When Deidre Purcell crossed the finish line in the MORE half-marathon this past April, the 45-year-old had already embarked on another kind of long-distance challenge: As one of the winners of MORE’s Vtrim Online contest, she had recently enrolled in a comprehensive, six-month weight-loss plan.
Created by the University of Vermont, Vtrim is a 24-week weight management program that provides an unusual amount of support. After you enroll, a certified facilitator provides you with a daily target of calories and fat grams; you keep track of your efforts with a daily log. Every week, you participate in online meetings in which you discuss weight-loss topics with your instructor and other participants who are trying to shed pounds.
Purcell says the program (which is free for her but normally costs $695) has helped her stay focused on her weight-loss goals. Despite being an active person, she had put on 14 pounds over the last few years; when she started with Vtrim, the scale read 154. Tight clothes weren’t her only worry: “We have a lot of family health issues,” explains the Clifton Park, New York, resident. “My sister has multiple sclerosis, my mom had diabetes, and both my brother-in-law and mother had brain tumors. After my mom passed away in 2007, I knew I had to get healthy. I wanted to dedicate my efforts to her.”
It wasn’t always easy. “I’m a nervous eater,” she admits. “It was hard to get back into the swing of things.” As an insurance adjuster and the mother of two teens, Madison, 13, and Corey, 15, Purcell was constantly on the go, grabbing takeout instead of cooking healthy dinners. Improving her exercise routine seemed easier, which is how she found herself in the MORE half-marathon in April 2009.
“I hated running,” she says. “Hated it. But I challenged myself to do it. It was the first step toward reclaiming my life.”
After she began training for this year’s race, Purcell knew she still needed a push to correct her eating habits. Winning the Vtrim contest gave her the inspiration she needed to rededicate herself to health. “Writing everything down gave me a clear, conscious look at what I was consuming. Once I saw what I was putting in my body, that was it for me.”
With the support of her Vtrim facilitator, Blanche, Purcell has lost six pounds in 12 weeks. “Blanche is like my weight-management coach. Every week she targets different barriers to getting healthy, and shows you how to journal, to exercise, and to be more conscious about what you eat. I love it.”
Today, Purcell says, her outlook on life is brighter than ever. “Since I started doing all of this, I feel so much better, physically and emotionally,” she reflects. “I’ve got more energy, and I feel more in control of everything. In fact, I’m looking for my next challenge. It makes you think, ‘If I can do this, what else can I do?”
Meet our other winners
Hometown: Henderson, Nevada
Starting weight: 184
Current weight: 165
Catherine Skrinak was angry when she entered MORE’s contest. “I was disgusted with myself,” she remembers. “I’d yo-yo dieted all my life, and had gained all the weight back again.” It was a few days after the 17th anniversary of her father’s death, and it dawned on her that her eating spiraled out of control when he died: “People brought all this food over—and I never stopped eating,” she explains. “Even when I healed, this was the one thing I could not put back together.” On Vtrim, however, Skrinak started to track her daily intake. “I was dreading the structure, but it worked,” she admits. Soon she found herself preparing an entire week’s worth of healthy meals ahead of time, and going for lunchtime walks at the lab where she works as a quality assurance technician. “What it comes down to is you and whether you’re doing the work,” she says. “There’s no magic pill. It will work—if you do it.”
Best lesson learned: It’s okay to eat anything you want—just not all of it.
Hometown: Humboldt, IA
Starting weight: 208
Current weight: 203
From the moment her son Dylan was born 15 years ago, Brenda Wooten immediately started putting his needs first—and she continued to do so when she divorced his dad a few years later. When she came across MORE’s contest, the grocery store employee was ready to start dating again, but really wanted to lose some weight first. “I’ve been heavy most of my life, and have tried every diet out there—some of them twice,” Wooten explains. “I have a love-hate relationship with food.” Taking the weekly classes, and being able to chat with other dieters in the program, made a difference for her. “It’s nice knowing that there are other people out there in the same boat as you, with the same struggles,” she says. “We encourage each other. Whenever I am having a rough day, or a rough week, they give me a pat on the back. I finally have a support system.”
Best lesson learned: Life is not The Biggest Loser. Seek progress—not perfection.