Pierce County Matchup: Weight Loss Competition Offers Big Bucks, Better Health to the Winners

How many times have you made a bet with a friend or family member and managed to rake in, say, $10,000? Most likely that has not happened for you, but a local program called Pierce County Matchup, sponsored by Healthy Wage, is willing to make such a bet – for the sake of your health!

Healthy Wage designs and organizes weight loss challenges and contests that award cash prizes for weight loss. The online network is sponsored by corporate and government clients who have a stake in wellness, heath care costs and disease prevention.

On March 16, highly motivated and dedicated teams of five, as well as individuals, will take the challenge to change their lives for the better, hoping to make their jeans a little looser and their pockets a little fuller. The challenge, which runs through June 8, will cost participants $60; for those interested in shorter 30-day challenges, the cost is $20.

Wellness dietician coordinator Claire Kjeld offers guidance for the program and is happy to answer questions for teams or individuals. "This contest is designed to energize residents of Pierce County, along with local businesses. The team that wins will go home with $10,000, and second place will receive $5,000. Our third-place finishers will earn a respectable $3,000," said Kjeld.

With so much money on the line, there is always the chance of contestants going the extra mile to achieve their goals, but Kjeld is well aware of this and makes it clear that the main motivation should be healthy weight loss. "We recognize that some participants will be highly motivated and do whatever it takes to lose weight and win money, like sit in sweat rooms or under-eat. To prevent our challengers from overdoing it, the maximum [weight loss] is 16.6 percent per person, around 1.4 pounds weekly. We don't recommend anyone having weight loss surgery for this contest, as it will only hurt their chances of winning," said Kjeld.

Joining the challenge with her teammates is 41-year-old Paige Fury. Having proudly served her country for seven years in the U.S. Navy, the Operation Desert Storm veteran knows what hard work, dedication and sacrifice are all about. In the military, Paige found that keeping fit was never a problem, as it was a requirement of her occupation. However, Fury's life dramatically changed when she was injured while being stationed at sea. Her physicians informed her that she would require reconstructive surgery on her knee, and while she was at first defiant she eventually soldiered up and dealt with it, unwilling to let a bump in the road cause a premature end to her Navy career. Unfortunately, the Navy deemed her no longer fit for the sea, and Fury had to trade in her uniform for civilian clothes.

"I was very used to being physically active while serving in the Navy. I had a chance to travel around the world. After my injury, the weight started to build, my health started to deteriorate and things started becoming very different in my life," recalled Fury.

While the brave veteran went on to marry and have children, in the back of her mind she knew she needed to make some changes for the sake of her health and her wellbeing. In spite of her inner confidence, her weight and overall health were weighing her down emotionally and physically, especially at work.

"I think the biggest issue is feeling like you're the only one out there struggling with your weight. When you reach an uncomfortable weight, it can deter you from going to the gym or even out in public. I also struggled with seeing others who are fit and knowing that I was like them not too long ago. I really began to feel isolated and alone," said Fury.

Fury's future is brighter now that her team is organized, ready to support one another through the weight loss challenge, and she knows they will all stick by one another even after the competition is over. "Goals are great, and there is a lot of money on the line. The benefit for me is that I am not doing this alone. My goal is to lose two to three pounds a week through the 12-week challenge. The long term is just keeping it off. I just want to better my health, but of course I would love to see my team walk away with the money," said Fury.

To learn more and get involved in Pierce County Matchup, visit www.piercecountymatchup.com.


Among the competitors in Pierce County Match are "Eye on Tacoma" (formerly "The Dave & Mike Show") hosts Dave Hardt (currently 218 pounds) and Mike McCormick (currently 198 pounds). Hardt, a veteran and half-marathon winner, and McCormick, a former high school football player, have been training hard since last August, and each has lost more than 65 pounds. Their passion to get fit again has inspired them to start a running group – 5K Freaks. As participants in the Pierce County Match program, they will be filming their progress, as well as showcasing their highly motivated running group. If you are interested in being part of the team or the show, visit www.southpugetsound5kfreaks.com.

"I have been running since I was 13 years old, but I had an experience in life that caused my weight to spiral out of control. I know what it takes to lose the weight, but this time I won't be carrying 80 pounds of gear in combat in 130 degree weather to do it," said Hardt. "This is all going to hard work and dedication. I may not look like I am heavy, but when I won my first half marathon in 2008 I was 180 pounds and could run a 6:25 pace. Now, I am 218 and running only a 7:15 mile. I am just working to get back to where I was. This contest will help that effort, but also filming the progression should be great."

"I played varsity football as a lineman, so the running for long distances wasn't something I did. When Dave asked me in August of 2011 if I was interesting in running, I never thought in a million years that I would be running a 6:55 mile and running 60 miles week," McCormick said. "Dave has taught me everything I know about running, so losing weight comes with the territory. I think this contest will be fun, but challenging. I know if I stick with this running my health can only get better."


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