SPRING HILL — Sitting on her couch and channel surfing one December evening, Heather Burnett paused at a weight-loss show.
The program focused on a neighborhood group who got together to support each other in a pounds-off effort, concluding with a celebratory walk-a-thon to raise money for a charity, and burn off a few more calories to boot.
"We all could lose a few pounds," she mused.
Burnett, 22, then broached the idea to her co-workers at ReMax Advantage of Hernando County. "We could work together and bond together," she proposed.
Sixteen employees, all women in their 20s to 50s, signed on in January for what they intend to be a six-month effort.
They provided their beginning body measurements and weights in sealed envelopes. The Hernando County Health Department supplied a nutritionist from its Workplace Wellness Program to instruct the participants on making healthy choices.
Some participants weighed-in near 150 pounds and "maybe only wanted to lose 10 pounds, but that's the hardest," Burnett said.
Burnett said she set herself a high goal. Once a dancer and fitness teacher, the 5-foot-9 woman quit those activities and ballooned to 236 pounds. She aims to lose 70 pounds.
The women agreed to group training sessions three times a week at Genesis, a local fitness facility. Every Saturday morning, they walk 3 miles or bike at a county park or preserve from the Weeki Wachee Preserve and the Annuttelitia Hammock in Hernando County to Cruise Lake Park or Starkey Wilderness Park in Pasco County.
Weekly e-mails report who has taken part in each activity and who has lost weight "or maybe not," Burnett said. A weekly winning "loser'' is recognized.
Mimicking the popular TV show The Biggest Loser, the ReMax employees sponsored a 10-mile fundraiser on March 27 to benefit the Children's Miracle Network, a charity supported for years by ReMax nationwide.
Nineteen women, their families and friends solicited donations per mile traversed, whether walking, jogging or biking. The fundraiser benefited not just the charity but the participants as well.
"If you jog a mile, you burn about 100 calories. Potentially, you can burn 1,000 calories in 10 miles," Burnett noted.
Half the $736 raised will go to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, the nearest Miracle Network affiliate. The remainder will be divided among the top three weight losers in the local endeavor.
They won't know the big winners, and big losers, until June.
Beth Gray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.