ROUSES POINT — Debbie Jolicoeur saw it as an opportunity to jumpstart her life after suffering through personal loss.
Tina Munson hoped it would help overcome the effects of a decades-long illness.
Nicole Davis wanted to fight high cholesterol and a family history of heart disease.
And Cathy Johnson joined because she knew it was the best thing for her, though she admittedly wanted nothing to do with it — at first.
The four women, along with 20 other participants, recently completed the first-ever session in the Northeast Biggest Losers program. They tout it as extremely successful and life-changing.
In fact, the participants lost more than 450 pounds combined during the three-month program, and their success has translated into a session for new participants beginning July 9.
“I am truly impressed with their commitment,” said Robb Garrand, who is co-chair for the program along with Mary Duprey. “As I watched from the beginning, to what they can do now, it is amazing.”
Before Biggest Losers, Johnson was at a point where she had no interest in attempting what seemed like a grueling endeavor.
“I was very busy with my job (at a nearby Champlain medical clinic),” she said. “It can be a very stressful job, and I found myself getting heavier and heavier over the years. But I did not want to join.”
Her colleagues at work talked her into it, however, and she is now more than appreciative that they did.
“My dad died at 42,” she said. “I just turned 42, and I have a 9-year-old son. I need to focus on my eating habits so I can better take care of him. This program has helped me do that.”
When she first began, she could not walk a mile without suffering from severe muscle pain. Now, a mile is a breeze, and she has even begun to jog.
Jolicoeur’s incentive was similar, though she jumped into the program whole-heartedly.
“My dad passed away, and I’d become indifferent about life,” she said of the depression that was controlling her. “I realized the only person I was hurting was myself. I’m still here, my kids are still here; I need to be here for them.”
Munson, a single mom with two small children, had battled with lupus and feared the disease was killing her body.
“I had to do something for my children,” she said.
Now, she said, “my pain level has decreased immensely, and my mobility is unbelievable. My energy is so high; I’m doing so much more than I could do before the program.”
Davis was discharged from the military in 1999, admittedly smaller and in much better shape than she was 12 years later.
“I had let myself go,” she said. “I wanted to be healthier overall and saw the program as an opportunity for me. I wanted to be able to run again, and now I’m running 5Ks.”
The three months of shared efforts and support has created a camaraderie that has lasted beyond the program. Members share a Facebook page, where they can schedule walks, runs and other activities together.
And they will begin a second phase of the Biggest Losers program, shortly after the new group begins its initial program.
“I’m not done yet,” Jolicoeur said. “I have a long way to go. The support (from the participants and coaches) is phenomenal. I’m so glad that it will continue.”
Applications for the new session of the Northeast Biggest Losers program, available at Stewart’s Shop and Cornerstone Drug in Rouses Point, Kinney Drug in Champlain, the L&M in Mooers, Labarre’s Market in Ellenburg and Stewart’s in Chazy, are due Thursday, July 5. Participants must have a doctor’s referral to participate, but they do not have to provide it until the first night of activity, which is July 9.
The program, which will run through Nov. 2, costs $140 per participant. Classes take place at Northeastern Clinton Central High School.
For more information, call Robb Garrand at 297-3346 or Mary Duprey at 297-2192.