Amy Vinglish has struggled with her weight since she was a kid.
But the 36-year-old Ebensburg resident and English teacher at Altoona Area High School decided to use her competitive nature to get in shape and change her life.
Vinglish is just one of 14 contestants on this season of "The Pound 4 Pound Challenge," a TV show produced locally and featuring area residents in a weight-loss competition similar to "The Biggest Loser."
Mirror photos by Gary M. Baranec
Trainer Wayne Wolfe records Amy Vinglish’s weight as part of the “Pound 4 Pound Challenge” at GO Time Fitness in Juniata.
The two co-ed teams of seven people participate in weekly Saturday morning weigh-ins and workout challenges, where they are awarded points for pounds lost as well as wins. Other than one more group training session during the week, it is up to each contestant to maintain their workout schedule and progress on their own terms.
In agreeing to do the show, Vinglish said she knew what she was getting herself into - weekly weigh-ins, intense gym sessions and a major change to her diet.
"[The competition] is what I expected, which is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," she said. "When you watch 'The Biggest Loser' and see people dropping all of this weight, they're not going to work or having obligations. We are all living our regular lives while still trying to do the exact same thing."
Mike Kessling, director of promotions and production for GO Time Productions which produces the show, said viewers being able to see their friends, family or neighbors on TV and taking part in this challenge is what draws them to the program. The show airs at noon every Sunday on ABC 23. The producers of the show interviewed more than 150 applicants this season and whittled that number down to 14.
"We picked people that had stories," Kessling said. "We figured, 'Who is this going to help the most in changing their lives?' We went by that criteria, not who needs to lose the most weight."
Though shedding pounds isn't the only benefit of the competition, the contestants have certainly done so. The person now in the lead has shed 18 percent of their body weight in just three months of filming, Kessling said. The individual and team winners of the challenge will be decided when the show wraps at the end of the month, but viewers of the show will have to wait until the finale in 10 weeks to learn the results.
Judy Neymen, 36, of Bellwood was the winner of last year's "Pound 4 Pound Challenge," and was pleased this year when she was asked by the show's producers to be a mentor for new contestants. She has kept off the weight by taking up kickboxing and changing the way she, her family and even her co-workers eat.
"I think what I realized is that you're worth more than that piece of chocolate cake," Neymen said. "You can have those things; you just can't have them every day. Once you start eating healthy and going to the gym and working out, you realize it feels better to do those things, and they're all tied together."
For Vinglish, the benefits have included being able to keep up with younger friends, being able to better practice her hobby of scuba diving and discovering a new-found love of cardio combat, an exercise class she said burns about 900 calories per hour.
But partaking in the "Pound 4 Pound Challenge" has also come with hardship for Vinglish.
"It's a lot of ups and downs and takes a toll on your emotions," she said. "You work hard all week, then hop on the scale and have only lost a pound or haven't lost at all."
Vinglish said having her 11th grade students ask her questions - and even mention that they've started going to the gym themselves - makes it all worth it.
"I hope that by doing it myself, I'm inspiring the younger generation as well," she said.
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.