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'Biggest Loser' to motivate W.Va. weight-strugglers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ali Vincent is confident she'll never be overweight again, and she'll try to instill that same certainty in others when she speaks in Charleston next month.

Five years ago, Vincent was the "biggest loser" in season five of the television show of the same name. She lost 112 pounds. And this time it stayed off.

The 37-year-old inspirational speaker, host of "Live Big with Ali Vincent" on the Live Well Network, will tell how she maintains her weight and a healthy lifestyle Oct. 6 at the Fun, Fit and Fabulous Women's Health Conference at the Charleston Marriott Town Center.

The all-day event includes continental breakfast, gourmet lunch, speakers, health screenings and more. Admission is $10.

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of West Virginia is presenting the conference, which is open to the public. Proceeds from the admission charge will go to St. Jude's Hospital for children.

"It's another way for Highmark to reach out to the community and to put the focus on wellness and staying healthy," said Debbie Starks, senior communication specialist.

She said the company has put on a similar program for the past 10 years in Hershey, Pa. She said 1,200 women attended the event there in August.

Starks said the Charleston conference is modeled after the successful one in Pennsylvania. She said the health screenings will include bone density, blood pressure and breast wellness. Vendors will offer such treatment as chair massages and reflexology. There'll be a fashion show of fitness attire staged by Macy's. Cosmetic lines Philosophy, Clinique and Origins will be featured.

Vincent won't be the only speaker promoting healthy living. Sunday Gazette-Mail columnists Linda Arnold and Cindy Boggs will team up in a workshop that encompasses body, mind and spirit in achieving total health.

Arnold writes on spiritual and emotional wellness in her "Live Life Fully" column, which alternates in the Life & Style section with Boggs' column on physical fitness issues, "CindySays." The workshop promises to concentrate on experiential exercises.

In his workshop, Dr. Rahul Gupta will talk about what women can do through nutrition and exercise to stay healthy and to live longer. The director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department also will reveal the truth behind several health myths.

Chicago's Gloria Araya will teach how to strengthen the body's core muscles through movement she describes as Middle Eastern-Afro-Caribbean dance.

In another workshop, nurse and author Aila Accad will present techniques to quickly relieve stress and to restore energy.

The day begins with registration and breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and continues with breakout sessions for the workshops through 4 p.m. Find more information and registration forms online at www.funfitfabulous.com/wv or call toll-free 888-234-4255.

As the luncheon speaker, Vincent will talk about how she was inspired and determined to be the first female to win "The Biggest Loser" competition, which aired in 2008.

When she entered the competition, she was 5-foot-5 and weighed 234 pounds. As a teen she had been a competitive swimmer. But when she stopped swimming, she didn't start any other physical activities. She put on 5 pounds each year for 13 years, she said.

During that time, she said she went on lots of fad diets. "I kept losing the same 30 pounds over and over," she said in a phone conversation earlier this month.

The problem, she said, is that diets aren't realistic. You start them and end them because you can't do them forever.

To develop a healthy lifestyle, she learned to make a lot of little changes and celebrate small victories. "You have to come up with a plan and figure out how to get there," she said.

Reach Rosalie Earle at earle@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5115.


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