Challenge on for West Side to lose big

Newman-- Sure, the annual Healthy Choices Summit is an effort to promote good decisions and bring more resources to Stanislaus County's West Side. But it's also a weight-loss challenge between three exceedingly competitive communities, each vying for bragging rights over the other two.

Nine teams of 10 people each weighed in last Thursday on a giant scale operated by Gary Caseri, the county's ag commissioner and sealer of weights and measures. They'll weigh in again eight weeks from now, with the team losing the biggest percentage crowned 'The Biggest Loser,' borrowed from the television show of the same name.

"When you have Gustine, Newman and Patterson competing, it's serious," said Nanci Fox, a member of the team representing the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District. That team is looking for a repeat after winning the title last year.

How serious? Two years ago, in the first year of the challenge, a member of the City of Gustine team had pizza and pastries delivered to its two competitors, Patterson Luis Molina said. The ploy must have worked: Gustine won the inaugural contest.

The event is sponsored by the 4-year-old West Side Health Care Advisory Task Force, a group aimed at bringing health prevention programs to the West Side of Stanislaus County and northern Merced County. The health fair has grown each year, task force chairman and Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini said.

"We've been gaining ground in this battle for the health of our community," he said. "But the work is far from done. Obesity, diabetes and heart disease are far too rampant on our community. We have to keep pressing forward in promoting healthy lifestyles."

As for 'The Biggest Loser,' Molina insists that this year it's Patterson's turn. His team weighed in at 1,947 pounds Thursday. And though he and DeMartini are teammates, they're also friendly competitors: "I've challenged Supervisor DeMartini to see who can lose more weight," Molina said.

Both men have participated in the past, successfully losing weight.

"I gained some of it back," Molina said.

"I gained all of it back," DeMartini countered.

But the Newman-Crows Landing team, led by district nurse Bernice Arnett, is determined to hang on to its crown. Arnett, who may or may not have been eating a chocolate bar when sending out a reminder e-mail to her teammates Wednesday night, is planning runs and walks for her group. Members weighed in at a collective 1,988 pounds.

"We're losers so we can be winners," she said. She doesn't have an idea of how many pounds she hopes the group drops, but she does have a firm goal: "We have to lose more than Gustine and Patterson."

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