Churches have long had a mission to put people on a spiritual path. Now, two East County churches have joined together to help people get on the path to losing weight while living a healthier lifestyle.
Now in its third year, the Greatest Loser Program stems from a partnership of the Power for Living Ministries in Antioch, Church of Christ in Pittsburg on Diane Avenue, and John Muir Community Health Alliance's Faith and Health Partnership.
"I've lost close to 20 pounds and kept most of it off and now I'm ready to take another chunk off," said Karen Spangler, 59, of Antioch, who attended the program for the first time last year. "It's so fun, and there is wonderful support and you're all doing it together."
The two faith-based communities are among 34 East Contra Costa churches participating in the Partnership. The Partnership provides monetary support to help churches reach minority communities where there are high rates of people who are overweight or obese, are struggling with diabetes, or put off going to the doctor, among other health disparity issues.
Health screenings, weight-loss and nutrition classes, food distribution programs and other educational initiatives that focus on wellness and disease-prevention needs are provided through participating churches.
"Our goal is to help churches promote health programs. We work with churches to help them develop health and wellness programs for congregation members and the surrounding
To date, about 30 people have signed up for the 12-week-long Greatest Loser Program, which starts Aug. 13 in Antioch. Registration is still open for the program, which costs $40 for adults and $30 for seniors (On a case-by-case basis, registration fees may be waived).
You don't have to be a member of a church or denomination to participate in the program, which includes six nutrition classes and culinary workshops, bi-weekly weigh-ins and weekly exercise programs.
"It's really about changing a life," said Theresa Hagerman, health director for Power for Living. "This is for the community. You just have to have a desire and goal to get healthy."
In the first year of the competition, there was a $500 prize for the person who lost the most weight. But the program now gives away prizes like juicers and blenders.
"Come to find out people didn't really want the money. It was really about taking the weight off," said Hagerman.
Derrick Davis, a 26-year-old Bay Point resident, is a member of Power for Living.
In the program's first year, he won the competition by losing the most weight -- 45 pounds.
"When you are dealing with issues you had you're whole life -- weight going up and down -- it helps. It was a life-changer, which is why I'm such an advocate for the program," Davis said.
While Davis has gained most of the weight back, he is determined to take it off again permanently.
"I want it be to long term," he said. "You have to try again."
Another returning participant is Bob Hernandez, a 66-year-old Antioch resident.
"It's a casual atmosphere and there is no pressure on you. You do what you can do," said
Hernandez, who had open heart surgery during his 50s. He lost 20 pounds during the program's first year.
"My doctors were thrilled," he said.
During the second year in the weight-loss program, Hernandez said his stamina and strength for exercise increased dramatically.
"At this point, I'm trying to lose another 15 or 20 pounds. That's my goal for this year," he said.
Reach Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.
Registration for the Greatest Loser Program is open through Aug. 17. To register or for more information, call Theresa Hagerman at 925-848-6102.