose baby weight. “I don’t want to be at risk of heart disease and diabetes and I want to do this for my kids.” She has a 10-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son. 

“I’m excited and looking forward to it. No excuses now, just going to go and do it,” she said. 

Delocita Pope also joined the contest to get healthy and get her life “back on track”. “I’ve struggled for a while with my weight. My baby is 11 and I’m still using that as an excuse,” she admitted.  

She’s a bit nervous about Bootcamp, she said. “I was telling another contestant earlier that in my head, I can still hear [Bootcamp trainer] Ernest [Ebanks] say there will be a few people in the bushes dry heaving. Oh God!”,” she said. 

But she is still determined to get all she can out of the competition. “I think this is my chance to get back on track with my own life. I’m really looking forward to it.” 

The War on Weight challenge runs from mid-August to mid-December. During the 16-week contest, participants are committed to obtaining optimal results by dedicating at least eight hours a week to compulsory exercise, meetings, and appearances. 

These include a five-days-a-week fitness programme with a wide range of group activities and access to a fitness centre; bi-weekly consultations with dietician Chad Collins, as well as a customised meal plan; health screening, blood testing and monitoring by physicians and service providers; group counselling sessions with therapist Rayle Roberts; informative seminars and educational workshops; and a “Pay it Forward” element in which contestants represent WOW in media appearances, expos and fundraisers to help promote the programme and assist with charity and community efforts. 

War on weight contestants

Contestants of the 2012 War on Weight are, from left, Shakira Diaz, Sheredan Coulburn, Raquel Solomon, Sandra Catron, Delocita Pope, Sarah Chambers, Salema Solomon, Maritza Taylor, Sheryl Harris and Orlando Mason. – PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY

War on weight briefing

War on Weight coordinator Cheyenna Stewart briefs the contestants on what to expect during the weight-loss challenge. – PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY