Two years ago, some middle Keys pals with extra pounds to shed were trying to figure out a creative new way to motivate each other towards their weight loss goals.

Now in it’s third edition, Fishermen’s Hospital and the Weekly Newspapers kicked off 2010’s Winter Meltdown, the 12-week community team weight loss challenge.

Co-organizer and Weekly Newspapers co-owner Kate Koler could not keep up with the phones ringing off the hook Monday morning.

“We already have 13 people on the waiting list to participate,” Koler said after day one of the two-day weigh-in.

Thirty three-person teams will compete over the next three months to see who can shed the largest percentage of weight. Similar to the hit television series, The Biggest Loser, this challenge is not just about losing weight but about changing your lifestyle.

Judy Gardiner, one of the U.S. Postal Service’s finest and friendliest employees, said over five years ago, she successfully dropped over 50 pounds and maintained her healthy new weight ever since. Unfortunately, about a month ago, she injured her knee and almost immediately gained back 10 additional pounds.

“This is my first meltdown, and I decided to participate because I had to put a stop to that right away,” Gardiner explained during her first weigh-in.

During the initial weigh-in, the Florida Keys Area Health Education Center (AHEC) also conducted health screenings for participants, collecting data on weight and BMI, cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

Barbie Morales enlisted her co-worker Jeanette Farinas and friend Yusi Bonachea in their first ever Meltdown challenge.

“I’d just gained too much weight,” Morales explained.

In preparation for the first weigh-in, she’d already begun paying closer attention to what she was eating and working to better manage her portions at mealtime.

“A few weeks ago, I just started trying to eat better, and at the weigh-in, I’d already lost 10 pounds,” she exclaimed. “That’s a good motivator to keep me going. My goal is to lose 40 pounds.”

Marathon UPS co-owner Arno Silva said his extra pounds have started to affect his soccer game.

“My knees are starting to hurt more when I play soccer, so I know I need to get off the extra 20 pounds I put on since moving here more than a decade ago,” Silva explained.

Though no entry fee was necessary to enter the competition, participants will pay $5 at each weekly weigh-in at the hospital. The monies will be collected and redistributed to winning teams and individuals at the conclusion of the competition.

Chef Tanya Green said the motivation from her team members Allison White and Jessica Lilly will be the key for helping her get back in shape.

“You can’t beat yourself up too much if you cheat on your diet, so we check on each other each day and talk about what we’ve eaten,” Green said. “It’s so hard to do it alone.”


Avid soccer player Arno Silva of team Herbal Life stepped on the scale during his AHEC Health Screening, and Dasia Wilson jotted down the stats. “I’ve gained about twenty pounds since I moved here more than a decade ago,” he explained. Arno



After shedding her shoes to hop on the scale, first time Meltdown competitor Judy Gardiner, said she’s aiming to get her body back on track after an recent knee injury forced her to gain a quick 10 pounds.Judy



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