JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - It's not easy waking up before dawn to do leg lifts, but for the 16 contestants in Clinton's "Arrow Meltdown," it's worth it.
"At first, it's 'I've gotta get there, got to wake up.' But, then once we start exercising. Everything's just motivating and pushing and working hard, and it's getting easier and easier every time," said competitor Eric Jonkman.
Since Clinton's version of NBC's "Biggest Loser" contest kicked off January 21st, competitors have been working out and weighing in at a pre-dawn "boot camp" every Thursday at the Baptist Healthplex in Clinton.
In three weeks, they've dropped a combined total of over 180 pounds.
The contestant who sheds the highest percentage of body weight in 12 weeks wins a $3,500 prize package.
Jonkman is in the lead, having lost six percent of his body fat since the competition kicked off.
"Yeah, I'm going to win, I'm going to do it," said Jonkman. "I've been on so many diets in my life. They're always yo-yo dieting. This for the first time is a lifestyle change."
As the competition intensifies, supporters are showing up with signs to cheer on their favorites.
"You are great Miss Gibbs. We love you! Keep it going, you're number one!" cheered Syl Burrell, assistant principal at Eastside Elementary School in Clinton, where Gibbs' children are enrolled.
Kai'leen Gibbs started off as the heaviest contestant. Now in ninth place, she's shed over four percent of her body weight.
"It's wonderful, the energy level I've been experiencing is just increasing," said Gibbs. "I'm able to come to the gym. I've been doing zumba, which is wonderful if you ever get the chance."
Meanwhile, the numbers on the scale aren't dropping as quickly this week, with most contestants losing just a few pounds and some gaining a few.
"Week three is the hardest week. I had to spend some time today encouraging some of our participants, but we think it's going great," said Vickie Mascagni, R.D., program dietitian. "What we try to preach every week is not how much weight have I lost this week, but what changes have I made in my life that are going to provide health benefits for a lifetime."
The "Arrow Meltdown" is sponsored by the Clinton Public School District in efforts to encourage parents and teachers to model healthy behavior for students.
WLBT will continue to follow the contestants' progresses each week. The winner will be announced April 24th.
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