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Winning This Game Is A Losing Battle

I can’t think of a braver act, especially for a woman, than to step on a scale (without a blindfold) and get weighed on network television. If that’s not gutsy enough, imagine being videotaped as you sweat bullets on the treadmill and then posting your progress, pound by pound, on the World Wide Web for everyone and their mother to witness.

Perhaps the only thing more terrifying for me is to don a swimsuit in the dead of winter and stand before a live audience in a crowded lecture hall without a podium to hide behind. Then again, that’s just me. No wonder I’m in awe of the women on KSDK TV’s “Lose a Ton Challenge,” especially Carrie Zuhler, a 45-year-old Chesterfield mom, whose emotional rollercoaster ride to shed pounds is an inspiration to us all.

“I’ve dieted. I’ve exercised. I’ve done every weight loss program and never had success. I figured that I was destined to be overweight and out of shape, but this contest has showed me that I can work out harder than I ever thought possible and not die of a heart attack,” says Zuhler, who so far has lost 15.5 pounds and one pant size since the battle of the bulge program kicked off in September.

“My weight is no longer a secret. I’m totally accountable for working out because I’m in the public eye and on television in my hometown where everyone knows me. There’s no more excuses,” adds Zuhler, who broke down and cried during the first weigh-in because she was afraid she would not lose enough pounds compared to the other 12 other women in the competition. Even though Zuhler already can slide off her pants without unzipping them first, her goal is to lose 80 pounds (and buy a new pair of jeans in a smaller size).

The pressure to lose weight is real because every week one person is eliminated based on percentage of weight lost, not number of pounds. The only way to stay in the game if you’re up for elimination is to get the most votes from viewers who cast their ballots online. Even though Zuhler is currently the heaviest contestant, she remains on the show because of her fans.

“The outpouring of support from my family and friends is amazing. Everyone sends me words of encouragement on Facebook, and they root for me in aqua aerobic class. Just knowing that the community is following my journey and taking a vested interest in my success is very motivating,” says Zuhler, who balances her busy schedule with her fulltime job as a recreational therapist at Delmar Gardens West.

Even though Zuhler is on the right track, she still has lost the least amount of weight so far. But her personal trainer Megan Brown, of Club Fitness in Creve Coeur, thinks Zuhler’s luck is about to change.

“She’s almost reached her peak, and the weight will start dropping,” encourages Brown.
For Zuhler, this experience has been an uphill battle. “I exercise so much, watch every bite I put in my mouth, and still haven’t seen the results right away. I thought I would lose more weight quickly. I try not to let it frustrate me, but it’s hard. I just remind myself that I’m in this for the long run, and I’m so much healthier for it,” says Zuhler, who treats herself now and then to her favorite saucy barbecue ribs.

Most importantly, Zuhler wants to be a good role model for her daughters Aly, 11, and Morgan, 9.

“I’m not just in this for me. I’m in it for my family. I don’t want my girls to grow up with weight issues their whole life. Even though I’ve always spent time with my kids, we didn’t always do healthy activities together. Now when I have extra time, I say to them, ‘Let’s run or ride bikes around Creve Couer Lake.’ The fitness part is new for us, and we use our time more wisely.”

Another way that Zuhler’s life has changed is making more time for herself. “Instead of my ‘me’ time being spent eating out with friends or just watching television, I now work out at the gym five to six days a week.”

“I used to think I had to be in shape before I went to the gym. But there are people working out there who are bigger than me, so I don’t worry about how I appear to others anymore. I know what I’m doing is making a difference in my own life,” says Zuhler.

Actually, Zuhler has gone from couch potato to athletic warrior. She admits that before she started working out regularly, she couldn’t do squat, literally. Now she does 80 squats with a 25-pound dumbbell, no problem.

In the reality show, Zuhler and her teammates go head to head in adrenalin-filled adventures each week. For example, Zuhler ran a football field from one end zone to the other and hurdled over an obstacle course at Edward Jones Stadium while holding up her control top panties that kept rolling down. She raced up the steps and sprinted around the fountain at the World’s Fair Pavilion in Forest Park. She won first place when she carried armfuls of pumpkins up a hill at Eckert’s Farm.

Some of the perks of the “Lose A Ton Challenge,” besides meeting Jared “the Subway Guy,” is a free one year gym membership and nutritional counseling from a dietician at Christian Hospital. If she goes all the way and wins, she gets a $1,000 gift certificate to Schnucks.

Zuhler is not alone in her struggle to lose weight, as evident by the more than 400 people who auditioned for the show and the 15,000 viewers who vote each week on their favorite contestant to stay in.

“It’s hard work to organize this competition, but if these women can inspire women at home, then we’ve done a really good job,” says Stephanie Zoller, executive producer of Show Me St. Louis.
Even if Zuhler is out of the competition tomorrow, her life never will be the same.

“It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about making a total change for the better.”

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. The “Lose A Ton Challenge” airs everyday on KSDK at 3 p.m. Send any comments to ellie@mishegasofmotherhood.com.